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Inside Story of 34¢ Greetings from America Stamps

by George Amick

Table of Contents

  1. Origins of the Greetings from America Stamps
  2. Richard Sheaff's Idea
  3. The Project Begins
  4. The Design Process
  5. Turning to the Computer
  6. The Individual Designs
  7. Sennett Prints the Stamps
  8. The Stamps are Announced
  9. The First-Day Sale Ceremonies
  10. About the Author
  11. About the Article

Origins of the Greetings from America Stamps

On four occasions between 1976 and 1993, the U.S. Postal Service issued a pane of 50 stamps with each stamp bearing a different design. The format stemmed from a convenient coincidence — there are 50 states, and commemorative stamp panes at that time typically consisted of 50 stamps. Thus, panes could be designed in which every state was assigned its own stamp.

The first of these, in 1976, pictured the state flags on horizontally-arranged stamps and represented a dramatic new development in U.S. stamp production. The Postal Service considered it an innovation appropriate for the occasion — the climactic year of the celebration of the bicentennial of American independence. The flags pane was followed in 1982 by a pane of vertical commemorative-size stamps depicting the 50 official state birds and flowers, as painted by the father-son team of Arthur and Alan Singer.

The third 50-variety pane comprised vertically-arranged stamps depicting American wildlife — birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, crustaceans and flora. Here, USPS diverged from the one-stamp-one-state concept. The stamps weren't identified with individual states, but in artist Chuck Ripper's choice of subjects, all parts of the country were represented.

The same was true of the fourth 50-variety pane, issued in 1992 and displaying the late Karen Mallary's paintings of American wildflowers on vertically-arranged stamps. From Hawaii's ohi'a lehua to South Dakota's pasqueflower to the harebell that grows in the fields of New England, postal patrons everywhere could find flowers indigenous to their states. By the Postal Service's accounting, the wildflowers pane was the second most popular commemorative stamp issue of all time, trailing only the Elvis Presley stamp of 1993.

Through the rest of the 1990s, however, no more 50-variety panes were issued. The Postal Service abandoned the 50-stamp format for commemoratives and began producing them in panes of 20, in part to encourage the collection of full panes and to generate more plate number blocks per pane. Nevertheless, the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) let it be known from time to time that its members were interested in finding appropriate subjects for another 50-stamp pane.

Collectors and media were generous with their suggestions. State seals were proposed, and even state license plates. One of the subjects most frequently mentioned was state capitol buildings. In 1983, to show how a state capitols pane might look, James A. Helzer, president of the Unicover Corporation, prepared a pane of 50 bicolored stamp-like labels, gummed and perforated, each showing a different capitol building. He sent panes to William F. Bolger, then postmaster general, and Pete Davidson, director of the Office of Stamps and Philatelic Marketing. Helzer also offered panes as promotional material to customers of Unicover and its Fleetwood division.

But CSAC was cool to the idea of a state capitols pane. Its principal objection was that many of the structures, with their domes and colonnades, looked alike, and that some were undistinguished in appearance, particularly Alaska's prosaic office building on a street corner in Juneau.

The subject that finally won CSAC's interest and approval wasn't suggested by the public, however. It arose out of the expertise and collecting interests of a veteran Postal Service art director.

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Richard Sheaff's Idea

Richard Sheaff, a resident of Scottsdale, Arizona, has worked under contract with USPS for some two decades, designing stamps and overseeing the work of stamp illustrators. He is a long-time collector of ephemera — defined as paper artifacts not intended to have permanent value — whose collection includes the old 1930s and 1940s "Greetings" linen picture postcards that were highly popular with tourists and travelers. The cards featured the name of a state, city or tourist attraction in large block lettering, with pictures representing the featured place inside each letter. The words "Greetings from," in smaller letters, were at the top.

Around 1990, Sheaff recalled, "I had the idea it would be fun to develop a set of stamps, one for each state, that resembled those large-letter postcards." He thought about the artists and illustrators with whom he had worked, and decided that the best candidate for such a job would be Lonnie Busch, a freelance illustrator and airbrush specialist who resided in St. Louis, Missouri. "Lonnie has done a lot of bright and colorful illustrations over the years," Sheaff said. "I figured this would be the kind of thing he would have fun with."

Busch has created advertising and promotional art for numerous corporations, including Annheuser-Busch, Miller, Pepsi and AT&T. His first stamp assignment was the 22¢ Pan American Games commemorative of 1987. Later, he would illustrate the 25¢ and 45¢ Americas commemoratives of 1989, depicting pre-Columbian artifacts; the 29¢ Basketball Centennial stamp of 1991; the five-stamp 29¢ Olympic Winter Games sets of 1992 and 1994; the 23¢ USA Flag first-class presort rate coil of 1992, and the 29¢ and 52¢ Victorian Dove Love stamps of 1994.

Sheaff sent Busch a selection of "Greetings from" postcards and asked him to try his hand at that genre. Busch created two airbrushed stamp designs — "Greetings from Missouri" and "Greetings from Texas." They were montages, like the retro postcards, and were exactly what Sheaff had had in mind.

The Missouri design featured the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, along with the St. Louis skyline, a lake scene in the Ozarks and the blossoms of the white hawthorne blossom, the state flower. The Texas stamp showed the historic Alamo in San Antonio, the yellow rose of Texas and saguaro cactus. The artist modified the old postcard style, putting the state scenes and symbolic material outside the letters rather than inside to make the pictures larger and more legible at stamp size.

