5¢ Flag of Netherlands
Overrun Countries Series
Issue Date: August 24, 1943
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Flat-Plate
Color: Blue violet, dark rose, blue, and black
U.S. #913 is part of the Overrun Countries Series, which honors each of the nations invaded by Axis powers during World War II. It pictures the flag of the Netherlands, which features red, white, and blue stripes. The flag was first introduced in 1572, making it one of the first tricolor flags, and the oldest still in use.
Although the Kingdom of the Netherlands is most commonly known as Holland, natives prefer to be called either Netherlanders or Dutchmen. The Netherlands, which enjoys the oldest unbroken diplomatic relations with the United States in our history, is located on the North Sea, just above Belgium and France.
As World War II approached, the Netherlands planned to remain neutral, but was invaded by Germany on May 10, 1940. French and British forces helped evacuate many civilians and German prisoners of war. Within five days, the entire country was overrun. The government fled to London for the remainder of the war. Once the war was over, the Netherlands left behind its ideas of neutrality and built closer ties to nearby nations. It was also one of the founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
These Stamps Brought Hope to Overrun Countries of WW II
After receiving several designs from artists who felt the current U.S. postage stamps were unattractive, President Franklin Roosevelt began to consider the types of stamps he wanted to issue. He sought to show the world that America was in this war to achieve world peace, not military dominance. With this in mind, the President suggested the U.S. issue a series of stamps picturing the flags of all the overrun nations in Europe.
In the border surrounding each flag, Roosevelt suggested picturing the Phoenix – an ancient symbol of rebirth. He believed “It might tell those suffering victims in Europe that we are struggling for their own regeneration.” The other side of each flag pictured a kneeling woman “breaking the shackles of oppression.”
When the time came to print the stamps, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was unable to print the multiple colors needed for each flag, so the American Bank Note Company received a special contract for this series.
Additionally, a 5¢ denomination – the foreign rate for first class postage – was chosen so the stamps could be used on overseas mail. The stamps were printed in relatively small quantities and were in high demand as soon as they were issued, with stocks across the country running out almost as soon as they were released.
On April 19, 1782, John Adams secured recognition from the Dutch Republic of the United States as an independent government. This marked the start of one of America’s longest unbroken peaceful relationships with another nation.
The link between the Netherlands and America began more than a century earlier. In the late 1500s, the Dutch were among several Europeans to colonize the eastern coast of North America.
These early Dutch settlements comprised the territory of New Netherland, which became a colony of the Dutch Republic in 1624. The Dutch also established New Amsterdam, which later became New York City. And today, the flag of New York City is based on that of the Republic of the United Netherlands.
On November 16, 1776, the Dutch fort at St. Eustatius fired its guns nine times as a ship flying the US flag sailed into the harbor. This was the first time another country gave America a formal salute, in effect recognizing the nation’s independence.
In July 1780, John Adams was made ambassador to the Dutch Republic. In this role, he traveled to the Netherlands and on April 19, 1782, was received by the States General in The Hague and recognized as Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States. This secured Dutch recognition of the United States as an independent government. The Netherlands was the second foreign country to recognize the US, after France, which had done so in 1778.
While in the Netherlands, Adams purchased a home in The Hague, which became the first American embassy in the world. Also during that trip, he negotiated a loan of five million guilders with two wealthy Dutch businessmen. By 1794, the Dutch would grant the US a total of 11 loans worth 29 million guilders. On September 6, 1782, Adams negotiated the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce, the second such treaty with a foreign nation, again after France.
To mark the 200th anniversary of Adams’ first meeting with the Dutch, President Ronald Reagan declared April 19, 1982, to be Dutch-American Friendship Day, which is still celebrated today.
Click here for stamps from the Netherlands.
Click here to read the text of the Dutch-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce and here for more about modern US-Netherlands relations.