Huzza! New Stamp Comes Sailing In

Today we are very excited to introduce a brand-new stamp commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the two-and-a-half-year conflict with Great Britain that many Americans viewed as the nation’s “Second War of Independence.”

The stamp features the oldest known painting of the USS Constitution, a frigate that some of you may know better as “Old Ironsides.” She earned the affectionate nickname after a victorious battle 300 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia. “Huzza!” cried one American sailor as he watched Constitution’s hull repel British shot. “Her sides are made of iron!”

Actually, Constitution‘s hull was made of dense white- and live-oak. The ship was one of six frigates designed by Philadelphia shipbuilder Joshua Humphreys in the 1790s. Their thick hulls were built to carry heavy armament and withstand cannon shot, and their sleek lines made them fast enough to outrun more powerful ships.

Digital Color Postmark Keepsake (click image to order)

The United States had declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. Yet, at the time, the U.S. Navy consisted of fewer than 20 warships of substantial size and faced seemingly impossible odds against a Royal Navy fleet that ruled the world’s seas. The success in battle of USS Constitution and other frigates helped sustain American morale at a time when the U.S. Army’s land campaigns were proving disastrous.

The ship’s early victory took place 200 years ago tomorrow: August 19, 1812. The war, however, continued for another two years. In his war message to Congress, President James Madison had charged the British with violating the nation’s sovereignty by restricting American trade with Europe and by removing seamen from American merchant ships and impressing them into the Royal Navy.

Tensions along the Canadian border and America’s western frontier also fueled war sentiment. Frontier settlers, who themselves often encroached on Native American lands, alleged that the British incited Native Americans to conduct raids on their homes and supplied them with arms. Expansionist “War Hawks” in Congress were convinced of the need to seal off the British from Indians in the northwestern frontier by invading Canada, and perhaps even forcing the British out of Canada.

Although the young republic barely escaped defeat, disunion, and bankruptcy, it survived the conflict and in the crucible of war forged a national identity. USS Constitution became a symbol of the young nation’s independence and an inspiration to future generations.

Today Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, is docked at the historic Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and is manned by a crew of active-duty U.S. Navy sailors. She was officially designated “America’s Ship of State” in 2009.

First Day of Issue Ceremony Program (click image to order)

The painting of Constitution that appears on the stamp was created by Michele Felice Cornè circa 1803 and is considered to be the most accurate contemporary depiction of the ship. The painting is owned by the U.S. Navy, and you can see it in person at the USS Constitution Museum, where it is currently on long-term loan.

The War of 1812: USS Constitution Forever® stamps are being issued in self-adhesive sheets of 20 stamps each. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) They are available and in Post Offices nationwide.

Old Glory Waves Again: Four Flags Available in New Format Today

We’re celebrating the Four Flags (Forever®) stamps, originally issued in February, again today. The beautiful, patriotic stamps are now available in booklets of 10.

In this quartet of flag stamps, a single word appears on each individual stamp in large letters: Freedom, Liberty, Equality, and Justice. The black typeface recalls the look of Colonial-era printing, and emphasizes the meaning these four terms held for the colonists who fought the American Revolution. Patriots and Founding Fathers often invoked these words as they struggled to envision a new, democratic nation and make their ideals for the new country a reality.

Some famous quotations containing these words include:

Liberty: “Give me liberty or give me death.” – Patrick Henry, 1775

Equality: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” – Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, 1776

Freedom: “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.” – John Adams, 1777

Justice: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Constitution of the United States, 1787

First Day Covers (click to order)

The current U.S. flag, which is depicted on the stamp, consists of 13 stripes and 50 stars. Congress passed legislation in 1818 stating that the number of stars on the flag should match the number of states in the Union. It also specified that new stars would be added to the flag on the first July 4th after a state’s admission. The current flag’s 50th star was added on July 4, 1960, after Hawai‘i became a state on August 21, 1959.

The flag’s 13 stripes represent the 13 original U.S. states. Red stripes adorn the top and bottom of the flag, resulting in a pattern of seven red stripes and six white ones.

