Postal Service and Postal Museum Unveil New Stamp, Exhibit

There was no Blue Angels flyover, but there were still plenty of planes overhead in the atrium of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, where dozens gathered Tuesday for the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service’s “Air Mail Blue” stamp and the opening of the museum’s “Postmen of the Skies” exhibit.

The stamp, printed in blue and donning a classical look, celebrates the 100th anniversary of the U.S. airmail service and features a drawing of a Curtiss JN-4H biplane.

Another stamp with the same design but printed in red will be issued Aug. 11 in College Park, Maryland to commemorate the transfer of airmail service from the U.S. Army to the Post Office Department.

“Airmail service has been one of our organization’s most significant contributions to America’s growth,” said Postal Service Vice President of Supply Management Susan Brownell. “Single-person flights, carrying bags of mail from one city to another, eventually led to a world-shaping passenger aviation industry and transportation network.”

The Postmen of the Skies exhibit explores the beginning of the U.S. airmail service and the pilots who first flew the mail. The exhibit features items worn by the airmail pilots and tells their stories.

“Our new exhibition invites visitors to witness and experience the birth of commercial aviation,” Director of the National Postal Museum Elliot Gruber said. “Actually, one of the pilots featured in the exhibition flew the De Havilland DH-4 airplane that hangs above our heads right here.”

The exhibit also displays a 1929 airmail board game in which “players rolled dice to move forward and the first pilot to deliver their six letters won the game,” according to the exhibit.

The U.S. airmail service began May 15, 1918 when “a small group of Army pilots delivered mail along a route that linked Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City,” according to the Postal Service.

Head Curator Nancy Pope detailed the story of the first airmail flight.

“Unfortunately for the Post Office, [pilot George] Boyle didn’t head north. He headed southeast and crashed in Waldorf, Maryland,” she said. “His mail was put on a truck to DC and unceremoniously put on a train to New York City. Fortunately, for the Post Office Department, the other three pilots did a magnificent job that day.”

Those three delivered the mail successfully.

Bill Harris, deputy director of Air Force history and museums policies and programs at the Pentagon, noted, ““[The airmail operation] helped redefine the use of aircraft and its role in military doctrine that would be sorely tested in the skies above Europe and the Pacific during the second world war and beyond.”

Today, the Postal Service still uses planes to fly the mail but does not have an official airmail service. The organization uses contractors to carry airmail.

 by Tasos Kalfas, @TasosKalfasWRGW

USPS to Celebrate 100th Anniversary of U.S. Airmail Service

The U.S. Postal Service celebrates the centennial of official airmail service in the U.S. this year with a pair of new stamps, one of which will be issued today (May 1) in a ceremony at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

Airmail service officially started May 15, 1918 with flights between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as flights between Philadelphia and New York City.

The new blue-and-white United States Air Mail stamp – which is a forever first-class domestic commemorative – features a drawing of the type of plane typically used in the early days of airmail, a Curtiss JN-4H biplane. The stamp is printed in intaglio — a design engraved into the stamp paper – and has been produced in panes of 20. A stamp in dark red with the same design will be released this summer, also likely in Washington, D.C.

The first-day ceremony at 11 a.m. will be part of a day filled with events at the National Postal Museum.

The museum will open an exciting new exhibit – “Postmen of the Skies” – which also celebrates the centennial of airmail.

Pilot goggles, leggings, helmets and logbooks, along with route maps, telegrams and airmail-related pop culture artifacts, will invite visitors to witness and experience the birth of commercial aviation. Visitors will also experience rare historic photos and see an archival “you-are-there” video that tells the story of the origins of airmail.

The American Philatelic Society and the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum will host the launch of Stamp of the Century, a book about the famous philatelic error, the Inverted Jenny. The authors, Kellen Diamanti and Deborah Fisher, will be on hand from noon to 2 p.m. to talk with museum visitors and sign copies of their book, which will be for sale in the museum gift store. From 6 to 8 p.m. the next evening, the authors will be part of the museum’s History After Hours program for an evening book talk and signing. The book is also available from the APS at www.stamps.org/publications.

Two interactive events take off that day, as well. There will be an airmail-themed scavenger hunt and visitors can try their luck at an airmail board game.

After a series of experimental flights in previous years, the Post Office Department and U.S. Army worked cooperatively to launch official airmail service in 1918. Army planes and pilots were used to fly the first mail runs. The Post Office Department took charge of service later that summer, operating it from Aug. 12, 1918, through Sept. 1, 1927. The first east-west route (New York to Chicago) started December 18, 1918.

The stamp celebrates the courage of the pioneering airmail carriers and the foresight of those who fostered the new service and made it a success. Airmail delivery, daily except Sundays, became part of the fabric of the American economy and spurred the growth of the nation’s aviation industry.

Dan Gretta designed the stamp while Greg Breeding was art director.

Scheduled to speak at the first-day ceremony are Bill Harris, deputy director, Department of the Air Force; Susan Brownell, vice president of supply management for the United States Postal Service; Elliot Gruber, director, and Nancy Pope, head curator, both of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

APS Interview: A Youthful Perspective on Philately

At the First Day Ceremony for the Mister Rogers forever stamp, APS Editor Martin Miller had the opportunity to talk with Jessica Manack. Jessica, in attendance with her husband and their children, offered a modern perspective on Mister Rogers, stamps and collecting.

Listen to that interview here:

After the event, Jessica explored the APS website (www.stamps.org) and became one of the newest members of the APS. She has become a vocal proponent for both the hobby and the society.

