Mark Twain: The Stamp of Genius

For more than a century, the beloved, comedic writings of Mark Twain have entertained and enlightened the nation. From an early essay detailing his travels to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawai’i) to pieces such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn—widely considered one of the greatest novels in American literature—Twain’s work remains as important to American culture and thought-provoking today as when he wrote it. (Just take a look at Google’s way of celebrating his 176th birthday.)

Born on this day in 1835 as Samuel Langhorne Clemens shortly after Halley’s Comet made its periodic reappearance, Mark Twain spent time as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River as a young man, which shaped many of his experiences later in life and gave him the name under which he would become famous. Steamboats needed about 12 feet of water—two fathom or “mark twain”—to float safely.

From there, Twain established his reputation as a literary troublemaker. In 1867, he shot to national fame with a widely reprinted comic tale—known today as “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”—about a man who cleverly rigs a contest between two frogs. Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s favorite of his books, was seen as controversial at the time of publication in 1884 (and still is) for turning the paradigm of Southern racism on its head.

In June, the Postal Service issued a Mark Twain stamp, as part of the Literary Arts series, celebrating the satirical writer’s life and body of work. In addition to the collectible stamp, a commemorative book was created, with memorable quotes from five of his greatest works, original illustrations by Mick Wiggins, and a partial bibliography. The book also includes four of the Mark Twain stamps featuring artwork by Gregory Manchess.

The book and the stamps are both still available for purchase. Whether you’re a fan of Twain’s enduring American voice, colorful stories, or simply a lover of the arts, this book, with it’s unique design and beautiful images, will be a wonderful addition to any collection. It’d make a great gift, too!

Contest: Native American Heritage Month

We hope you had fun this month during our look at Native American culture on U.S. postage stamps. Let’s cap off the celebration with a little contest!

The first five people to answer the following question correctly will receive an Art of the American Indian matted pane keepsake:

The Art of the American Indian stamp pane was issued on August 21, 2004, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, exactly one month before the opening of which new museum?

Send your answers to stampsusps at gmail dot com.  Good luck, and remember, spelling counts!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged American Indian, art, , culture, Native American Heritage Month

2012 Louisiana Statehood Stamp Revealed

A new stamp has been added to the 2012 commemorative stamp program to commemorate the bicentennial of Louisiana statehood! Louisiana became the 18th state in the Union on April 30, 1812.

The stamp was designed by art director Phil Jordan and features a photograph by renowned environmental photographer and writer C. C. Lockwood.

The photograph shows a sunset at Flat Lake in the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest contiguous river swamp in the United States. The bald cypress trees hung with Spanish moss suggest the unique ecosystem of the Basin and the opportunities the area provides for hunting, bird watching, fishing, boating, and camping. The image also brings to mind the contributions that crawfish, finfish, blue crabs, alligators, oil, gas, and timber make to the economy of the state, as well as the rich Cajun heritage of the region and the music, food, and folk traditions that so many of us associate with southern Louisiana.

We’ll announce the stamp’s official release here in 2012. Until then, stay tuned!

Native American Heritage Month: American Indian

This gorgeous American Indian stamp was issued in 1923, and we think it’s perfect for this month’s look back at some of our favorite Native American-themed stamps. Do you have a favorite?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged American Indian, Native American Heritage Month

Native American Heritage Month: Mississippian Effigy

This sandstone male effigy is an outstanding example of the art of the late Mississippian culture (A.D. 1300–1550) in Tennessee. A strikingly naturalistic portrait, the statue provides a valuable glimpse into a complex prehistoric society. It was found with a female figurine that was carved in less detail; together they may represent the ancestors of a founding lineage.

This stamp was released in 2004 as part of the Art of the American Indian stamp pane. The effigy pictured on the stamp comes from the Frank H. McClung Museum at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Americana, art, effigy, Native American Heritage Month