A Shining Moment for USPS’s Gaze at a Dark Day — August 21, 2017

The United States Postal Service has gone all out for the Total Eclipse of the Sun, which will occur August 21 from the northwest corner of the continental U.S. to South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast in the southeast. The moon on Monday will come between the Earth and sun. A shadow will totally block the sun from our sight for a 70-mile-wide path across the country. Those outside the path of totality will experience a partial solar eclipse.

This is the first time a total solar eclipse has been visible in the U.S. since 1979 and it’s the first time in 99 years such an eclipse as occurred entirely across the Lower 48, according to space.com. Several locales in Tennessee — such as Gallatin, Lebanon and Madisonville — get close to the maximum duration of totality, about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

“One astronomer has said it will be the ‘most photographed, most shared, most tweeted event in human history,’ ” the Washington Post said in a recent story.

This special occasion called for a special stamp.

On June 20, the Summer Solstice, the USPS issued a first-ever stamp with changeable ink. The forever stamp, currently sold at 49 cents and forever valid for first-class domestic mail, has a darkened orb — such as an eclipsed sun — but when heated (such as under a thumb) turns into the face of the moon.

Post offices along the path have planned special events or postal cancellations for the eclipse. An interactive map from the U.S. Postal Service shows the swath of the eclipse and all of the post offices directly in its path.

The stamp uses thermochromic ink to create its special effect. The dark, round image of the eclipse on the stamp transforms into the illuminated moon from the heat of a finger. The image turns black again when it cools. This is the first time such ink has been used on a U.S. stamp, according to the Postal Service.

The Postal Service warns that thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service is offering a special dark envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for 25 cents. The special ink also causes a full 16-stamp pane of the stamps to be slightly crinkled. Banknote Corporation of America printed the stamp and CTI, a specialized ink printer based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, added the thermochromic ink.

The Eclipse stamp was released on June 20 and celebrated with a first-day ceremony at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Taking part in the ceremony were NASA astrophysicist Madhulika “Lika” Guthakurta, University of Wyoming Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Chip Kobulnicky, and astrophysicist Fred Espenak, known as “Mr. Eclipse,” joined the Postal Service for the first-day-of-issue ceremony.

The Solar Eclipse forever stamp is issued in a pane of 16. Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia, designed the stamp. The stamp features a photograph of an eclipse taken by Espenak on March 29, 2006 in Jalu, Libya.

Espenak, of Portal, Arizona, is a retired NASA astrophysicist and is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on total solar eclipses with 27 under his belt.

A total solar eclipse provides us with the only chance to see the sun’s corona — its extended outer atmosphere — without specialized instruments. During the total phase of an eclipse the corona appears as a gossamer white halo around the black disk of the moon, resembling the petals of a flower reaching out into space.

Tens of millions of people in the United States hope to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979. The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918.

“With the release of these amazing stamps using thermochromic ink, we’ve provided an opportunity for people to experience their own personal solar eclipse every time they touch the stamps,” said Jim Cochrane, chief customer and marketing officer for the USPS, who took part in the first-day ceremony. “As evidenced by this stamp and other amazing innovations, the Postal Service is enabling a new generation to bridge the gap and tighten the connection between physical mail and the digital world.”

A total eclipse of the sun occurs when the moon completely blocks the visible solar disk from view, casting a shadow on Earth.

On the back of the pane is a map of the United States showing the path of totality, those places where the sun will be completely blocked as the moon passes between it and Earth. “The 70-mile-wide shadow path of the eclipse, known as the path of totality, will traverse the country diagonally, appearing first in Oregon (mid-morning local time) and exiting some 2,500 miles east and 90 minutes later off the coast of South Carolina (mid-afternoon local time),” the pane says.

Guthakurta warned that only people within the path of totality should view the eclipse with the naked eye.

“The sun can be viewed safely with the unaided eye only during the few brief seconds or minutes of a total solar eclipse,” said Guhathakurta. “Partial eclipses or partial phases of total solar eclipses are never safe to watch without solar eclipse glasses.”

Guthakurta recommended learning more on solar eclipse safety, educational and science information at eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

According to the timeanddate.com website, here are a few times of totality from west to east, all listed in local time and rounded to the nearest minute: Bend, Oregon, 10:20 a.m.; Idaho Falls, Idaho, 11:33 a.m.; Lincoln, Nebraska, 1:03 p.m.; St. Louis, Missouri, 1:18 p.m.; Nashville, Tennessee, 1:28 p.m.; and Charleston, South Carolina, 2:47 p.m.

Flowers from the Garden Decorate
Forever Stamps Starting August 16

Flowers from the Garden
Flowers from the Garden

Flowers painted by a contemporary American artist will appear on four Flowers from the Garden forever stamps to be issued August 16 by the U.S. Postal Service.

The first-day ceremony will be at 4 p.m. local time at the Mary Jo Arboretum and East Sioux Falls Historic Site in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Among those scheduled to be on hand are South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard and stamp artist Elizabeth Brandon.

The stamps feature still-life paintings of bountiful floral bouquets by Brandon, whose paintings were inspired by floral still-lifes created by Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Each stamp features one of four different paintings of flowers gathered from the garden and artfully arranged in a container. One stamp features red camellias and yellow forsythia in a yellow pitcher, while on another there are white peonies and pink tree peonies in a clear vase. An arrangement of white hydrangeas, white and pink roses, green hypericum berries, and purple lisianthus in a white vase graces another stamp, while blue hydrangeas in a blue pot appear on another.