Sheaff showed the art to the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee and officials of the Stamp Services section of USPS. They were interested, but weren't ready to give the green light to such an ambitious project, and the two images were stored away in the Postal Service's "bank," a repository of stamp designs for possible future use. Here Terry McCaffrey, then a design specialist on the Stamp Services staff and now the manager of stamp development, periodically came across them, and they lingered in his mind as promising stamp subjects.

In June 1997, McCaffrey convened the five members of CSAC's design subcommittee and the six art directors in a hotel meeting room in Newport Beach, California, for their annual design conference. The subject of a 50-stamp pane came up again, and this time McCaffrey produced the two Busch paintings and suggested that they could be the basis for a pane that in its totality would convey "Greetings from America."

McCaffrey recalled the process in an article, "50 What?", in the January 2002 issue of The American Philatelist. "The group became very enthused with the idea and asked that development begin of fifty different designs," he wrote. "Little did we know what we were getting into."

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The Project Begins

The presumption of CSAC and USPS officials from the beginning was that the stamps would comprise a pane of 50 different varieties. Nevertheless, in the year before the designs were unveiled, these officials frequently addressed the question of whether this was, in fact, the best way to present them.

Among the options was to issue 50 different panes of 20, each containing stamps of one design only, at a rate of one a month until all 50 had been put in circulation. The advantage of this approach, its advocates pointed out, would be that postal patrons who bought the stamps for postage wouldn't have to use 49 stamps bearing "Greetings from" other states for every one representing their own state. "I live in Florida and would be using stamps that say 'Greetings from Iowa,' or 'Greetings from Ohio' and so on," wrote one collector to Linn's Stamp News. "This does not appeal to me."

From the Postal Service's standpoint, however, the creation of 50 individual panes for distribution to their respective states — and nationally, for collectors — wouldn't have been cost-effective, McCaffrey wrote. Furthermore, the entire stamp program would have been consumed for just one issuance.

"Many felt we should mimic the U.S. Mint's State Quarters coin program," McCaffrey added. "Others said they should be coil stamps. Still others said we should reproduce the coin designs on stamps to make a unique collectible tie-in.

"[T]he reality of the situation was that the project was begun at the same time, if not before, the Mint started its program. Comparing the coin program to the stamp program is looking at the proverbial apples and oranges comparison. The coins are in continual circulation for many years and routinely exchanged as part of our daily commerce system — unlike stamps, which are purchased by one individual and used once, or saved, by that person."

Officials also debated what denomination to assign to the stamps. Richard Sheaff — who had taken on the triple role of art director, designer and typographer for the set — argued that the most appropriate face value would be 20¢, the postcard rate. "The stamps are based on postcards," Sheaff pointed out, "and people could use them on their own postcards when they travel on vacation or business." In the final decision to denominate the stamps at the first-class letter rate of 34¢ rather than 20¢, the bottom line was a key factor; the higher face value would generate an extra 14¢ in profit for the Postal Service for every stamp saved by a collector and not used for postage.

The planners established some basic rules for the Greetings from America stamps at the outset.

The first was that no attempt would be made to obtain the advice or approval of the state governors for the designs of their states' stamp. USPS always consults governors about the designs of statehood anniversary stamps, and some of the chief executives have been emphatic about what they liked and didn't like. For example, when Tommy Thompson, now U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services, was governor of Wisconsin, he vetoed several proposed designs for the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial stamp, and informed Terry McCaffrey that the stamp under no circumstances should depict any of Wisconsin's "three Cs ... cows, cheese and cold."

"Because these [Greetings from America] designs were intended to be more light and entertaining, and there was a less serious 'commemorative' aspect to them, we felt that they did not require such formal approval," McCaffrey wrote. "Also, having to work with representatives from each state to gain approval would have slowed the process down immeasurably."

Another rule was that the designs should not require any joint ownership of the images or subject matter. Whenever USPS is obliged to obtain somebody's approval for the right to honor, depict or even mention a subject — something that happens increasingly, as stamps increasingly commemorate elements of the popular culture — it usually is restricted in how it can use the design in promotions or on non-stamp products. With Greetings from America, officials wanted as much freedom as possible to promote and license the images as a way of publicizing the U.S. stamp program. This self-imposed rule "made the process far more complicated," McCaffrey wrote, but it freed USPS licensing agents to use the 50 stamp images on magnets, key chains, coffee mugs and other products.

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The Design Process

When Lonnie Busch realized he had signed up to illustrate 50 stamps, he recalled, "I felt slightly overwhelmed. To get started, I headed out of town and got a motel room and sat by the pool and brainstormed, just off the top of my head, what might go on each one."

In order to put "something down on paper, some place to start," Busch dashed off some rough pencil sketches incorporating his first thoughts on the design subjects. On many of them, he included the state bird and/or flower to help fill out the design. He then sent photocopies of the sketches, 32 in all, to Richard Sheaff and Terry McCaffrey.

"They said, 'We really don't want to do the birds and flowers thing, although we can include them in a few of the stamps,'" Busch said. "That was good to know; it gave me a little more direction. After that, I used the sketches as my springboard to do research and find additional images for each state."

Busch went on to develop more detailed drawings, first in black and white, then in color. The pictorial matter would undergo a continuing series of revisions, as the artist, Sheaff, McCaffrey and ultimately CSAC reviewed the artist's ideas, weighed them for legal and other joint-ownership implications, and suggested alternative subjects where necessary.

"After I did the second set of sketches, the type [for the state names] was pretty much looking the way it was going to look at the end. You could get a sense from them of the type and the images," Busch said. "From that point on, we could look at a sketch and say 'No, we don't want to use that image,' or, 'Yes, that's fine,' or whatever. The second set was a much tighter version than the first."

