Yosemite National Park: One of Our Grandest Things

This 2006 stamp features a photograph of the Gates of the Valley in Yosemite.

Monday marks the 122nd anniversary of Yosemite National Park. Established on October 1, 1890, the park encompasses 747,956 acres in the Sierra Nevada. With the impressive Yosemite Valley as its centerpiece, it includes a breathtaking range of geographical features, such as waterfalls, lakes, glaciers, expansive meadows, groves of giant sequoias, and granite monoliths such as El Capitan and Half Dome.

The U.S. Postal Service has a long history of honoring America’s national parks. This is no surprise when you consider that parks and postage stamps tell intertwining stories and frequently share a common goal—to preserve what Walt Whitman called “the grandest things” for the benefit of future generations.

In 2010, the U.S. Postal Service joined with the National Park Service to create The Grandest Things: Our National Parks in Words, Images, and Stamps.

This lavish 116-page hardcover book () recounts the history of our national parks with gorgeous photographs and nine mint stamps—including the Old Faithful, Yellowstone stamp from 1972! The book has plenty of space for collecting and storing other related stamps, while giving a tour of more than 75 parks, monuments, and memorials.

It also includes historic quotations and documents, as well as philatelic history insights. Did you know, for example, that Postmaster General James Farley sometimes gave ungummed and unperforated stamp sheets to friends . . . like Franklin D. Roosevelt? In 1935, after collectors and others complained to Congress, these sheets (including stamps in honor of national parks) were made available to the public.

Perfect for stamp fans and park fans alike, The Grandest Things will make a delightful, and quite unexpected, gift this holiday season!

Favorite Links of the Week: An Earthscapes Roundup

The may not be released until October 1, but the Interwebs are already abuzz with excitement about them. The stamps, you might remember, feature 15 different bird’s-eye views of the United States, with subjects ranging from natural wonders and agricultural fields to urban (and suburban) life.

The new set will be released Monday at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. In addition to officials from NASA and USPS, Virginia-based photographer Cameron Davidson will be at the ceremony. Cameron’s photograph of Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is featured on the stamp pane. “I’m always drawn to curvy patterns I see in marshes,” he told the Washington Post this week. “The Blackwater—I keep going back to it.”

Some of our other favorite Earthscapes-related links include:

  • A positive identification of the actual highways in Miami, Florida, shown on the “Highway interchange” stamp. (Do you know which ones they are?)

Judging from all this excitement, it looks as if National Stamp Collecting Month, which kicks off Monday, will start with a bang! Did we miss your favorite link of the week? Tell us about it in the comments.

Also, a special shout out this week to Instagram user , who decorated his cell phone case with the Lady Liberty and U.S. Flag stamps. Awesome.

O. Henry: The Life of an American Phenomenon

O. Henry, whose Forever® stamp is now available online and in Post Offices nationwide, may have been a phenomenally successful author, but many details of his life (including how he arrived at that pseudonym, for example) remain uncertain. He gave varying answers to questions about himself. He had also spent time in prison, which may have made him reluctant to be photographed or interviewed—at least in part.

We do know that O. Henry was born William Sydney Porter on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. As a boy, he was known as Will. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was small, and his father, a physician, fell into alcoholism and debt. Will was left mostly in the care of his grandmother and an aunt, who taught him to read and encouraged his artistic interests. By the time he was 15 years old, he was working at his uncle’s drugstore; he became a licensed pharmacist while still in his teens.

The O. Henry stamp was issued September 11, 2012, in Greensboro, North Carolina. First Day Covers from the event are still available.

As a young man, Porter went to Texas, where he worked at various jobs and married the daughter of a businessman in Austin. When funds at a bank where he had worked turned up short, Porter came under suspicion. Rather than stand trial, he left the country and went to Honduras. Concern for his terminally ill wife drew him back to Texas; she died in 1897, and the following year he was tried, found guilty despite his plea of innocence, and sentenced to the penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. There, he served more than three years of a five-year sentence and worked in the prison pharmacy.

While in prison, he also began writing stories under the name of “O. Henry.” Upon his release in 1901, he stayed briefly in Pittsburgh and then moved on to New York, where he began to earn a regular income by writing for newspapers and magazines. By the time of his death on June 5, 1910, O. Henry was the most widely read storyteller in America and admired worldwide. He wrote nearly 300 stories, most in the final eight years of his life.

The O. Henry Prize Stories, an anthology published annually since 1919, testifies to O. Henry’s continuing influence on American letters. After his death, his friends established the yearly collection to honor him and to encourage the ongoing development of the art of the short story.

Sending Love on Love Note Day

Writing expressions of love to the people in your life who matter most is a truly wonderful gesture . . . for sender and receiver alike. And what better day to send a reminder of how much you care than today? That’s right, it’s Love Note Day!

This cover carries an affixed stamp and a First Day of Issue color postmark (click for more info).

How will you celebrate? Will you be sending a letter to your mother or father, to your siblings or grandparents? How about to your significant other? Or someone you’ve admired from afar? Tell us about your Love Note Day plans in the comments, share your photos on Instagram and Twitter (#lovenoteday), and visit our Pinterest boards for some and inspiration.

The simple act of telling others you love them is often overlooked in today’s fast-paced world. Take a little time to send a love note today and put a smile on someone’s face.

Purple Heart Stamp Redesigned for 2012

2011 Purple Heart with Ribbon

Those of you with an astute eye will have noticed that the 2012 Purple Heart Medal Forever® stamp, which was released September 4, is a redesign of the 2011 Purple Heart with Ribbon stamp. To emphasize the brilliant purple appearing on the medal and in its ribbon, designer Jennifer Arnold slightly enlarged the Purple Heart medal and placed it on a pure white background. “When applied to an envelope,” says Ms. Arnold, “the stamp edges disappear, leaving the medal and ribbons of type hanging free.” We love the new treatment.

You can read more about the redesign of the stamp and a history of Purple Heart postage stamps at Beyond the Perf.