The U.S. Postal Service is proud to issue the Carmel Mission Express Mail stamp today, honoring the historic Carmel Mission in Carmel, California—a landmark of the state’s Spanish heritage.
Formally known as Mission San Carlos Borroméo del Río Carmelo, it was founded on June 3, 1770. It was the second in what would become a chain of 21 Spanish missions along the coast of California, each positioned about one day’s ride on horseback from the next. Established by Spain in an attempt to colonize its territories in Alta or Upper California, the missions were run by Franciscan friars. The friars converted local Native Americans to Catholicism and taught them trades related to ranching and farming. They also instructed their charges in music, fine arts, and the Spanish language. Indian converts, or neophytes, spent their working hours herding cattle and growing European crops such as wheat. European contact ultimately proved disastrous for the California natives, as they had little resistance to smallpox, measles, and other devastating diseases the colonists brought with them.
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The Mission era ended sooner than its founders intended. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the missions suddenly stood on foreign soil. Starting in 1833, the Mexican government began secularizing the missions and stripping them of their land. Most of the mission buildings were soon abandoned, but the mission system’s brief heyday left a lasting imprint on the art, literature, music, industries, and language of California. Distinctive elements in the state’s architecture, such as red-tiled roofs and floors, running arcades and archways, and exposed wooden beams, can all be traced back to the Mission era.
Often described as one of the most beautiful mission churches in California, Carmel Mission is known for its dome-shaped bell tower and the elaborate star-shaped window that adorns its façade. Unlike most mission buildings, which were commonly built from adobe bricks, the walls of the church were constructed from sandstone and date back to 1797. In 1931, Harry Downie, a leading authority on mission architecture, began a painstaking restoration. Carmel is now considered one of the most authentic missions in the state.
Designed by art director Phil Jordan, the stamp features an illustration created by artist Dan Cosgrove. The Carmel Mission Express Mail stamps are being issued in self-adhesive sheets of 10 at the $18.95 rate, or $189.50 per sheet.