“The Raven” Booklet Captures the Spirit of the Season

Halloween is upon us again and there’s a ghoulish feeling in the air. Though scary movies and frightful, bloody costumes are a mainstay of Halloween revelry today, it’s hard to forget about some of the true masters of suspense and creepy tales. Among them, Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) has one of the best reputations for chilling stories and poems, so eerie they still send shivers down the spine more than 150 years later.

Poe’s most famous poem is undoubtedly “The Raven,” lyric masterpiece of rhyme and rhythm, first published in New York in 1845. The poem tells the story of the distraught, unnamed narrator, lamenting the death of his love, Lenore, and visited by a talking raven.

    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
    By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
    Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
    Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.” 

His slow dissent into madness over the 108 lines of verse is conveyed through Poe’s signature melancholy tone—”the most legitimate of all poetical tones,” he wrote in his essay “The Philosophy of Composition,” which details the poem’s creation. The raven’s repetition of “Nevermore” gives the poem its haunting feel, making it perfect for getting into the Halloween spirit.

In 2009, the Postal Service issued an Edgar Allan Poe stamp, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the macabre writer’s birth. In addition to the collectible stamp, a commemorative booklet was created specifically about “The Raven,” with excerpts from Poe’s essay, original illustrations by

Emmanuel Polanco, and the complete text of the famed poem. The book also includes four of the Edgar Allan Poe stamps designed by artist Michael J. Deas.

Though the stamps are no longer available for individual purchase, the book still is. Whether you’re a Poe aficionado, lover of suspenseful stories, or simply a Halloween fan, this book, with its unique design and beautiful images, will be a wonderful addition to any collection. It’d also make a great gift!

USPS to Sell 2011 White House Ornament

We are very pleased to announce that the Postal Service has teamed up with ChemArt of Lincoln, Rhode Island, to sell the 2011 White House Holiday Ornament.

This year’s ornament, the 36th in the series, recalls President Theodore Roosevelt, his wife Edith, and the couple’s young family when they called the White House home from 1901 to 1909.

The ornament, which is available now in select Post Offices around the country, can be purchased for $24.99 until Christmas Day.

Pixar & Owney Stamps Lead September Stamp Sales

The numbers are in, and, great news, Post Office stamp sales for September showed an increase over this time last year!

In fact, stamp sales in September 2011 increased more than 3.2 percent compared to those in September 2010. The top selling stamps were the Lady Liberty and U.S. Flag coil of 100, with 322 million stamps sold, and the Liberty Bell book stamps, with 213 million stamps sold.

Commemorative stamp revenue for the month comprised 9.2 percent of total sales, a half-point percent increase over the ratio reported for August.

Top commemorative sellers were:

Most best selling commemoratives, along with the month’s top selling stamps, reflect continuing customer interest in Americana, as well as patriotic and animal themes. Owney the Postal Dog is proving especially popular. Available since July 27th, the stamp honoring the mail train-riding pooch sold more than 11 million copies in its first month and more than 20 million stamps to date.

Disney/Pixar Materials: © Disney•Pixar

USPS Collectible for Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial

Experience the historic dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial and own a special commemorative envelope.

The envelope features a picture of the memorial complemented with the Barbara Jordan Forever Stamp, the 34th stamp in the Black Heritage series.

Each commemorative envelope costs $5. To order by mail, send a check or money order, made payable to Postmaster, to: MLK Fulfillment, PO Box 92282, Washington, DC 20090-2282.

“Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

The World Series takes a break tonight, which gives us time to reminisce about one of the nation’s best loved songs, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

On a New York City train in the summer of 1908, this American classic was born. Passenger Jack Norworth—an actor, singer, and songwriter who had never attended a major-league ball game—saw a sign about an upcoming baseball game at the nearby Polo Grounds. Inspired, he hurriedly took out a piece of paper and began dashing off lines about a fictional fan he called Katie Casey. Katie “was baseball mad,” he wrote, and when asked by her beau to a show, she was quick to reply: “Take me out to the ball game / Take me out with the crowd…”

Norworth took his lyrics to composer Albert Von Tilzer, who also had never been to a major-league game. Von Tilzer set the words to a waltz tempo, and the York Music Company published the song the same year. Although not an instant hit, the song eventually caught on with baseball fans and became a favorite of ballpark organists across the country. It remains one of the most popular baseball songs of all time and an indispensable musical tradition at ballparks all around the country, especially during the seventh-inning stretch.

In 1970, decades after the success of their celebrated collaboration, Norworth and Von Tilzer were posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Over the course of their long and successful careers, both men wrote and composed numerous well-known songs, but “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” remains their most enduring creation. Today, the original, handwritten lyrics reside at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, a tangible testament to two songwriters who hit a musical home run.

This 2008 stamp issuance commemorated the 100th anniversary of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The basis for the stamp art was a circa-1880 “trade card” from the personal collection of art director Richard Sheaff. The original card shows a baseball scene and contains words promoting a product made by a Michigan company. The stamp art shows the same scene but replaces the product-related words with “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” the stamp denomination, notes from the music, and the words “United States of America.”

You can still purchase the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” stamp as part of this great framed wall art, which features six other vintage baseball-themed stamps. And kids will love the sing-along book, which also features a Digital Color Postmark from the release of the stamp.

Not only popular at the stadium, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” has also featured in several popular movies, including Night at the Opera (1935) with the Marx Brothers and, of course, Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949) with Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.

Ten years ago, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was ranked number 8 on the Songs of the Century list—a project sponsored, in part, by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Tell us your memories of this and other great baseball song in the comments.