By Michael Baadke
The United States Postal Service is hosting the party in Springfield, Ill., March 5, for an early celebration of the state’s 200th birthday.
A nondenominated (50¢) Illinois Statehood forever stamp will be issued during a 10:30 a.m. first-day ceremony at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, 112 N. Sixth St., in Springfield.
Although the event is free and open to the public, the Postal Service has a website to reserve admission to the event.
Additional information about the ceremony and its participants was not immediately available.
The offset-printed self-adhesive stamp will be issued in panes of 20. The design shows an outline map of the state in blue, with yellow beams radiating up from the south, “like the rays of a rising sun,” the Postal Service suggests.
“The yellows and blues symbolize the dawning of a new day as the state joins the Union. Stars, representing the first 20 states, grace the top of the stamp. The rising sun symbolizes the 21st star,” according to the Postal Service.
Illinois was admitted to the Union as the 21st state on Dec. 3, 1818.
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Michael Konetzka, an Illinois-based artist, designed the new stamp and created the illustration, working with USPS art director Antonio Alcala.
Along with printing the stamp panes that will be sold at post offices, contract printer Banknote Corporation of America has also supplied the Postal Service with an undisclosed quantity of uncut press sheets consisting of six unsevered panes processed with the die cuts that normally separate the individual stamps in the pane.
The press sheet sells for the face value of the 120 stamps, at $60.
The Postal Service has also prepared two first-day covers (both without cachets) featuring pictorial cancellations.
The black cancel is composed primarily of text, but set upon a round shield with several stars and other design elements. Bold text in the center reads “Illinois Statehood” in all capital letters.
The digital color pictorial postmark mimics some design elements of the postage stamp, with an outline map of the state, radiating lines and blue and gold colors.
Situated in the heart of the Midwest, the vertically oriented Illinois shares its borders with five other states and three significant waterways. Wisconsin and Iowa are to the state’s north and northwest, respectively. Missouri is to the southwest, Kentucky is to the southeast, and much of the eastern border of Illinois connects it to Indiana.
The Mississippi River flows along the western edge of the state, joined at the state’s southern reaches to the Ohio River, which delineates a section of the Illinois southern border.
At the other end of the state, from Chicagoland to the Wisconsin border, Lake Michigan provides a scenic backdrop for the Windy City and less developed areas on the northern shore.
The state was established as part of the nation’s westward expansion when the southern section of the Illinois Territory, organized in 1809 and encompassing all of present-day Wisconsin plus parts of Minnesota and the upper peninsula of Michigan, was recognized as a candidate for statehood.
Though primarily an agricultural region, the port of Chicago on Lake Michigan grew quickly during the Civil War, and today is the nation’s third largest city, with a population of roughly 2.7 million.
“Chicago … is a cultural and financial center with museums and architecture, music and theater that are internationally renowned,” the Postal Service said in its new-issue announcement. “Other Illinois communities boast their own cultural and historic institutions.”
The Postal Service notes that tourism is an important part of the Illinois economy, offering forest preserves, wildlife areas, museums, historic sites and much more.
The only U.S. president born in Illinois was Ronald Reagan, though other presidents have been closely associated with the state.
Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky native, moved to Illinois at age 21 and established a successful law practice. He represented Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives before he was elected president in 1860.
Reagan was born in Tampico, Ill., and lived in other cities and towns in the state while growing up. He attended Eureka College before moving out of state following his graduation. He was elected president for two terms, beginning in 1981.
Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Barack Obama also lived in Seattle, Wash., and Indonesia as a child. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama taught at University of Chicago Law School before entering politics and representing Illinois in the state senate and the U.S. Senate. He also was elected president for two terms, beginning in 2009.
Many other famous individuals were born in Chicago, including authors Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875) and Raymond Chandler (1888), Walt Disney (1901), U.S. secretaries of State William Jennings Bryan (1860) and Hillary Clinton (1947), and actor Robin Williams (1952).
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was honored on a 22¢ commemorative stamp in 1987 (Scott 2248), was a pioneer trader who is recognized as the founder of Chicago.
Also born in Illinois were comedian Jack Benny, actors Harrison Ford and Betty White, and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The state of Illinois and the city of Chicago have been recognized on numerous U.S. stamps in the past, including a 6¢ commemorative honoring the state’s 150th anniversary in 1968 (Scott 1339), and a 34¢ Greetings from Illinois stamp issued in 2002 (3573).