In July 1997, the Washington, D.C., research firm of PhotoAssist was called in. PhotoAssist, headed by the husband-and-wife team of Louis Plummer and Sidney Brown, has worked under contract for the Postal Service since 1994 to provide comprehensive visual and factual research for stamp designers and to ensure accuracy. The company was hired after the embarrassing "Bill Pickett incident," in which USPS identified an African-American rodeo star depicted on a stamp as Bill Pickett when the image actually was of another cowboy, believed to be Pickett's brother Ben.

Now PhotoAssist began a long process of verification of the proposed stamp images, ascertaining the ownership of the rights to the many photographic sources Busch had used and obtaining additional photo reference material where needed.

Busch used from one to three photographs as visual reference for most of his illustrations, many of which he found in books or other published material. For each photo, the Postal Service had to obtain a signed release from the photographer or the photo stock house that owned the rights, in return for a fee, usually nominal. If the identities of these owners had to be tracked down, PhotoAssist did so. If the owner denied permission to use the photo as reference, PhotoAssist found similar photos for which the rights could be obtained. The Greetings from America pane gave rise to more than 100 such picture agreements in all.

Among other things, the company's researchers determined whether a photo on which Busch had based some illustration detail actually had been taken in the state represented by that illustration. In some cases, if the photo had been taken elsewhere, USPS officials asked the artist to use another photo; in others, the picture was considered generic enough that no change was necessary.

Each contract had to be initiated, reviewed and approved by Postal Service attorneys. Kelly Spinks, then the in-house counsel for Stamp Services, spent many hours on the project, and eventually needed assistance from three lawyers from outside. Meetings were held periodically to review the status of the picture rights.

A continuing issue was whether the human beings depicted in Busch's artwork so closely resembled the actual people in the source photographs that those people would have to be sought out and asked to sign release agreements for use of their likenesses — something USPS wanted to avoid. PhotoAssist briefed USPS officials on each questionable case, and sometimes the lawyers were consulted. When the resemblance was felt to be too close, Busch was asked to alter facial features or, more frequently, change the color and design of clothing. This was done on the Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont and West Virginia stamps.

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Turning to the Computer

Busch had worked with an airbrush for more than a quarter of a century. He realized, however, that to create 50 different illustrations, each with its own distinctive block lettering, in the conventional way would be extraordinarily demanding. "The type was going to present the biggest problem because of all the inlines and outlines and the curving," he said. "Doing it all by hand would be nightmarish." It was time, he decided, to enter the computer age.

"I bought a personal computer and started learning how to use it," he said. "After six months of working on the stamps and a couple of other projects on the computer, I put the airbrush stuff away and never have used it since!"

On the finished stamps, the outlined names of the states dominate the designs and collectively seem to jump off the pane. No two are alike. On some, the letters are three-dimensional; some have dropped shadows; some have serifs. Some of the names curve, some ripple, some are straight but angled. On some, the initial letters are larger than the rest; on others, such as Kentucky and Maine, the heights of all the letters vary. The two longest one-word names, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, are tightly condensed to fit between the vertical frame lines. On each set of letters, the vivid colors shade from top to bottom.

To create this visual smorgasbord, Busch used four different software programs: Adobe Dimensions, Adobe Streamline, Strider TypeStyler and Adobe Photoshop. "I would go from one program to the next, constantly referring to the manual," the artist recalled. "I was bumbling along, but it all worked out.

"Once I figured out how to do it, it was tremendous fun. Every state name was a wonderful opportunity to try something new. Was it hard to make them all different? Not when you think of all the type faces I could choose from and all the things I could do with them, with the flexibility to change and distort that the computer gave me."

Each design includes the smaller words "Greetings from" in a different style and color from the state name. Many of these are in script. "I was trying to capture the character of the old postcards, and at the same time keep the 'Greetings from' legible when it was reduced to stamp size, so I had to use the same typeface for some of them," Busch said. "There were a lot of other typefaces that were absolutely gorgeous, with thin serifs and script lines, and I would have loved to use those, but they didn't 'read' when I reduced them, so I had to throw them out."

Stamp illustrators are paid $3,000 for each stamp design. Busch received $150,000 for the 50 designs, paid in two installments: $1,000 each for the concept design, and an additional $2,000 each for the finished pieces, all of which were submitted to USPS by May 2001. "Lonnie earned every penny of it," Terry McCaffrey wrote.

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The Individual Designs

As he worked on the project, Lonnie Busch developed an overall concept that influenced his final choice of images for the individual stamps.

"When you looked at the pane, I wanted you to see on every stamp a little bit of America," he said, "so that when you took in all of them, you just saw — wow — everything that's going on in this country, as much as possible with an 8 1/2 by 11 inch block of stamps."

It was important, therefore, Busch believed, that the set convey certain distinctive elements of America, such as the agricultural heartland, mountain wilderness, seashores and city skylines. He found that certain states were better suited than others to "carry" those elements. Thus, although he had included deer in his original sketch for Wisconsin, he transformed them into dairy cows on the finished stamp because "Wisconsin was better carrying cows than it was carrying deer." He had shown Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, on his New Hampshire sketch, but left it out of the final version because he was ending up "a little inundated with mountain ranges."

"Many of my original sketches had to be revised because too many of the same kind of things were showing up," Busch said. "As I got further into my research, I was able to find other imagery that worked well in their place."

