Anatomy of a Stamp: Bob Fosse (& a Contest!)

If you’re an artist, where do you find inspiration for a painting? And when the canvas is the size of a postage stamp, what special considerations must be made? For his work on the Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps, renowned artist James McMullan turned to photographs depicting the choreographers performing their signature dances.

Aware of the inherent challenge of transposing the complex physicality of dance to the diminutive stamp format, McMullan opted to express the essence of each choreographer’s creation. He painted each choreographer’s characteristic gestures and movements so that at a mere glance we recognize Isadora Duncan’s poeticism, José Limón’s dynamism, and Katherine Dunham’s lyricism.

But Bob Fosse proved an elusive subject. Pictures of Fosse in performance are not as plentiful as photographs of the other three choreographers. Having captured so eloquently the gestural likenesses of Duncan, Limón, and Dunham, McMullan painted a figure in a pose reminiscent of Bob Fosse, which lead to a lot of discussion among researchers, consultants, the art director—Ethel Kessler—and the Postal Service. Was it a problem to show three of the choreographers in performance and not Fosse? Would the balance of the stamps be disrupted by the anomaly of a surrogate Fosse?

The consensus was: Fosse needed to be Fosse. Postal Service researchers went to work again, this time enlisting the support of the Fosse estate. Still, they could not seem to find the right photograph. Finally, after revisiting pictures that had been considered and dismissed and appealing to the choreographer’s estate for assistance with the search, the researchers found a picture that was quintessential Fosse—right down to the hat, cane, and tilt of the head in a gentle bow.

These four Innovative Choreographers helped make dance a truly exciting art in the 20th century. And for all you dance lovers, we have a contest that will test your choreographic knowledge. Are you ready?

Which famous dances are depicted on the stamps for José Limón and Katherine Dunham? 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of —a collectible 32-page, softbound booklet illustrated with historic and great dance-makers of the 20th century.

To enter, send your answers to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. The winner will be selected at random and notified by email. You have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 14, to submit your answers. Good luck!

Start Your Week With A “Sketchy” Disney•Pixar Contest

Remember last week’s post about the blue-pencil sketches on the back of the Mail a Smile stamp sheet? Well, now’s your chance to show us how well you know the five Disney•Pixar movies featured on the stamps.

Here is the back of the stamp sheet again:

Can you name all the characters shown in the sketches? If so, you could win one set of Mail a Smile postcards, which include the stamp art and five of the sketches.

To enter, send your name and address along with the name of each character and the movie in which he/she/it appears to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. Three winners will be selected at random from those who answer correctly. You have until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 9/12 to submit your answers. Good luck!

Disney/Pixar Materials: © Disney•Pixar

Flags of Our Nation Stamps Pay Homage to “America the Beautiful”

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

Do you recognize these words? They are the opening lines of one of the best-known patriotic songs in the U.S., “America the Beautiful,” written by Katharine Lee Bates (1859–1929). They also inspired the look of the four Stars and Stripes stamps in the recently completed Flags of Our Nation series: “spacious skies” in 2008, “amber waves of grain” in 2009, “purple mountain majesties” in 2010, and “the fruited plain” in 2012.

Feel like wearing your patriotism in 2012? Today’s your lucky day because we’ve got two Size Medium Flags of Our Nation t-shirts (featuring the “fruited plain” Stars and Stripes on the front and the stamps from Set 6 on the back) to give away. All you have to do is answer the following question correctly:

The Flags of Our Nation series includes a total of sixty stamps: four depicting the Stars and Stripes, fifty featuring official state flags, and six others. What are the six others?

Send your answers to uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com. We will select two winners at random. Deadline for entries is midnight EDT on Wednesday, August 29. Good luck!

Play Ball! Major League Baseball All-Stars Contest Starts Today

Baseball fans and stamps enthusiasts! We are very excited to announce a Major League Baseball All-Stars stamp contest just for you. Beginning today, we invite you to tweet a photograph of one (or all!) of the Major League Baseball All-Stars stamps at a Major League ballpark (inside or outside).

Here are the rules: You must take the photo yourself, and you must include the name of the park in your tweet. To enter, simply tweet your photo to and include the hashtag #stampsplayball.

Entries will be accepted until midnight EDT, Wednesday, October 3. On Thursday, October 4, the 10 most creatively composed images, as judged by the USPS Stamps team, will be posted  on the , where everyone will be able to vote for their favorites.

Voting will be open until midnight EDT, Tuesday, October 23. The winners will be announced on Wednesday, October 24the day the World Series is scheduled to begin.

Play Ball! Great Moments in Major League Baseball History

The top vote-getter will receive a copy of Play Ball! Great Moments in Major League Baseball History. The second-place finisher will receive a , and third place will receive a .

Have fun! Good luck! And be creative!

Major League Baseball trademarks and copyrights are used with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.

Wilma Rudolph Contest Winners Race to the Finish Line

Congratulations to the winners of last week’s Wilma Rudolph contest! The winners have been notified by email. Here are the two questions they all answered correctly:

1. When did Rudolph receive her first Olympic medal, and for which event?

2. During the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became the first woman to win three of which kind of medal, and for which events did she receive them?

Rudolph won her first Olympic medal (a bronze medal) in Melbourne during the 1956 Summer Games in the 4 x 100m relay.

During the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became the first woman to win three gold medals. She won them for the 100m dash, 200m dash, and 4 x 100m relay.

If you didn’t win this time around, don’t worry—we have all kinds of fun things planned for you. Keep checking back here for more contests, giveaways, and chances to flex your stamp muscles!

Though the Olympic Games are officially over (how about that closing ceremony?!), we’re keeping the spirit alive over on . Check out our and tell us about some of your favorites.