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The History of the S.A.G. Abbreviation

Elaine Jordan
A reader asked TIA what the abbreviation S.A.G. stands for? She said that a friend of hers always puts these initials on the letters and packages she sends. When asked why, she said she did not know. It was what her mother and grandmother did. She thinks it is something Latin.

In fact, the abbreviation S.A.G. stands for Saint Anthony, Guide, and refers to the tradition of placing these initials on letters and posts so that they will not be lost in the mail.

SAG letters packages

A pious custom to ensure St. Anthony's protection for letters and packages

The custom has its origin in 1729 when a merchant traveled from Oviedo, Spain, to Peru for work. His wife wrote to him many times but received no answer. Very worried, she turned to St. Anthony of Padua. She wrote a letter to her husband and placed it in the hands of the statue at her church, pleading with him to help it reach its destination.

For several days, she prayed before the Saint, always with the same plea. One morning, to her amazement, she found a different letter in the hands of the Saint, a response from her husband to her letter and a few gold coins.

The letter, which is still on display in Oviedo, reads Lima July 23, 1729, on the date line. In it her husband writes that he received her letter from the hands of a Franciscan Friar...

Since then, the custom developed of writing S.A.G. on letters with the aim of asking the protection of St. Anthony, who has become the protector, or “Guía” in Spanish and Guida in Italian, of correspondence. Hence the initials S.A.G.: Santo Antonio Guía.

This practice was encouraged by the St. Anthony’s Guild of the Franciscan Friars of Paterson, NY. To promote the devotion, they provided envelopes and stamps with the S.A.G. The pious practice continues to this day.

sag stamps

Various SAG stamps from St. Anthony's Guild


Blason de Charlemagne
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Posted October 18, 2014

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