The only typography on the stamps, other than the names of the states, is the denomination and "USA," which appear in one of the upper or lower corners of each stamp, in either black or dropout white characters. When these elements are on the left side, they read '34 USA"; when on the right, they read "USA 34." Richard Sheaff chose a typeface called Futana Regular that he hadn't used before on stamps. "It happens to be a very bold face," he said. "I needed something bold and condensed to show up against all the different design elements."

The Individual Designs reflect the states as follows. Click on State Name to display image:

Alabama In the background is the state capitol in Montgomery; in the foreground, the battleship USS Alabama in port at Mobile. The camellia, the state flower, is at the lower left. The state travel authority advised against using the color combinations blue and gold or red and white in the letters of the state's name, as they are the colors of arch-rival Auburn and University of Alabama sports teams, respectively. Busch rendered the letters in neutral shades of green, blue and white.

Alaska A brown bear wading in a rushing river seizes a salmon in his mouth. In the distance are seen Mount McKinley (Denali) and other peaks of the Alaska Range.

Arizona Up front are a saguaro cactus and saguaro blossom, the state flower, based on source photos made in the Sonoran Desert. Behind are sandstone monoliths of Monument Valley, a place familiar to fans of John Ford's classic 1939 film Stagecoach and other movies about the Old West.

Arkansas The Buffalo River and Gunner Pool, both in Ozark National Forest, are seen in the foreground. Overlooking the scene at the rear, flanked by trees, is the Ozark Baths building on Bath House Row in Hot Springs National Park.

California The design features the Bay Bridge at dusk, its suspension cables outlined in lights, with the San Francisco skyline in the distance. The dark crowns of two palm trees from Santa Catalina Island hang overhead. In the lower left corner are two blossoms of the California poppy, the state flower.

Colorado A male skier in red plunges down a snowy slope on the right, against a backdrop of two mountains in Aspen, a popular Colorado ski resort. The source photo for the skier was made by David Madison, a sports photographer from Portola Valley, California. Another Madison photo, of the legs of racing runners, was reproduced on the 33¢ Summer Sports stamp issued by USPS in 2000.

Connecticut A harbor scene in Mystic Seaport, with a moored sailing ship, docks and buildings, occupies the foreground. At the rear is a white Connecticut church, not further identified, surrounded by autumn foliage.

Delaware A rear view of Legislative Hall, the state capitol in Dover, is seen in the background. In front is a beach scene at Fenwick Island State Park, with colorful beach umbrellas sheltering their owners from the sun. Experts consulted by PhotoAssist suggested "altering the colors/designs of the umbrellas and beach chairs to avoid identification of specific brands." Busch complied.

Florida At the left is a beach and palm trees in St. Petersburg, with a colorful sail visible on the water in the distance. At the right, the space shuttle Discovery lifts off its launching pad at Cape Canaveral.

Georgia The portico of an unnamed antebellum plantation occupies the right rear of the montage, with Spanish moss hanging overhead and the trunks of bald cypress trees from the Okefenokee Swamp in the left foreground. Two peaches, the Georgia state fruit, are at the lower right.

Hawaii The design comprises a panoramic view of Waikiki Beach with its hotels lined up behind the strip of sand and the extinct volcano Diamond Head in the distance, and a blossom of yellow hibiscus, the Hawaii state flower, in the foreground. PhotoAssist pointed out that the picture, by "eliminating the distance between the buildings and the volcano," suggested that the hotels stand right below Diamond Head. Because the stamp designs were meant to be montages, the design team concluded that it wasn't a problem.

Idaho A thrill-seeker in a yellow kayak plunges through white water on the left. A view of Shoshone Falls on the Snake River is at the right, while the Sawtooth Range of mountains is seen against the sky at the rear.

Illinois Illinois' division between "upstate" and "downstate" is represented by Chicago's skyline at the lower right, with the Sears Tower, the nation's tallest skyscraper, readily recognizable, and ears of golden corn representing the state's rich agricultural economy at the upper left.

Indiana The Hoosier State's own contrast between urban and rural areas is depicted by views of the skyline of the capital, Indianapolis, and of a covered bridge in Parke County in west central Indiana.

Busch's original pencil sketch had included a car competing in the Indianapolis 500, the nation's most famous automobile race. "I would have loved to have the Indy cars in there, but there was a legal problem, and I was told we couldn't go that way," he said. His disappointment in losing the race scene stemmed, in part, from his desire that the pane should reflect "everything that's going on in this country." "There's boating and kayaking and wildlife and wilderness areas and all those things," he said, "and the racing cars would have been one more element to fill in the picture. But that's O.K. I think the stamp was very successful with the covered bridge and the city."

Iowa Iowa's agricultural richness is represented by a barn, silo and farm field. In the foreground are the silhouettes of several American black ducks, which winter on Iowa's waterways, including one just dropping in for a landing.

Busch's reference picture for the ducks didn't come from Iowa, however, as PhotoAssist pointed out to USPS officials, but was a photo taken at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. "I was allowed to use the image anyway," Busch said. "Trying to find a picture of ducks that was as good as this one, and making sure it had been shot in Iowa, would have been pretty complicated."

Kansas Farming also is the theme of the Kansas montage, which depicts a combine harvester working in a wheat field and a grain elevator in Danville. Sunflowers, the state flower, are seen in the foreground.

Kentucky In the foreground, three thoroughbred horses race side by side at Churchill Downs in Louisville, site of the annual Kentucky Derby. At the rear is a cabin near Carlisle, Kentucky.

Louisiana A horse draws a tourist carriage past an iron fence, a scene evocative of New Orleans' French Quarter. A great blue heron, a common bird in Louisiana, is seen against an orange moon.

