A unique record of the history of the United States.
Throughout its history, the United States has celebrated its achievements, honored its heroes and recorded its history by issuing beautiful commemorative postage stamps. These stamps tell us about the discovery and settlement of the land; advances in transportation and communication; the wonders of the American wilderness; and the accomplishments of political, military and civic leaders who served the republic and shaped its future. Created by the United States Post Office to honor significant events and important people, these stamps offer us a unique and proud look at America's history.
An American History Album takes a look at the stories behind these miniature works of art-why they were issued and who or what they honor. Created by some of the best artists and finest engravers of their day, these stamps fashion a visual portrait of the history, values and accomplishments of the United States. Through their research for this book the authors identified more than 50 major themes of the American story that have been commemorated in stamps.
An American History Album will appeal to history buffs, stamp collectors, educators, art enthusiasts and general readers. It serves as a graphic reminder that the American dream, as crafted in the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, remains alive and well.
Here are just some of the stories told inside An American History Album:
The themes include:
Michael Worek is an editor and publisher who combines his lifelong fascination with American history with his passion for commemorative stamps.
Jordan Worek is a third-generation stamp collector who was completing his university degree while engaged in research for this book.
Terrence W. McCaffrey is Manager, Stamp Development, Stamp Services, United States Postal Service.
Throughout its history, the United States has celebrated its achievements, honored its heroes and recorded its history by issuing commemorative postage stamps. These stamps tell us about the discovery and settlement of the land; advances in transportation and communication; wonders of the natural landscape; and accomplishments of political, military and civic leaders who served the republic and shaped its future. Created by the United States Post Office in the belief that the nation would be stronger for a tribute that combined historical significance with popular appeal, these stamps offer us a unique and proud look at America's history. The stamps are beautiful in themselves, but they take on even more interest when we learn the stories behind them -- why they were issued, and who or what they honor. Taken together, these miniature works of art, created by some of the best artists and engravers of their day, constitute an American family album -- a visual portrait of who we are, what we value and what we have accomplished.
Within the American colonies, letters were carried long before there were stamps to put on them. A post office was opened in Boston as early as 1639, and regular service between Boston and New York City began in 1673. Since its formation in 1775, the United States Post Office, originally called the Post Office Department, has been a key element in the nation's communication system and in the delivery of goods across the country and around the world. The world's first postage stamp, the famous Penny Black, was issued in England in 1840. The United States issued its first stamps in 1847. By 1850 every major country was using adhesive stamps to cover the postage rate, and letters were routinely mailed around the world with the assumption that they would arrive safely. In the United States registered mail was introduced in 1855, city delivery in 1874, and the first postcards, the emails of their day, in 1873.
It is clearly not the purpose here to recount the full story of the United States and its place in the world. That huge task is well beyond the scope of this little book or the postage stamps themselves. There are many excellent works that look judiciously at the American experience and give a balanced and reasoned picture of the nation's history, warts and all. Happily, with this book we are free to give ourselves over to the enjoyment of the high points, the best days, the most noble acts and the moments of courage, sacrifice and greatness that will always be remembered and associated with the country's history.
Like any family album, this one contains pictures only of the people and places we're proud of. They illustrate America's most patriotic perspective on its history. If at times, in this post-9/11 world, these images seem overly idealistic, we might remember that ideals often inspire our achievements. Those who have had the job of selecting, designing and issuing these little portraits of greatness have set a commendably high standard for illustrating our values and what we would like to become.
The selection of stamps in this book is notable as much for what has been omitted as for the stamps that have been included. The United States has just too many stories and too many commemorative stamps -- more than four thousand in all -- to show more than a fraction of them here. Stamps were selected for their subject matter -- American history -- and the beauty of their design as well as on the basis of the authors' personal views and preferences. Although chosen to reflect the themes of the book, they also represent some of the best work of the United States Post Office. Since so many more stamps have been issued than are presented here, and since most are still available from stamp dealers at a reasonable cost, we encourage readers to form their own collections of original Americana featuring their favorite themes and topics and, while they are at it, to learn more about our history.
As we move further into the electronic age of continuous communication with people everywhere, the postage stamps we have, and those that will be issued in the future, will remain as reminders of the pleasure we still experience in receiving a letter, in knowing that someone has taken the time to sit down and create a tangible bond between us. Unlike an email, a letter is a physical piece of history that we can read, treasure and pass down to our children. Appropriately, the stamps that have been issued to carry those letters are also worth treasuring, and surely a heritage to be enjoyed.
These stamps and the stories they tell are important because American history is important. The American experience, sometimes called "the last best hope of mankind," is one worth sharing because it is a story in which we all have a stake. More than thirty years ago, English journalist and broadcaster Alistair Cooke justified his efforts to create a television series about the United States by saying that whether he was to succeed or fail, it seemed to him a good, though difficult, thing "to try and say what is moving about the American experience ... at a time when that experience is either forgotten, badly taught, or shamelessly sentimentalized."
Cooke's words are still true today and justify any attempt, including this small one, to explore the best of America's aspirations and achievements. The United States is still poorly understood, even by many of its own citizens, but there is evidence in these stamps that the country is unique, resilient and somehow special. For all our rush into the future, history reminds us that the greatest good for the greatest number is best achieved by asking, with John F. Kennedy, not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. These small tributes to the ideals, sacrifices and triumphs of the United States were created to help us take pride in the nation's history so that tomorrow's challenges may be faced with a surety of purpose and a confidence based on more than 200 years of experience in creating and sharing the American dream.