People You Meet at a Stamp Show

by Scott English
Executive Director

In 2016, I asked a question at a stamp show I never thought I’d ask, “Excuse me, are you Hillbilly Jim?” For those of you who don’t know, Hillbilly Jim, born James Morris, was a wrestler popular in the World Wrestling Federation, now the WWE, in the 1980’s.  I’m reminded of the meeting as we head into the biggest weekend of the year for professional wrestling− Wrestlemania Weekend and the induction of Hillbilly Jim into the Hall of Fame.

Hulk HoganI have been a professional wrestling fan since I was 10 years old. In my childhood, wrestling became something of a national phenomenon as the World Wrestling Federation, now known as the WWE, rose to prominence. It all started on January 24, 1983 when Hulk Hogan won the World Heavyweight title from the Iron Sheik and the MTV crossover of “Rock-n-Wrestling” made wrestling cool for teenagers like me.

Being a wrestling fan and a stamp collector share one similarity, no one understands you if they aren’t a part of it. So, it is a bit surprising when the two worlds collided for me at World Stamp Show – NY 2016.  Every ten years in the U.S., the philatelic community comes together to invite collectors and exhibitors from around the world. In May 2016, this show took place at the Javits Center in New York City for ten days.

During the show setup, the APS booth was not far from a booth operated by Champion Stamp Company, the only stamp store in all of New York City. Since the show was local, Champion purchased a large booth, so they could bring sizeable inventory. There were several large guys helping move material in and make sure no one thought about taking anything, including Morris.

In 1984, Jim Morris started appearing in the audience of WWF matches. At 6’7” and 320 pounds, he was hard to miss, but to make sure you didn’t he wore denim overalls and had a huge beard. Eventually, the popular Hogan took “Big Jim” under his wing and the world met Hillbilly Jim. He was a nice country boy, supposedly from Mud Lick, KY and was wildly popular with fans because he was a giant guy with a big smile and a great personality. Due to his popularity, the WWF added family members, like Uncle Elmer and Cousin Junior to join him in the ring, accompanied by Hillbilly Jim’s theme song, Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy.  Morris retired from the WWE in 1992 with occasional appearances, but he never enjoyed the same visibility he did in the 1980s.

To his credit, Hillbilly Jim did not run into some of the out-of-ring issues, like drugs, alcohol, or jail. Instead, he made appearances and greeted fans with the same warmth that he was known for in the ring. This was true even when a grown man comes up to him at a stamp booth in the Javits Center in New York. When I walked over to say hello, Jim cracked a smile and we talked wrestling, stamps, politics, and life for 30 minutes or so. When we got finished, he stood up and said, “Let’s get a picture my man” and rounded up a volunteer. Morris doesn’t frequent stamp shows, but usually provides muscle and security at coin shows around the country. He will do stamp shows if it’s a big deal. You can hear Morris every Saturday on Outlaw Country on Sirius XM Channel 60 doing Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee.

This Friday, Morris will add Hall of Famer to his biography and I can’t think of a nicer guy. He probably won’t mention he’s been to a stamp show during his speech, but hopefully we’ll see him again soon!

Dragons Will Invade American Philatelic Society’s StampShow

You may want to consider packing some heavy armor, shields, crossbows, magic potions or anything else that might tame or slay a dragon if you plan on visiting Columbus, Ohio this August.

The U.S. Postal Service will issue four new Dragons stamps during StampShow, scheduled for August 9 to 12 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.

StampShow – sponsored by the American Philatelic Society – is the nation’s largest annual philatelic show and promises to be more exciting than ever. This is first time the show will be co-sponsored with the American Topical Association, the group that helps collect stamps by topics, such as heraldry, legends and dragons.

The show will offer philatelic activities, exhibits and experiences, making it an event for collectors and non-collectors of all ages. There will be hundreds of exhibits, stamp rarities on display, specialty societies on hand, presentations, youth and beginners’ activities and dozens of dealer booths. The U.S. Postal Service plans to be at the show with an extraordinary booth.

Something sure to make the show more enjoyable will be the society’s new mobile app for the show, scheduled for release May 1.

StampShow, which moves among locations annually, will serve as the 132nd convention of the society, which has about 29,000 members worldwide.

The four new U.S. stamps will be issued in panes of 16.

“The high-flying, fire-breathing mythological creatures … have roamed our imaginations for millennia,” the Postal Service said in a news release.

The stamps feature digital illustrations created by artist Don Clark of Invisible Creature studio. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps.

The designs show:

A green fire-breathing dragon towering over a medieval-inspired castle.

A purple dragon with orange wings and sharp black armor on its back snaking around a white castle that evokes Camelot.

A black dragon with green wings and green armor on its back swooping past a ship on the sea.

A wingless orange dragon, inspired by creatures from Asian art, architecture and ancient religion and lore, weaving its way around a pagoda.

“We’re very excited to bring these beautiful stamps to the 132nd annual APS convention,” said U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner. “This is one of the premier stamp shows in America and serves as an excellent platform to showcase these special stamps.”

“We’re thrilled to have USPS unveil these great stamps with us in Columbus,” said Scott English, APS executive director. “There will be something for the whole family highlighting this cool theme. No experience necessary, so we hope you will join us!”

The U.S., not home to many dragons of lore, has not issued many stamps with dragons; maybe just a couple from Lunar New Year series. The 2000 Lunar New Year stamp (Scott 3370) features a paper-cut styled dragon to mark the Year of the Dragon. The 2012 Lunar New Year stamp (Scott 4623) features a colorful dragon head of the type used in parades and celebrations. Many European and Asian countries have included dragons on stamp. They include Austria, Cambodia, China, Great Britain (including this year’s Game of Thrones set), Japan, Jersey and the Philippines.

More information about StampShow and the APS can be found online at https://stamps.org/STAMPSHOW-SS.

More information from the U.S. Postal Service can be found online at: https://aps.buzz/2GaraS0