Busch's preliminary drawing had shown the Royal Cafe, a historic structure that epitomized the French Quarter, but because it was a privately-owned commercial enterprise its use in the illustration would have created the kind of rights situation USPS was determined to avoid.

Maine A moose, a common animal in Maine, stands in the foreground. At the rear, a lighthouse in Portland sends a beam across the night sky.

Maryland A yellow-sailed skipjack sailboat, of the kind that has carried oystermen on the Chesapeake Bay for more than a century, is shown plying the waters off Harford County, above Baltimore. The skipjack replaced a non-Maryland sailboat that Busch had included in an earlier drawing. Spanning the design at the rear is the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge near Annapolis. A blue crab, a Maryland culinary specialty as well as the state crustacean, is seen at the upper left.

Massachusetts This montage blends scenes from eastern and western Massachusetts into an almost seamless whole: the harbor at Rockport on Cape Ann and the ridges of Mount Greylock in the Berkshire Hills.

One of Busch's earlier drawings for the stamp included two commercial fishing boats. PhotoAssist's consultants raised the question of whether the boats could be identified by their owners, and they later were removed from the artwork.

Michigan Buildings and the people-mover monorail of the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit are combined in the design with a sport-fishing boat of a kind seen on the Great Lakes.

The design is altogether different from Busch's original pencil sketch, which featured the five-mile bridge over the Straits of Mackinac that links Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. Busch explained that he already had a sufficiency of bridges on the pane. "Any time I could lose a bridge, and find a more interesting image, I was glad to do it," he said.

Minnesota The skyline of Minneapolis is seen against a red, almost mauve, sky and a large orange moon. In the foreground is a common loon, the state bird. The unusual coloration made this illustration one of Busch's favorites.

Mississippi A Gulf of Mexico shrimp boat with its net deployed is shown at the right against the partial disc of a huge golden moon. On the left is a mansion, similar to the one on the Georgia stamp, but with the addition of a balcony.

Missouri This illustration follows closely the prototype Missouri design that Busch prepared in 1990, showing the St. Louis skyline and Gateway Arch, a lake scene in the Ozarks and white hawthorn blossoms.

Rather than use his original airbrushed painting, which "wasn't as crisp and clean as the computer art," Busch scanned the design into his computer and "went in and worked on cleaning up the type and some of the imagery, just to get it in synch with the others. I think it was very much enhanced by the process."

Montana In the foreground is a cowboy riding a bucking horse at a Montana rodeo. At the rear is a vista of the Rocky Mountains in Glacier National Park.

The depiction of the rodeo performer on the Montana stamp prompted an official of a next-door state to file an objection with the Postal Service's inspector general, Karla Corcoran. According to an Associated Press report of March 8, Joe Meyer, Wyoming's secretary of state, complained that the image bore too close a resemblance to Wyoming's registered trademark, the silhouette of a cowboy astride a bucking horse.

"Using the Wyoming Bucking Horse and Rider trademark on a Montana stamp makes about as much sense as using the Texas Lone Star on a Louisiana stamp," Meyer told the AP. However, although he was upset with USPS, he said he didn't want the Montana or Wyoming stamp designs changed — something the Postal Service would have been disinclined to do in view of the fact the stamps already were printed and their scheduled release was less than a month away.

"We didn't steal their logo," the Postal Service's Terry McCaffrey said. "Their logo is just the silhouette, and the cowboy is holding his hat above his head. This is a different image. Bucking broncos [per se] aren't copyrighted."

Nebraska The design recalls the days in the mid-19th century when the state was crossed by thousands of migrants heading west on the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail to make new lives beyond the Rocky Mountains. Scotts Bluff, the 800-foot-high promontory on the Platte River that was a landmark to the travelers, is seen rising above a covered wagon typical of those they used.

Busch's original pencil sketch depicted Chimney Rock, another landmark along the Oregon Trail but one less prominent and well known than Scotts Bluff.

Nevada The contrast between Nevada's natural landscape and the glittering urban playground superimposed upon it is the theme of this design, which combines images of desert plants and hills with the well-known neon horse and rider sign in Las Vegas.

New Hampshire Two male white-tailed deer, a species common in New Hampshire and other parts of the Eastern Seaboard, face the viewer in the foreground. At the rear are buildings in the city of Portsmouth.

New Jersey A lone sunbather sits beside a propped umbrella on the Jersey Shore contemplating the surf. In the background is the skyline of Atlantic City. In an earlier sketch, several of the casinos and hotels were shown with legible signs and logos, but this raised officials' concerns about proprietary rights, and Busch removed the identifying markings.

The artist's original pencil sketch had shown canoers in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey. "I don't know whether the canoe image would have been quite as provocative and powerful as the single person on the beach with the umbrella and the Atlantic City skyline behind him," Busch said. "I think what we ended up with worked quite well."

The Spring 2002 edition of USA Philatelic, the colorful catalog of stamps and stamp products offered by USPS through Stamp Fulfillment Services in Kansas City, Missouri, included a full-page color reproduction of the Greetings from America pane. However, New Jersey collectors, when they received the catalog in mid-January, were startled to find that the pane as illustrated included no stamp for their state. Instead, the New Jersey stamp's alphabetical position between New Hampshire and New Mexico was occupied by a duplicate New York stamp. "Jersey stamp is out of sight," read the headline on the ensuing news story in The Star-Ledger of Newark, the state's largest newspaper.

