Happy Arbor Day!

This spring, why not plant a tree in your yard or neighborhood? Planting a tree next to your home not only cuts cooling costs by providing shade during the summer but also reduces heating costs during the winter by supplying a windbreak. Trees also help clean the air and provide cost-effective ways of cooling our streets and parks in the high heat of summer.

PlantTrees-Forever-single-BGv1This Forever® stamp is one of 16 stamps issued in 2011 that illustrate the simple things we can do to help the environment. You can find the entire set at usps.com/stamps—just search for “Go Green.”

George W. Bush Presidential Library Dedicated Today

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will be officially dedicated today in Dallas, Texas. We are marking the occasion with a look back at the Presidential Libraries stamp, which was issued in 2005 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955.

usps05sta025The Act, which enabled Presidents to donate their materials to the federal government for preservation and public access, was inspired by the example of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Articulating the need for a safe, accessible archive for the materials of each administration, President Roosevelt stated that a repository was needed to “bring together the records of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future.”

Since then, Presidential Libraries have been established in the home state of each President. Funds to build the libraries come from private sources, while the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), under the auspices of the federal government, provides for their maintenance and operation.

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 went further and defined all papers generated during a President’s completed term in office as the property of the United States Government and placed the records under the custody of the Archivist of the United States. The 1978 act also established that the Presidential Library system should continue as the repository for subsequent Presidential records.

USPS05STA025AThe George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum opens to the public on May 1, 2013. As citizens in a democracy, Americans have the right and are encouraged to visit the Presidential Libraries. At every library, casual visitors and serious scholars alike, will find, in addition to an accessible archive of Presidential papers, an associated museum that offers an ongoing series of public programs on a variety of cultural and historical topics. Many of the programs cater to school-age children.

At the time the Presidential Libraries stamp was issued, there were 11 libraries in the system housing materials from the administrations of Presidents Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and William J. Clinton. (The Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library was added soon after the stamp’s release.)

The Presidential Libraries stamp was issued at one of these libraries. Which one was it?

Send your answer—along with your name and mailing address—to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. If you answer correctly you will automatically be entered to win a collectible Presidential Libraries ceremony program. We have 14 programs to give away, so there are plenty of chances to win. A 15th winner will receive not only the official 2005 ceremony program but also one Presidential Libraries American Commemorative Panel. This limited-edition, full-color collectible includes informative text about the stamps, photographs, and four mounted, mint-condition Presidential Libraries stamps.

DSC03420All winners will be selected at random. The deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday, April 26. Good luck!

Congratulations to the winners of the Presidential Libraries giveaway. We tried to fool you with a trick question, but you all are too smart for us. The stamps were issued at all of the libraries, so every answer was a correct answer! All 15 winners have already been notified by email. If you didn’t win this time, stick around because there’s bound to be another contest just around the corner.

The Fleeting Beauty of Cherry Blossoms

The 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival ends tomorrow, but there’s still time to pick up the 2012 Cherry Blossom Centennial (Forever®) stamps. On the back of the sheet is a beautiful poem by Ki no Tomonori (c. 850–c.904):

This charming set includes 8 letterpress cards (four different designs), 8 eye-catching envelopes, and 8 Cherry Blossom Centennial (Forever®) stamps. Click the image for details.

the light filling the air
is so mild this spring day
only the cherry blossoms
keep falling in haste—
why is that so?

The poem captures the fleeting beauty of cherry blossoms, which are only around for a short time every spring. They appear annually, and then they’re quickly gone. According to the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s “Bloom Watch” web site: “The blooming period starts several days before the peak bloom date and can last as long as 14 days; however, frost or high temperatures combined with wind or rain can shorten this period.” (The Bloom Watch page also has a detailed list of peak bloom times over the years. The list goes back more than two decades.)

Can’t make the National Cherry Blossom Festival? The National Park Service has a cherry blossom web cam. That way, you can watch the cherry blossom trees bloom in real time!

A Brief History of Cherry Blossoms on Stamps

Quantities of this American Commemorative Panel are limited. Don’t miss out! Click the image for details.

The gorgeous 2012 Cherry Blossom Centennial (Forever®) stamps aren’t the first to have featured the distinctive springtime attraction of our nation’s capital. Here’s a quick look at a few other stamps that depict the beautiful pink blooms.

In 2012, USPS issued a sheet of Forever® stamps honoring . “Plant for a more Beautiful America,” the center stamp, depicts the Jefferson Memorial seen through branches of flowering cherry blossoms. This stamp, originally issued in the 1960s, was adapted in 2012 for printing in offset lithography by artist Paloma Alcalá.

Blossom-Forever-single-BGv1In 2008, as part of the Flags of Our Nation series, cherry blossoms appeared on the District of Columbia 42-cent stamp. The illustration, by Tom Engeman, showcased the D.C. flag, which was inspired by George Washington’s family coat of arms and features two red bars and three stars.

11-DC42-single-BGv1In 2003, USPS celebrated District of Columbia with a 37-cent stamp. The stamp is shaped like a diamond, as was the original 100-square-mile tract of land chosen to be the permanent site of the nation’s capital. Cherry blossoms fill the bottom quadrant of the stamp.

USPS03STA026DAnd in 1989, a 15-cent postcard featuring the Jefferson Memorial hit Post Offices across the United States. The postcard image features the Tidal Basin landmark framed by cherry blossoms.

UX144Which is your favorite?

Posted in General Interest, History | Tagged Cherry Blossom Centennial, cherry blossoms, Jefferson Memorial, spring, Washington DC

The Cherry Blossom Festival: A Brief History of a National Tradition

This collectible bundle contains one set of Cherry Blossom Centennial note cards, a pack of five Cherry Blossom Centennial tote bags, one Cherry Blossom Centennial Commemorative Panel, and one Cherry Blossom Centennial giclée print. Click the image for details.

The 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival began last week, and there’s plenty of time to join the celebration. Held every year in Washington, D.C., this event has a storied history. It began with a modest ceremony at the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912, when First Lady Helen Herron “Nellie” Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees. The remaining trees were placed around the Tidal Basin and elsewhere in Washington.

Since then, the event has become a D.C. tradition. As the National Cherry Blossom Festival’s official history explains, the nation’s first ladies have long been involved in the joyous occasion.

Historically, many were involved in events through the National Conference of State Societies’ Princess Program. First Lady Mamie Eisenhower crowned Queen Janet Bailey in 1953, and in 1976 Betty Ford invited the princesses to the White House. In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 Yoshino trees from the government of Japan and held a tree planting reenactment. All first ladies in recent years have served as Honorary Chair, many participating as well. In 1999, First Lady Hillary Clinton took part in a tree planting ceremony. In 2001, First Lady Laura Bush greeted guests with remarks at the Opening Ceremony. Honorary Chair First Lady Michelle Obama was involved in 2012, planting a cherry tree in West Potomac Park among dignitaries and guests.

As the years have passed, the festival has grown exponentially.

The Festival was expanded to two weeks in 1994 to accommodate a diverse activity schedule during the blooming period. Over the years, millions have participated in Festival events and viewed the flowering cherry trees.  In 2012, the Festival expanded to five weeks (from 16 days in recent previous years) to provide a grand tribute to the 100-year anniversary of the gift of trees. Today, more than 1.5 million people visit Washington, DC each year to admire the blossoming cherry trees and participate in diverse programming that heralds spring in the nation’s capital.

The 2012 Cherry Blossom Centennial Forever® stamps (and many related philatelic products, like this ) are still available from The Postal Store. (Forever® stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce rate.)