One of the world’s most powerful and widely recognized symbols, the United States flag has long been a familiar sight on stamps. Previous issuances featuring sets of U.S. flags include the definitives Flag at Dusk, Flag at Night, Flag at Dawn, and Flag at Midday, all in 2008, and the five commemorative stamps in the Old Glory issuance of 2003. Old Glory depicted a wide variety of U.S. flags, including a flag that appeared on a silk bookmark in 1893 and a 19th-century carving of a woman holding a flag.

The Four Flags stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

The Battle of Shiloh & the High Cost of Victory

Today and tomorrow mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh, the deadliest day of fighting since the Civil War began in 1861. On April 6, 1862, Union forces under the command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant were surprised by a Confederate attack. Confederate forces fought well that first day, but their battle lines became confused and the Union rallied to a victory on April 7. But victory came at a high cost: The number dead equaled more than all previous battles in the war, combined.

First Day Cancelled Full Sheet (click to order)

Later this month we will commemorate the 150th anniversaries of two more Civil War battles with the release of the . One stamp depicts the Battle of New Orleans while the other depicts the Battle of Antietam. The stamps will be issued in a ceremony on April 24 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Will you be joining us?

Mary Chesnut’s Civil War

Confederate diarist Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (1823–1913) wrote one of the finest literary and historical works of the Civil War. Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, as the collection of her diaries is known, describes life on her plantation in South Carolina and recounts many key events that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia, during the war.

The Civil War: 1862 Commemorative Folio (click to order)

Chesnut provided more than just what the editor of her diaries described as “a vivid picture of a society in the throes of its life-and-death struggle”—because her husband had been a U.S. senator before the war and a Confederate congressman and aide to Confederate President Jefferson Davis during the war, Chesnut was in a unique position to witness the events of her day and offer valuable insights to the people and workings of the Confederate government. Her stamp was issued in 1995.

Mary Katherine Goddard Spread the Spirit of Independence

[From guest contributor Carol]

Mary Katherine Goddard, a newspaper publisher and the postmaster of Baltimore, Maryland, is famous for printing the first copy of the Declaration of Independence that included all the signers’ names.

Born in 1738, Mary Katherine learned the family business at her mother’s side in their Providence print shop. She trained as a typesetter, printer, and journalist, before moving to Philadelphia to run her brother’s printing business.

In 1774, after closing the Philadelphia shop, Mary Katherine joined her brother William in Baltimore where he had opened a new printing concern and founded Baltimore’s first newspaper, the Maryland Journal. Although it was owned by William, Mary Katherine actually ran the business just as she had in Philadelphia. A year later she officially assumed the title that reflected her work as publisher of the newspaper—the colophon on the May 10, 1775 issue read “Published by M. K. Goddard.”

The same year brought Mary Katherine a second important title when she became the postmaster of Baltimore, most likely the first woman to hold such a post in colonial America.

Mary Katherine was the first printer to publish a copy of the Declaration of Independence that included the names of the signers. Copies of the document had circulated for six months without the signatures—the men who signed the document were considered traitors by the colonial authorities—until in January 1777 the Continental Congress authorized the Maryland Journal to publish the Declaration with its signers’ names.

Newspapers were vital to the spread of the new revolutionary ideas, but many publishers faced trouble during the war. Mary Katherine maintained the Maryland Journal through the turmoil of the Revolution and never missed an edition despite the uncertain times. She also kept the mail moving, even on occasion paying the post riders from her own pocket.

In 1784, Mary Katherine’s name disappeared from the newspaper’s masthead. And, after fourteen years in office as postmaster, she was relieved of her job on the grounds that it required extensive travel that the authorities believed women could not handle. Over 200 business owners in the city signed a petition to Postmaster General Samuel Osgood stating that Mary Katherine had provided “universal satisfaction to the community” and that they were “praying in the most earnest manner that she be restored.” But she was not reinstated despite the the best efforts of the city’s businessmen.

Mary Katherine—a pioneer in both publishing and postal service—ran a successful bookstore in Baltimore until her death in 1816.