The Postal Service was particularly sensitive to any notion that it might be slighting New Jersey in favor of New York because of a gaffe it had committed in 1994 when it issued a souvenir sheet commemorating the first World Cup soccer tournament to be held in the United States. A map on the sheet showing the location of the nine World Cup sites mistakenly credited New York with the matches played at New Jersey's Giants Stadium and made no mention of the Garden State, arousing the ire of New Jersey political leaders and the state's editorial writers.

To make amends for its latest error, the Postal Service sent to all its catalog subscribers a brochure with wording just below the address that read: "Something important was missing from your Spring issue of USA Philatelic. Please see inside." Inside was a full-color illustration of the correct pane and a 270 percent enlargement of the New Jersey stamp. Addressed "Dear Stamp Enthusiast," the brochure explained that the omission of New Jersey from the pane shown in the catalog "occurred during the final stages of the production process for the catalog just before the files were released to the printer" and that "the misprint applies only to the catalog and does not reflect the actual printed stamps." It was signed by Deborah K. Willhite, USPS senior vice president for government relations and public policy, and Catherine Caggiano.

New Mexico The design depicts a church in Santa Fe and the Taos Pueblo north of the city of Taos.

New York This montage depicts three of the state's best-known attractions: the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls.

The design was subject to a last-minute change. Final electronic files had been prepared, including illustrations to be released to the media. But the skyline as Lonnie Busch had shown it included the World Trade Center, making its first appearance on a U.S. stamp. The landmark was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

"The next day PhotoAssist called to say we needed to take a look at the ... stamp, because it depicted the World Trade Center twin towers," Terry McCaffrey wrote in his magazine article. "There was much soul searching and questioning as to whether we should leave the image in there, as a remembrance, or take it out. Numerous discussions were held as to how the image could be altered. Could we simply remove the towers, or would we have to create a new piece of art? ..."

"Discussions were held with Postmaster General [Jack] Potter, a native New Yorker," McCaffrey continued, "and his decision was to remove the towers. Dodge Color, our prepress contractor, altered the original computer artwork, removing the twin towers, and completing the searchlight, which was originally behind the towers."

North Carolina The design features the biplane built by Orville and Wilbur Wright that made the first manned flight by a heavier-than-air machine December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hill on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Dune grass native to the Outer Banks is shown beneath the plane's wings. At the left is the distinctive candy-striped lighthouse of Cape Hatteras.

The image doesn't include the plane's inventors, however. The Wright brothers' names and likenesses are controlled by a firm representing their estate. By not depicting the brothers, and showing the plane grounded and pilotless, USPS was able to use the image without signing a joint ownership agreement.

North Dakota Two photographs taken in Theodore Roosevelt National Park were the basis for this montage, which comprises three galloping wild horses and badlands hills and rock formations.

Ohio The stamp depicts the skyline of Cleveland, including the well-known Terminal Tower, with the city's Veterans Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River in the foreground. The sun hangs low in the sky behind the buildings, casting a pink glow on billowing cumulus clouds at the side.

The design differs from Busch's original pencil sketch, which showed the skyline of a different city — Cincinnati — and one of its Ohio River bridges, along with buckeyes to evoke the state's nickname, the Buckeye State.

"I was having trouble coming up with provocative imagery — the kind that really stood out — and I was lucky to come across a photograph of that bridge in Cleveland," Busch said. "I said to myself, oh, that's it, that's what I need. I was intrigued by the perspective; the bridge just kind of led you into the skyline. The stamp turned out to be one of my favorites in the set, because it was one of the more difficult ones and was dramatic and had such nice coloration."

Another design problem for Busch was created by the brevity of the state's name. "Iowa was the same way," he said. "If I blew those letters up so they ran across the whole design, there would be no space left! So I had to have imagery that was going to fill in some of that extra space."

Oklahoma A mounted cowboy herding cattle, symbolic of Oklahoma's ranching tradition, is in the foreground. The skyline of Oklahoma City, the state's capital and largest city, is at the rear.

Oregon Mount Hood in the Cascade Range, Oregon's highest peak, rises behind a depiction of two windsurfers in the Columbia River Gorge between Oregon and Washington. "I loved the windsurfers," Busch said. "I was always looking for imagery that was quirky and unusual, and that picture worked wonderfully."

Pennsylvania Two reminders of Pennsylvania's major role in American history are the Liberty Bell and a cannon on the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg, both pictured in this stamp design. On the horizon are the Pocono Mountains, a popular resort area in the state's northeast.

Busch had planned to depict Philadelphia's historic Independence Hall in the upper right portion of the design. PhotoAssist's consultants pointed out that the cannon in this arrangement appeared to be aimed at Independence Hall, but that wasn't the biggest problem.

"Independence Hall just wouldn't fit in there," Busch said. "It was because of the type. The name of the state had so many letters, and I had compressed it as much as I could without losing legibility. When I tried to put in Independence Hall, I had to cut off parts of the building, or I had to cover up too much of the type, or I had to make the building too tiny in order to get it all in."

His solution was to replace Independence Hall with that other Philadelphia icon, the Liberty Bell, a subject he had included in his original pencil sketch.

Rhode Island A sailboat with vividly colored sails skims the water in the foreground. At the rear is the Southeast Lighthouse on Block Island, as it looked before it was moved back from an encroaching cliff edge in 1994.

The sailboat that Busch originally drew couldn't be confirmed as a Rhode Island product. He replaced it with a 12-meter yacht of a kind that definitely was designed and developed in Rhode Island.

