Actifed Stamp Inserts

by Tom Fortunato, June 11, 2011

(click to enlarge any of the items above)

Produced in the late 1960's or early 1970's, these three inserts advertise Actifed, an antihistimine/decongestant developed in 1958 by Burroughs Wellcome of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The medication combined two other proprietary drugs of the manufacturer, Actidil (triprolidine HCL) and Sudafed (pseudoephedrine).

What makes them interesting are the stamps from Bhutan found on each undated letter. The tiny kingdom bordered by China to the north and India to the east, south and west set itself apart from other stamp-issuing nations by creating non-traditional postage stamps starting in 1966 with round self-adhesive stamps depicting its coinage on silver foil.

The stamps used here are all made of plastic.

On the left letter is a textured stamp showing Jean-François Millet's famous 1857 oil painting entitled, "The Gleaners" (Des glaneuses). Certain elements of the painting are embossed on the stamp so that one can feel the riased bumps imitating how oil paint dries in canvas. This stamp was issued in 1968. The P.S. at the letter's bottom states, "Actifed has been chosen consistantly by NASA for Apollo space flights."

The middle letter bears a bas-relief plastic stamp showing the head of Zeus issued in 1971, 1 to 2 millimeters "thick." It is signed by the same sales rep as the first letter and starts, "We missed you on a call recently, Doctor." Again the use of Actifed by astronauts is referenced. I find it interesting that the professional services rep signed the letter in a different way than the first letter.

The space theme continues with the use of a plastic stamp on the third letter showing a space-walking astronaut and a firing lunar module--something that would never happen in real life! This 3-D lenticular stamp was released by Bhutan on October 30, 1967 and is touted in the text as a world's first. The red message at the top appears to be rubber stamped, reporting that two of the three Apollo 7 crew took Actifed tablets on their space flight, actually on the fourth day into their 11 day mission. Maybe command module pilot Donn Eisele just had no need for them?. This letter was signed by a different professional services rep than the other two.

It would be interesting to know about other such letters that were part of this series. What did the envelopes look like? Were they mailed or just dropped off to doctors, nurses, or a combination of both? How many different letters were there? Did they only use stamps from Bhutan?

Additional thoughts about these or reports of others would be appreciated. Many thanks to Bill Clair who sent these to me a few weeks ago.