The pressure-sensitive stamps are being sold in booklets of 20, and coils of 3,000 and 10,000.

Derry Noyes, of Washington, D.C., was art director, designer, and typographer for these stamps.

The first-day ceremony is free and open to the public, though guests are asked to RSVP at usps.com/flowers.

Flower Once Thought Extinct in the Wild on New Postal Card August 11

The artistry of illustrator Dugald Stermer appears on a new stamped postal card to be issued Friday, August 11, the first day of the three-day Americover 2017 show in Independence, Ohio. The postal card also goes on sale nationwide Friday.

There will be three varieties of the nondenominated (34 cents) Azulillo Chilean Blue Crocus forever postal card: a single card; a double-reply card, and an uncut sheet of 40 cards. The basic postal card sells for 38 cents, which includes 34 cents of current postage plus 4 cents for the cost of the card.

A first-day ceremony is set for 11 a.m. at the annual show and exhibition sponsored by the American First Day Cover Society. The show takes place Friday through Sunday at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Cleveland-Rockside, 5800 Rockside Woods Boulevard, in Independence.

The Azulillo Chilean Blue Crocus is a flowering perennial native to Chile, the naturally grows at more than a mile high on the dry on the stony slopes in the Andes mountains. Although it had survived in cultivation due to its use as a greenhouse and landscape plant, it was believed to be extinct in the wild due to overcollecting, overgrazing, and general destruction of habitat, until it was rediscovered in 2001.

The imprinted stamp on the postal card features an existing floral illustration by Stermer (1936-2011), a longtime illustrator and designer. He was a major illustrative force behind Ramparts magazine and his other clients included the New York Times, New Yorker, the U.S. Department of State, and the 1984 Summer Olympics (for which he created the medals) in Los Angeles. He is credited with the illustration on the cover of the first issue of Mother Jones magazine in 1976, and how own nature books, Vanishing Creatures (1981), Vanishing Flora (1995), and Birds & Bees (1995).

Ethel Kessler, of Bethesda, Maryland, was art director, designer, and typographer for this card.

Protect Pollinators Stamps to be
Celebrated Next Week

The United States Postal Service will issue the Protect Pollinators commemorative forever stamps August 3 in Richmond, Virginia. The ceremony for the stamps will take place at noon during the American Philatelic Society’s StampShow. Here are the participants for the ceremony:

• U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shaprio
• U.S. Postal Service Stamp Services Director Mary-Anne Penner
• American Philatelic Society President Mick Zais
• The Pollinator Partnership President & CEO Val Dolcini.

The five stamps, to debut nationwide the same day, will be sold in a pane of 20 format with decorative selvage. Nearby is a preliminary image of the pane layout.

Here are some additional details about the stamp issue from the U.S. Postal Service:

Protect Pollinators
Protect Pollinators

Protect Pollinators
This stamp pays tribute to the beauty and importance of pollinators with stamps depicting two of our continent’s most iconic, the monarch butterfly and the western honeybee, each shown industriously pollinating a variety of plants native to North America. These particular species exemplify the ecological service provided by all pollinators, which include other insects, birds, and bats. Crop pollination by insects contributes approximately $15 billion of produce to the U.S. economy each year. Trending declines in their populations alert us that pollinators are helped by planting pollinator gardens with native flowers or heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables. Art director Derry Noyes designed this stamp pane with existing photographs.

Wyeth Celebrated With 12 New Stamps

Twelve new Andrew Wyeth commemorative forever stamps will debut this Wednesday, July 12, nationwide. The stamps celebrate the centennial of his birth.

A first-day-of-issue ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. at the The Brandywine River Museum of Art, 1 Hoffmans Mill Road, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The public may RSVP online at usps.com/awyeth.

Expected to participate in the ceremony are Andrew Wyeth’s son Jamie Wyeth; U.S. Postal Service Senior Director and Chief of Staff to the Postmaster General Patrick Mendonca; and The Frolic Weymouth Executive Director and CEO, The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art Virginia A. Logan.

The Postal Service provided this additional information about the stamp issue:

This pane of 12 Forever stamps celebrates the centennial of the birth of Andrew Wyeth (July 12, 1917 – Jan. 16, 2009), one of the most prominent American artists of the 20th century. Working in a realistic style that defied artistic trends, Wyeth created haunting and enigmatic paintings based largely on people and places in his life, a body of work that continues to resist easy or comfortable interpretation.


This issuance includes stamps that each features a detail from a different Andrew Wyeth painting. The paintings are: “Wind from the Sea” (1947), “Big Room” (1988), “Christina’s World” (1948), “Alvaro and Christina” (1968), “Frostbitten” (1962), “Sailor’s Valentine” (1985), “Soaring” (1942–1950), “North Light” (1984), “Spring Fed” (1967), “The Carry” (2003), “Young Bull” (1960), and “My Studio” (1974). The selvage, or area outside of the stamp images, shows a photograph of Wyeth from the 1930s. Art director Derry Noyes of Washington, DC, designed the pane.