South Carolina Beachgoers sit beneath a row of identical blue-and-yellow umbrellas on the sands of Myrtle Beach. At the rear is Rainbow Row, a row of multicolored buildings in Charleston.

Busch's preliminary art had shown the Myrtle Beach long pier, but the Postal Service's consultants expressed doubt that the pier would be "easily identifiable as a South Carolina icon."

South Dakota South Dakota's best-known landmark, the sculpted heads of four presidents on Mount Rushmore, overlooks a lone bison in a field of golden grass in Badlands National Park. (In Busch's original pencil sketches he had assigned custody of the bison to South Dakota's neighbor, North Dakota.)

Tennessee Tennessee's distinction as the home of country music is represented by an acoustic guitar in the foreground. Behind it is the night skyline of Nashville, the capital, and the Cumberland River that loops through the city, and in the distance are the Great Smoky Mountains.

Texas This design, like the Missouri stamp, is quite similar to its prototype that Lonnie Busch created with his airbrush in 1990, depicting the Alamo in San Antonio and a yellow rose, the state flower. Rather than duplicate the saguaro cactus plants on the Arizona stamp, however, Busch replaced the cacti in his original version with a Texas longhorn. As he had done with his original Missouri design, Busch scanned his Texas painting into his computer and strengthened and clarified some of its elements electronically.

Utah The rock formation known as the Wall of Windows in Bryce Canyon National Park provides the background. A crouching mountain lion, based on a photograph also made in Bryce Canyon National Park, and a sego lily, the Utah state flower, complete the design.

Vermont The design features the second skier to appear on a Greetings from America stamp, this one a female (a male skier is shown on the Colorado stamp). Behind the snowy slope which she is descending is an aerial view of a white church building surrounded by fall foliage.

"The skier is from a picture taken in New Hampshire," consultants noted. "Is this problematic?" The decision: It wasn't.

Virginia A cannon on display in the state capital, Richmond, is shown in a field with a rail fence of a kind often seen in the Virginia countryside. At the rear is the Oatlands Plantation, a National Trust for Historic Preservation property outside Leesburg, Virginia.

Lonnie Busch's original sketch showed a building typical of Virginia's many colonial mansions. However, the building he depicted is the headquarters of the Ethyl Corporation, and the cannon was one located on its grounds. "Not wishing to advertise or promote corporations, we were forced to use another building," wrote Terry McCaffrey. "It just so happens that my wife, Ann, is a senior guide at Oatlands ... I suggested that we explore whether a rights' free agreement could be reached with the National Trust.

"Such an arrangement was reached, and black and white photos of Oatlands were sent to the artist. To ensure the use of correct colors, Ann and I visited the mansion one afternoon with color swatches from my office, and we chose the appropriate Pantone color swatch for Lonnie to work from."

Washington The Seattle skyline, dominated by the Space Needle that was built for the Century 21 International Exposition in 1962, is in the foreground. At the rear, against a red sky, rises Mount Rainier, the state's best-known physical feature.

West Virginia This design consists of views of white-water rafters on a West Virginia river and a vintage grist mill on Glade Creek.

Wisconsin With former Governor Tommy Thompson now holding a Cabinet job in Washington, Terry McCaffrey felt it was politically safe to include a group of dairy cows in the design, despite Thompson's earlier ban on "cows, cheese and cold" images on the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial stamp. In the background is a country scene with farm buildings.

Wyoming (See Montana, above). Wyoming's rugged Grand Teton mountains provide the backdrop in this montage, which also includes two elk, a species commonly seen in Grand Teton National Park.

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Sennett Prints the Stamps

The decision to make the stamps self-adhesive, with die-cut simulated perforations, wasn't a difficult one. Today USPS produces virtually all its stamps in that user-friendly format that it first tested with the 10¢ Dove of Peace Weathervane Christmas stamp of 1974. Officials also decided that the reverse of the backing paper behind each stamp should carry basic information about the state honored on the front: Its bird, flower, tree, capital city and date of statehood.

The Postal Service's Stamp Acquisition and Distribution section, then headed by Catherine Caggiano, opted to have the stamps printed by the gravure process, called photogravure in the stamp catalogs. It was the process that had been used for the first three 50-stamp panes issued by USPS, the State Flags, State Birds and Flowers and American Wildlife; the fourth pane, American Wildflowers, had been printed by offset lithography. Technically, gravure is a form of intaglio (engraved) printing because it relies on recessed areas in the printing plate to hold the ink, but in this case the recessed areas are depressions, or cells, rather than engraved lines.

In standard photogravure, the original artwork is photographed through a screen which breaks it up into patterns of dots. The dots then are etched with acid onto the cylinder to create the cells. Full-color printing is created by the process color method, in which dots of yellow, magenta, cyan (greenish-blue) and black are laid down in sequence by individual cylinders in tiny rosettes that blend to deceive the eye with the appearance of full color. Sometimes additional colors are used for typography or other elements, but this wasn't done with the Greetings from America stamps. However, an additional black plate was needed to print the verso text.

The private company that normally supplies gravure stamps for USPS is Sennett Security Products of Chantilly, Virginia, and Sennett was assigned the Greetings from America project. Its printing subcontractor, American Packaging Corporation of Columbus, Wisconsin, produced 200 million stamps — 4 million of each variety — using a Rotomec 3000 gravure press. The press sheets consisted of 100 stamps in two side-by-side panes of 50. Type II paper was used, which is prephosphored to activate the automatic facer-canceller machines used in mail processing. The printed stamps then were sent to Sennett's Unique Binders subsidiary in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to be die-cut, cut into post-office panes, packaged and shipped.

