The First Social Security Card

The First Social Security Card

The Social Security Card dates back from the year 1936 when Fred Happel of Albany, New York was commissioned by the Social Security Board to submit 3 designs from which the first ever Social Security card(s) will be made from.

Mr. Fred Happel was such a skilled artist designer that he was paid $60 for his Social Security card design (a huge amount during those times). The card’s design may have been modestly modified since its making, yet the authenticity of the original card has such unique significance, that in 1985, the SSA received with much honor the original Social Security card artwork as donation to their History Room from Emily Bailey, Mr. Happle’s niece.
Back in its beginnings, the Social Security card’s first batch didn’t have any SSB network offices from which it will be distributed. What the Social Security Board did was to contract with the US’ 45,000 local Postal Service offices to distribute and assign the first batch of Social Security numbers (SSN’s). Also out of these 45,000 post-offices, 1,074 were designated as “typing centers” where the Social Security cards themselves were prepared and issued. However the record of the SSN assignment to each Social Security card was sent to Social Security headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland to be kept as master-file of all registered Social Security numbers.
In theory, the first Social Security card should have been issued on November 24th yet there had been lots of discrepancies when it comes to dating the first issuance of cards. In truth, the card with the lowest number was not the first SSN and the first number issued wasn’t really the first number/card issued at all.

Initially, the first SSN was offered to prestigious men as a token of esteem but was later decided to be issued instead to the first applicant from New Hampshire – Grace D. Owen of Concord, New Hampshire, who applied for her SSN on November 24, 1936 and was issued the first card in Concord with the lowest possible number: 001-01-0001. However the card received the lowest number only because of the area-number scheme given to New Hampshire (supposed to be given to Maine, the most northeasterly of the states).

Officially/symbolically, the title for first Social Security card number 055-09-0001 was given to John D. Sweeney, Jr. of New Rochelle, New York. Still, it is more accurate to say that this is the first Social Security record instead of being the first Social Security card/SSN, as determined by the records stacks in Baltimore.

The lowest numbered card issued (in New Hampshire) and the first one in the files-pile doesn’t mean that it is the first SSN card to be issued in all the US state post offices. So the first SSN was issued sometime in mid-November 1936 to someone whose identity and SSN are unknown.


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