Oscar de la Renta, St. Louis Arch, Hawaiian Garden on New 2017 U.S. Stamps

The United States Postal Service announced another grouping of stamps to be issued in 2017. Here are links to the other 2017 stamps previously revealed in September and another batch in November. No issue dates have been announced for these newly revealed 2017 stamps.

Here is the USPS press release on the new stamps:

Additional 2017 Stamps Announced
Renowned fashion designer Oscar de la Renta,
St. Louis’ Gateway Arch Featured

WASHINGTON — The Postal Service today announced more stamps to be issued in 2017.

“The new year is shaping up to be exceptional as the Postal Service continues to produce stamps that celebrate the people, events and cultural milestones that are unique to the history of our great nation,” said Mary-Anne Penner, U.S. Postal Service Director, Stamp Services. “We are very excited to showcase these miniature works of art to help continue telling America’s story as we add to the lineup of 2017 stamps announced earlier.”

Here are the newest additions:

Continue reading “Oscar de la Renta, St. Louis Arch, Hawaiian Garden on New 2017 U.S. Stamps”

January 2017 American Philatelist Available Online

January 2017 American Philatelist
January 2017 American Philatelist.

The January issue of The American Philatelist is now online for members to view. Here are some of the highlights:

Alaskan Interrupted Mail by Steven Berlin. Uncommon and rare covers include those delayed by floods, earthquakes, ship mishaps, airplane crashes, and robberies.

Federal Use of Confederate Design Patriotic Covers of Northern Manufacture by James Milgram. A look at covers displaying Confederate designs that were manufactured and used in the North.

Superheores on Stamps by Timothy M. Bergquist. After spending decades on the pulp pages of comic books, popular superheroes have burst onto the stamp scene with a POW! BAM! and SPLASH!

1919 Texas Recruiting Flight by Don Jones. After World War I, the military found itself short of soldiers so it conducted a major recruitment campaign by dangling the new air service as a carrot.

Featured Columns
Stamp Classics by Joseph Iredale. A new column reviews some stamps from the golden era described by many as the first hundred years, 1840 to 1940. This month, a look at Thailand’s first official postage stamps and some provisionals that preceded them.

Collecting Coast to Coast: A Little Something Extra On That Cover by Wayne L. Youngblood. Messages from the Captain of the Watch, the Fiscal Director and others of interest are found in a review of private auxiliary markings that sometimes amuse or confound postal clerks, customers, and collectors.

Worldwide in a Nutshell: Antigua and Barbuda by Bob Lamb. The Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda had separate philatelic histories until they were joined together as one country.

The Nativity — The Manger

Not many nations — even those with a strong Christian base — put an image of the Nativity on their stamps much before the 1970s. As we saw in our Christmas Firsts blog, Hungary first put Nativity imagery on a stamp in 1943. (For argument’s sake, we’re calling the Nativity as depicting the Holy Family — Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus in a manger-like setting.)

The 2016 stamp with a silhouette design was just the third U.S. stamp showing a manger scene.
The 2016 stamp with a silhouette design was just the third U.S. stamp showing a manger scene.

The United States has rarely put an image of a manger scene or Holy Family on a stamp, instead for a religious motif at Christmas opting for master artworks of the Madonna and Child, along with the occasional angel. The first full Madonna and Child stamp was in 1966, followed quickly by a second in 1967. Two more were issued in 1973 and 1975, and in 1978, the Postal Service started a run of 22 consecutive years showing a Madonna and Child master artwork. No Christmas stamps were issued in 2000, and although it’s been more sporadic, the Madonna and Child imagery has appeared on 10 more stamps.

In 1970, the religious U.S. stamp showed a manger scene, presenting Nativity (1523), by Lorenzo Lotto, and in 1971, the stamp showed a detail from Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1505) by Giorgione, followed in 1976 by Nativity (c. 1777), by John Singleton Copley. Not until this year, did another manger/Nativity scene show up on a U.S. Christmas stamp. Interestingly, this year also saw a new Madonna and Child stamp.

It’s interesting to see how other nations present the Madonna and Child, some in traditional forms, sometimes in modernized images, and some depicting the Holy Family in that country’s traditional stylings.