Like certain other commemorative and special stamps in recent years, the Greetings from America stamps were offered to collectors not only in the regular post-office panes of 50, but also in uncut press sheets of 100 at face value, $34.

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The Stamps are Announced

The first public announcement that a new 50-variety pane of stamps had been approved by CSAC and would be issued in 2002, was made January 20, 2001, by Terry McCaffrey at a meeting of postal officials and philatelic journalists in Tucson, Arizona. McCaffrey didn't disclose the subject of the pane or any further details.

The designs were shown by McCaffrey in a slide presentation at another meeting with philatelic journalists, on August 24, 2001, at the American Philatelic Society's Stampshow in Rosemont, Illinois. They were officially unveiled for the public at two meetings in October jointly sponsored by the Postal Service and the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). The first of these was October 2, at the national TIA Marketing Forum in the Renaissance Waverly Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, where William S. Norman, TIA president and chief executive officer, and Catherine Caggiano, now the executive director of stamp services for USPS, did the honors. The second took place the next day in Washington, D.C.

The USPS-TIA partnership developed when it became apparent that the Greetings from America stamps could play a role in the promotion of tourism throughout the 50 states. This role became even more significant after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when travel by air became more complicated — and, to some, less appealing — with a resultant decline in the tourist trade.

The TIA recognized the opportunity offered by the new stamps and sponsored a national See America Sweepstakes to "Win Your American Dream Vacation," with 50 one-week vacations for two — one to each state — awarded to 50 winners. "We believe the Greetings from America stamps and the See America Sweepstakes will generate tremendous pride in each state," said TIA president Norman. "Both programs will help raise awareness of our efforts to promote and facilitate increased travel to and within the United States."

The Postal Service, in publicizing the stamps, chose to characterize them not as "commemoratives," like the four previous 50-stamp panes, but as "special stamps," a category that includes the perennial Christmas, Holiday and Love stamps. Special stamps are available for reprinting as the need arises, and officials wanted to keep open their option to reprint — in effect, reissue — the Greetings from America stamps with 37¢ denominations so they would continue to be convenient to use after the first-class rate increased to that amount June 30, 2002.

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The First-Day Sale Ceremonies

The Greetings from America stamps were placed on sale April 4, 2002, in a series of dedication ceremonies that were unique in their number and the extent of their dispersal.

The principal ceremony was held at 12 o'clock noon on opening day of the New York City Postage Stamp Mega-Event show at Show Pier 88 at 50th Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan. The show was sponsored by the American Stamp Dealers Association, the American Philatelic Society and USPS. Here the dedicating official was Catherine Caggiano, who told her listeners that "these colorful, educational stamps will serve as a lasting reminder of the Postal Service's obligation — and privilege — of providing every American in every community with equal and universal access to a system of affordable, dependable mail service."

But individual first-day events also were held in each of the 50 state capitals. It was the first time a new commemorative stamp was issued at ceremonies held on the same day in every state.

At each ceremony, local political figures were on hand to speak or be recognized. In many of the capitals it was the governor, while in other venues the official representative was the lieutenant governor, a leader of the state legislature or a congressman.

And at each ceremony, the designated USPS representative delivered a prepared dedication speech, which focused on the Postal Service, the unprecedented trauma it had undergone in recent months in dealing with anthrax-by-mail terrorism, and the challenges it faced in the days ahead.

"Yes, we move mail," the speakers said. "But in doing so, we also deliver dreams. ... And today, in 50 state capitals and select major cities, the U.S. Postal Service celebrates the greatest of them all: the American Dream.

"Starting today, we celebrate our new Greetings from America — 50 unique stamps that illustrate the special, historic character of every state in our union, and the strength of our nation as one.

"On this sheet, you will see what America means to her people — opportunity, freedom, natural beauty, and a passion for living. You'll see the snowcapped peaks of Alaska — the sandy shores of the Atlantic. In these images, you'll find the country we call home. Let these postage stamps leave an impression — that American pride is more resolute than ever.

"This year, our country faced challenges of an unimaginable kind. And at the Postal Service, we faced one of our darkest hours, when those in the shadows tried to hijack our mail stream and use it as a medium for terror.

"But with the hard work of our people — 750,000 women and men — we rose above. And thanks to the support of people like you, our Postal Service is stronger and better than ever, continuing our mission to bind this great nation together."

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About the Author

George Amick is a journalist and stamp writer from Ewing Township, New Jersey. He has been collecting the stamps of the United States for nearly 60 years.

He is the editor of the editorial page of The Times of Trenton. During his career with the newspaper, he also has been Washington correspondent, state capitol correspondent, metropolitan editor, state editor and Sunday editor. In 1968-69 he was a Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University, studying urban problems. He is an Air Force veteran of the Korean War.

He has written the annual U.S. Stamp Yearbook published by Linn's Stamp News since 1988. His book Jenny! (also published under the title: The Inverted Jenny: Money, Mystery, Mania) tells the complete story of the most famous of stamp errors, the U.S. 24¢ inverted-center airmail of 1918. He has written three other Inside Story booklets for Unicover, and has contributed scores of articles on a wide range of subjects to philatelic publications.

He also wrote The American Way of Graft, a study of political corruption, published in 1975 by the Center for Analysis of Public Issues in Princeton, New Jersey, and used as supplementary reading in several college political science courses.

He and his wife Donna, a retired journalist, have three children and four grandchildren.

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About the Article

This article was written in and appeared in printed form in 2002. ©2002 by Fleetwood, Division of Unicover Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from Unicover Coporation.


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