Space Cover #108, First US Man in Space 50th Anniversary
Fifty years ago Alan Shepard was launched into space aboard the Redstone rocket on his 150 mile sub-orbital flight. Upon his splashdown he was recovered by the USS Lake Champlain. The USS Lake Champlain cover is not hard to find as at least one seems to appear in all the major auctions each year.
Why are there seemingly so many available when it is reported that around 44 exist? The dropping of a single word makes a big difference! Don Schultz reported in his book on Project Mercury that 44 PHILATELIC covers were cancelled for Shepard's recovery. What is not in that total is all of the sailors mail that was generated that day that obviously also received the word cachet and splashdown cancel. One of the sailors on the ship that day recounted an announcement over the ship's PA system to "come down to the ship post office to get envelopes cancelled to mark the spaceship recovery" - he had gone to the ship's post office and had two cancelled on the USS Lake Champlain printed envelopes.
Over the years the word "philatelic" got dropped and "44 covers cancelled" became the phrase in many exhibits showing the USS Lake Champlain cover. The number really cancelled that day and are in collections is unknown but certainly a lot more than 44. Several years ago the Space Unit did a census of USS Lake Champlain covers that has turned up about 50 with many others out there but not counted such as the ones by the sailor above that are in collector hands but not photoed in the census.
The scans above show a USS Lake Champlain postcard mailed by a crewmember - in the collection of Steve Durst - and a USS Lake Champlain cover with one of the best cancels I have seen - currently for sale on Florian Noller's web site.
The West End, Bahamas cover pictured above (also thanks to Florian's site) is another extremely rare cover for Shepard's flight. George Goldey of Goldcraft Cachets created 25 of these covers for the landing point of Shepard's flight. This Goldcraft Cachet is the only Bahama cover I have ever seen for the flight. Goldey was the dealer who had the most coverage of this flight with two versions of his covers from Port Canaveral and one from Patrick AFB for the launch, the West End, Bahama cover for the landing and several post flight events such as Shepard's visit with President Kennedy at the White House and the Shepard hometown slogan cancel. So if you found any of these...