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Guam Guard Mail Cinderella

First Day Cover.

Reverse Side of First Day Cover Showing Agat Backstamp.

The Treaty of Spain, following the Spanish American War, ceded the island of Guam to the United States while most of the islands in the Marianas group came under German control. According to AskPhi (the philatelic glossary provided by the Collector's Club of Chicago) "Guam Guard Mail" was a local mail service operated by the American military in Guam in 1930-1931. A private local postal service has adopted this name in modern times. The first day cover pictured above is an example of one of the Cinderella issues created for this "private local post." A history of the postal service in Guam is printed on the insert that was included in this first day cover:

When the Americans arrived on their newly acquired island outpost in the Pacific in 1899, they brought with them a supply of U.S. stamps overprinted "GUAM". These stamps were used for only about one year after which regular United States postage stamps were used. A post office was established in the capital city of Agana but there were no branch offices in the other villages of the island nor was there any delivery service to these areas. Beginning in 1906 U.S. Marines carrying official messages between the various military installations on the island also carried private correspondence but eventually the volume of private mail increased to such an extent that it began to interfere with their official duties and this courtesy service was discontinued. Private individuals then had to depend on the cooperation of a neighbor traveling in the right direction to have messages delivered or to receive incoming correspondence.

There the matter rested until June 11, 1929, when Commander Willis W. Bradley, Jr., took office as the 29th American governor of Guam. Governor Bradley instituted a number of reforms in the island government including authorizing the first general election ever held on Guam (to select members of the advisory Second Guam Congress), defining Guam citizenship (as the entire island was considered a military base, only U.S. Military personnel and citizens of Guam could leave and enter freely), proclamation of a 'Bill of Rights" for Guamanians and support of the local economy by contracting with Guamanian businessmen to provide some public services such as the maintenance of roads and telephone lines.

Governor Bradley also devised a system whereby a local bus company would deliver and pickup mail from the offices of village commissioners (mayors). This service initially was provided by the bus company at no charge. Later, when it was clear that the operation was self-supporting, a contract for the princely sum of $5.00 per month was negotiated. Funds for this local mail service were derived by requiring that all correspondence carried 'be franked with postage stamps issued for local use only. When U.S. postal authorities refused to authorize Governor Bradley to overprint U.S. stamps for this purpose, he obtained an initial supply from Philippine postal authorities (who, in turn, had received their stamps from Washington anyway). The first mail franked with these stamps was delivered on April 8, 1930.

Philippine Definitive Overprinted for Guam Guard Mail Local Mail Service.

Originally called the Guam Postal Service, the name was changed to Guam Guard Mail when the Post Office Department objected to use of the term "Postal". The project proved so successful that the initial supply of overprinted Philippine stamps was exhausted before it could be replenished. This situation was remedied by printing an issue locally (released on July 9, 1930) using as a design the recently adopted official seal of Guam. A third and then a fourth and final issue of stamps were issued later in 1930 when additional supplies of Philippine stamps arrived.

Spurred into action by the success of their upstart stepchild, the U.S. Post Office Department announced its intention to provide mail delivery to all major villages by April 8, 1931 and on that date the Guam Guard Mail went into retirement. Forty-five years later the Honorable Ricardo J. Bordallo, second elected governor of Guam and son of the Guamanian businessman who carried the first Guam Guard Mail letters in 1930, reactivated this unique institution of U.S. postal history as a bicentennial project to commemorate Guam's historical past.


"Guam Guard Mail." AskPhil. 22 Mar. 2005. The Collector's Club of Chicago. 12 Nov. 2007

Rossiter, Stuart and John Flower. The Stamp Atlas. London: Macdonald, 1986.

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