Whether you are a stamp collector, a history buff, an art fan or just love plain old Americana, the United States Post Office has put out a beautiful, boldly colorful coffee table-sized book that features the 2004 Commemorative Stamp program. The 2004 Commemorative Stamp Yearbook presents all of the year’s special stamps with background information on the creation of each and highlights about the men and women who are responsible for choosing which people, places and things deserve the program’s honor.
The year 2004 saw an emphasis on the arts, and there is an inspiring introduction to the book by Kitty Carlisle Hart, Broadway actress and wife of Moss Hart, who garnered his own commemorative stamp in October. The stamps are presented in order of issue date, leading off with the Year of the Monkey, issued on January 13th and designed by Honolulu-based graphic artist Clarence Lee, and ending with three holiday stamps reflecting Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations. In between are stamps honoring Dr. Seuss, John Wayne, writer James Baldwin, actor and activist Paul Robeson (twenty-seventh stamp in the Black Heritage series), composer Henry Mancini, explorers Lewis and Clark, and visionary R. Buckminster Fuller, among other such notables. Each entry offers not only the stamp issue date and location but also the art designer and creator, with wonderful stories about how the images came to grace the faces of our postage stamps.
There are stamps focusing on American choreographers, the wonderful world and art of Disney, the 2004 Olympics, Native American art, sickle cell anemia awareness, the Pacific Coral Reef, even those cheeky pastel Valentine candy hearts. The book cover honor goes to famed artist Martin Johnson Heade, whose gorgeous Giant Magnolias graced one of the year’s most elegant stamps by far. My faves are the Cloudscape series, designed by Howard E. Paine and featuring fifteen different photographs of stunning cloud and weather images.
What really takes your breath away looking through this book is how so much beauty, creativity and detail goes into each stamp, and just how difficult it can be to get all that imagery on such a small canvas. We use stamps every day, but rarely do we stop to really take a look at them and enjoy the mini-masterpieces that they are.
Stamp enthusiasts will love the artwork and the history behind each stamp, but they will no doubt really appreciate that this yearbook also offers a place for real stamps to be affixed, making this a true hobbyist’s collectable that will be cherished for years to come. Stamps may be small in stature, but they are a huge part of the fabric and texture of Americana and this book serves as an awe-inspiring reminder of their special place in our hearts and in our history.