How will the public – and Congress in an election year respond to the United States Postal Service’s decision to interrupt a 142-year tradition by displacing George Washington’s picture from postage stamps?
Philatelic portraits of the Father of the Country have appeared on 19 stamps in an unbroken succession since the first postage stamp was issued in 1842.
But among the items the Postal Service has decided to withdraw from sale May 31 at its Philadelphia Sales Division is the Washington coil stamp from the Prominent American series. This marks the first time in postal history that the country will be without a regular issue George Washington stamp.
Editor Michael Laurence of Linn’s Stamp News lamented; “This is the last survivor of the Prominent Americans series launched about 20 years ago. When this stamp goes, so too goes George Washington.”
Laurence dramatized his feelings about the Postal Service plan by publishing a layout of the 19 stamps in the 142-year span, adding a stamp-sized black square centered with “R.I.P. 5/31/84” printed in white.
Linn’s, published at Sidney, Ohio, noted that the 5-cent Washington sheet stamp was replaced last June by the Great Americans stamp honoring novelist Pearl Buck, and the 5-cent Washington coil stamp was super-annuated in October by the coil of the Transportation series showing a 1913 motorcycle.
This writer certainly agrees with Linn’s editor that as the Postal Service parades forth its new stamps, it still should find room to honor the one figure who provides a continuous link between stamps of the present and those of the past.
I also agree with the editorial printed in this newspaper, “Stamps have always provided a history lesson. What kind of a history can Americans learn through this medium if George Washington is absent?”
Postmasters are not involved in decisions on stamp issues, but Clyde E. Weeks, veteran of more than 30 years as postmaster at Orem, doesn’t look for the displacement to be permanent.
“I’d be very surprised,” says Weeks, “if George Washington isn’t back on a new postage stamp in due time, maybe in connection with some significant anniversary such as Valley Forge.”
As the Herald observed, Congress perhaps could press the Postal Service into issuing another Washington stamp immediately. But the lawmakers aren’t likely to act unless the public lets its will he known.
Thus, if you have a view, you might wish to heed the time-honored admonition: “Write your senators and congressmen.”