The importance of education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known by the acronym STEM – is celebrated on a set of four new U.S. postage stamps issued April 6.
The stamps were dedicated during the 2018 USA Science & Engineering Festival at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
The collage-style stamps are designed to pique the curiosity of the viewer, with each featuring a collage of faces, symbols, drawings and numbers that represent the complexity and interconnectedness of the STEM disciplines. The name of the discipline appears in white across a red field at the top left of each stamp. At the bottom left, the first letter of the discipline is found in a blue box with three stars to its left. The 20-stamp pane shows Science (S) stamps in a row of five across the top, following downward by Technology (T), Engineering (E) and Mathematics (M).
“In an increasingly competitive world, proficiency in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — collectively known as STEM — is more critical than ever,” said U.S. Postal Service Marketing Vice President Steve Monteith, who dedicated the stamps.
Monteith also referenced the importance of STEM in the development of Informed Delivery, one of the Postal Service’s latest innovations. Informed Delivery allows customers to see a digital preview of their incoming physical mail and also allows customers to track packages and reschedule deliveries — all from the convenience of the user’s computer, tablet or mobile devices.
“Informed Delivery is one of our most exciting innovations and it’s already very popular with nearly 9 million users so far,” said Monteith.
Joining Monteith to unveil the stamps were Marc Schulman, executive director, USA Science & Engineering Festival; Kris Brown, deputy associate administrator for education, NASA; C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D., coordinator of Coral Reef Watch, NOAA; Kavya Kopparapu, finalist, Regeneron Science Talent Search; and Courtney Pine,kid reporter, Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. Danni Washington, of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, served as the ceremony’s emcee.
The stamp comes in pane of 20, including four different designs, one for each of the four STEM disciplines.
Artist David Plunkert worked with art director Antonio Alcalá to create these stamps.
The U.S. Postal Service announced today it will return to producing only soakable stamps by next year and it expects postage rates to drop 10 percent!!! Haha! April Fools!
I don’t suppose we caught too many of you with that one. How about the return of the penny postcard? Maybe stamps that are mini-drones and will fly special delivery letters to their destinations? Hey, we tried.
How about this: With the multitude of castles, knights and heraldry on stamps, we wondered if perhaps the best known symbol of April Fool’s – the jester – is found on our commemoratives.
Like fools, we rushed into our hunt and started scanning page after page of our favorite catalog. You can call us foolish, but we found a few. (If you like the idea of jesters or fools on stamps, don’t forget this year’s American Philatelic Society StampShow in Columbus, Ohio will be co-hosted by the American Topical Association, the go-to society for ALL collecting themes.)
So let’s get to our jesters. The jester – the king of fools – was the one character in a royal court that could get away with clowning around about the monarchy and its ways. But he’s not a real clown, so we disregarded clown stamps. Medieval court jesters wore bright, gaudy clothing – the color of the leggings are often different – and often wears a signature three-point Fool’s Hat with a bell on each point. He also carries a mock scepter called a bauble, which was adorned by a carved head or the inflated bladder of an animal (yuck, no foolin’).
We start with a couple of real-life jesters, the first from Spain. A masterpiece painting by Diego Velázquez (1599-1660) – Portrait of Sebastián de Morra (1645) – appears on a 1999 stamp (Scott 3009) from Spain. De Morra was a court dwarf and jester in the court of Philip IV of Spain. The painting is in the Prado in Madrid.
Let’s stick to masterpieces, where we turn to a Polish stamp issued in 1968. The stamp features the 1862 painting known in short as Stańczyk, or The Jester, by Jan Matejko (1838-1893). Stańczyk (c. 1480-1560) was a popular figure who was jester to three kings. The painting shows the jester at a ball where he has just learned that the Russian army has captured Smolensk. Matejko created at least one other painting of him and there is a monument of the jester sitting on a bench in Niepołomice. The stamp (Scott 1607) is part of a set of eight stamps featuring Polish artworks.
In 1959, Belgium issued a semipostal (a charity stamp) featuring a jester and cats (B658). The stamp raised money to fight tuberculosis. (Yes, we noticed the single-pointed hat; he’s a true fool to be misdressed.)
We may be foolhardy but we think Germany is king of jester stamps.
In 1970, Germany released a set of four marionettes semipostal stamps with one of them (B463) depicting a jester puppet.
Next comes the 1977 issue (Scott 1230) showing Scenes from the Till Eulenspiegel Folk Tales (c. 1350). Four scenes are shown with the jester-like Till in all four. In 2011, Germany commemorated the 500th anniversary of the first printing of the Till tales with another stamp, this one showing a jester in the center of the diamond-shaped stamp (Scott 2633) surrounded by other iconic items from the stories.
Germany in 1988 issued a stamp (Scott 1544) honoring the 150th anniversary of the Mainz Carnival. The character does look a bit more like a clown than a jester, but we’ll accept him because of his Fool’s Hat.
In 2000, the 175th anniversary of the Dusseldorf Carnival, is honored with a jester doing a cartwheel (Scott 2070).
Great Britain may have been home to several foolish monarchs over the centuries, but we really couldn’t find any pure jester stamps from the Brits.
Britain has, however, honored the jester-like figure of a puppet – Punch, from Punch and Judy fame – on a few occasions.
The famous puppet and his cast of characters date back to 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte, where it eventually moved and morphed. The figure who later became Mr. Punch made his first recorded appearance in England on May 9, 1662, traditionally reckoned as his birthday in the U.K. His outfitted like a jester, though his hat has but a single point with a tassel that flops over the front.
In 1990, Mr. Punch is one of eight stamps (Scott 1306) in the Smiles set, which also includes the Queen of Hearts and Stan Laurel. In 1991-92, an image of Punch showed up on the covers of a couple of booklets marking the 150th anniversary of Punch magazine. Mr. Punch is featured along with five other puppet characters on Punch & Judy set of 2001. Punch is listed as Scott 1987. The stamps came in various formats, including a presentation pack.
Thanks for playing along with our fool’s game. Next time we’ll tell you all about…