Christmas and Philatelic Connections From Austria

A 1949 stamp honors the composers of “Silent Night.”
A 1949 stamp honors the composers of “Silent Night.”

One of the best-loved Christmas songs of all time originated in 1818 in Austria.

Joseph Mohr, then assistant pastor at the church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, had written a poem called “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (“Silent Night, Holy Night”) several years earlier, and he asked the St. Nicholas choir director and organist, Franz Gruber, to compose music for the words, for two solo voices accompanied by a guitar and choir.

A 1968 stamp features the crèche at St. Nicholas in Oberndorf.
A 1968 stamp features the crèche at St. Nicholas in Oberndorf.

Legend has it that the music was composed in a short time because the church organ was not working and Christmas Eve was at hand. A more recent look at the history suggest that the song was unlikely composed in an afternoon or two, as the oft-repeated story says. No matter where the truth lies, “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”) was sung for the first time for midnight mass on December 24, 1818 with Mohr, Gruber, and the choir.

 

The church was damaged several times, particularly by flooding and was torn down in 1913. A replica — the Silent Night Chapel with seating for no more than 20 — was built in its place and opened in 1937. A pink building next to the chapel is the vicarage in which Joseph Mohr lived while serving in Oberndorf between 1817 and 1819.

Continue reading “Christmas and Philatelic Connections From Austria”

Lily Spandorf and the 1963 Christmas Stamp

The 1963 Christmas stamp.
The 1963 Christmas stamp.

The temperature was in the low 40s and there was a light breeze and drizzle, but Lily Spandorf would not be deterred. A familiar visitor all around Washington, D.C., the Austrian-born free-lance artist was determined to make one of her on-the-spot watercolors. So she bundled up on the afternoon of December 17, 1962 and made her way to the White House where, during the Christmas Pageant of Peace, President John F. Kennedy would light the National Christmas Tree, a 72-foot-tall blue spruce imported from Colorado.

Lily Spandorf displays the original painting that inspired the 1963 Christmas stamp.
Lily Spandorf displays the original painting that inspired the 1963 Christmas stamp.

At 5:15 p.m., the president pushed the button and the tree, decorated with 5,000 multicolored lights and 4,000 ornaments, flickered to colorful holiday life. It would be the only time JFK would light the national tree.

As soon as the lights came on, Spandorf — who made her living with on-the-spot paintings around the city — went to work, creating a painting with people admiring the decorated tree and a partial view of the White House in the background.

A photo of the Lily Spandorf’s first adaptation of her original painting as requested by the Post Office Department.
A photo of the Lily Spandorf’s first adaptation of her original painting as requested by the Post Office Department.

A lot happened with that painting. It became the principal design for the United States’ second Christmas stamp, that for 1963. Postal officials at first asked for an adaptation. Spandorf eliminated the holiday onlookers and placed the tree even greater in the foreground. In the end, illustrator Norman Todhunter of Connecticut modified the design even more to include a view of the full White House and a more distant view of the tree. But Spandorf is still given credit as the main illustrator.

A proof copy of the front of the Christmas card from Colortone Press.
A proof copy of the front of the Christmas card from Colortone Press.

At about the same time the Post Office Department was creating the stamp, Colortone Press President A.J. Hackl, a longtime admirer of the artist’s, also became interested in the tree painting. He worked out a deal to use the painting as a Christmas card, the first time a stamp and card came from the same source.

The stamp was formally issued November 1 in Santa Claus, Indiana. Spandorf attended the ceremony. The holiday season carried a cloak of great sadness from Kennedy’s assassination. But apparently, the stamp helped folks cope somewhat as it sold a then-record 2 billion examples.

Lily Spandorf’s painting was adapted as a Christmas card, which the artist herself turned into first-day cover when she attended the first-day ceremony in Santa Claus, Indiana. She signed a card and sent one to philatelic journalist Belmont Faries.

Spandorf was born in 1915 in Vienna, Austria. Like many Jews, she fled eastern Europe before the start of World War II, immigrating to London. She made her way to New York City in 1950 and finally to the nation’s capital a few years later. Spandorf contributed artwork to many publications, including the Washington Post, National Geographic, and the Washington Evening Star. She died in 2000 at the age of 85. In recent years at least two retrospective exhibits of her artwork have been held.

Save