Project Mercury First Day Covers

I had never heard of a "First Day Cover" before February 20, 1962. I was a Radar operator and my site supported all launches from Cape Canaveral. We started the F-1 day checks at noon on the 19th for the launch of John Glenn on Mercury Atlas 6 and I had been at the Radar site for over 21 hours when liftoff occurred.

At the Post Test Review shortly after the launch my friend Roy said "Hey, Dave, I hear they are opening the Cape Canaveral Post Office to sell first day covers. You ought to stop by and get some."

That was all news to me; there was no Cape Canaveral Post Office in those days and I had no idea what Roy was talking about. He explained what a cover was, told me that the post office was brand new, not really ready yet, but was going to open for one day to sell these souvenirs.

On the way home I swung by the post office, went in and walked up to the window. There was a sign on the wall reading "Project Mercury First Day Covers, 5 cents, limit 5 covers."

There was only myself and the clerk in the building; it was in the afternoon and apparently the rush was over. I pulled out a quarter, handed it to the postman and he gave me five of the covers.

I thought to myself "These covers could be of historic interest someday," and asked if I could buy a few more.

The clerk looked at me and said "Sure, how many do you want."

I said "I'll take all you'll sell me."

Without a word he went in the back room and returned with what looked like three shoe boxes, slide them across the counter to me, and said "Sixty Dollars please."

In those days sixty dollars was a lot of money, but I figured it was a once in a life time type of investment. It broke me for the week but I took out three twenties and handed them to him.

There were 400 covers in each box. I took the boxes home, removed a few covers to give to friends, wrapped the boxes in plastic, put then on the top shelf in my closet, and that is where they are today.

I managed to get John Glenn to sign one cover for me. I worked on his second launch, Shuttle STS-95 on October 29, 1998, and am sending him another cover asking if he would autograph it to go with the first one.

I have no desire to sell the covers at this time. They reside in my closet, along with a footlocker full of accumulated space memorable collected over the past forty two years.


David Baird

"All rights reserved."

Image or picture of Project Mercury stamp First Day Cover.

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