Saturday, July 14, 2012

U. S. Flag Stamps & Flag Day

These are two maximum cards showing two different U. S. postage stamps with flags. The first one is the 4¢ stamp issued in 1957, and the second is the 22¢ stamp issued in 1985.

The Arago website has a virtual exhibit Long May It Wave: The Story of the American Flag Through Stamps. The page Formalizing A National Flag Day shows these two stamps. The following description is from that page:
Inspired by three decades of state and local celebrations, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed June 14 as Flag Day by a Proclamation of the President on May 30, 1916, nearly thirty years after Cigrand began his campaign. Flag Day would continue to be celebrated in various local communities for years afterward.

Finally, on August 3, 1949, President Harry S. Truman would sign an Act of Congress designating June 14 of each year as National Flag Day. Though Cigrand, the “Father” of Flag Day, died in 1932, seventeen years before the act, his legacy remains; to this day, in Waubeka, Wisconsin, his bust graces the National Flag Day Americanism Center.

On July 4, 1957, the Post Office Department issued a 4-cent forty-eight star flag stamp, the first multicolored flag stamp to portray the flag in all its glorious colors of red, white and blue. Controversy rippled through philatelic circles across the country.

Stamp collectors and concerned citizens were aghast. The fact that the stamps had to be cancelled was seen by numerous Americans as disrespectful, and a desecration of the flag. Many angry letter writers cited the American legal code, in which it is prohibited to “reproduce the National Emblem for disloyal or commercial purposes.” This was not the first American flag that had been portrayed on a stamp; it was merely the first multicolored one. Conversely, other stamp collectors were delighted to have such a beautiful stamp commemorating the liberty of the United States. The stamp was meant to serve as a reminder of American’s heritage and hard-won liberty, not as a smear to its most “sacred symbol.”

Controversy continued to surround postage stamps depicting the American flag. On June 14, 1985, the USPS issued the Flag Over Capitol definitive stamp to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cigrand’s ‘flag birthday.’ The first day of issue ceremony occurred at the Fireman’s Hall in Waubeka. The reaction to the stamp was mixed. While many felt that Waubeka was a very suitable place for the first release, some of its inhabitants disagreed. Many felt that the stamp had nothing to do at all with Flag Day, Waubeka, or Bernard Cigrand. Nevertheless, the stamp was incredibly popular, with some collectors observing that it was the most handsome definitive the USPS had issued in years.

This is a post for Sunday Stamps at Viridian's Postcard Blog


  1. What an interesting post! I had never thought of a cancelled stamp being desecrated before. Does the flag turn up in the most unlikely places these days? I know the Union Jack does.

  2. I would never have guessed that the portrayal of the American flag would be so controversial. A fascinating history of the times.

  3. I have also posted the 22c stamps!

  4. wow! that top card is a text-book example of the perfect maximum card. fascinating post - the thought that a postal cancellation could be seen as a denigration of the flag is a scary reminder of how patriotism can get a little skewed sometimes!
    happy sunday stamps from Debs @ Penny Black 1840

  5. Very interesting history of Flag Day and all new to me.

  6. That is an interesting history. I don't know if so many people are as engaged in the new stamps that are issued, nowadays.

    Interestingly, I have quite a few stamps showing the US flag and I chose not to use them, thinking that one of the American contributors would - and none of you did!

  7. Lovely first maxi card . And no i did not know of this controversy before!
    Thank you for participating.

  8. thanks for this very informative post about US flag,if there's anything I learned, everyone are ALWAYS have a mixed reaction about everything.
    --Willa @ Postage Journal


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