US Stamps

John M. Hotchner

Offering some informational Rockefeller Christmas tree history

January 12, 2018 07:30 PM

  • The 1963 5¢ Christmas stamp.
  • Snapped in 1931, this photograph shows the informal Christmas tree put up by the construction workers at the Rockefeller Center building site in New York.
  • Christmas 1931 was noted on the USS Perry by use of a “Merry Xmas” cancel.

U.S. Stamp Notes — By John M. Hotchner


The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., is one of the best known annual decorated symbol of the season. It was even featured on the 1963 5¢ Christmas stamp with a backdrop of the White House (Scott 1240).

Next in line in for pride of place in the national consciousness would probably be the Christmas tree at the seasonal ice rink at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Having waited in line for half an hour to see it, I would say it is an equally popular attraction.

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I recently found in my files a photograph that I was given while working in New York in 1991. It portrays the informal start of the Rockefeller Center tradition in 1931 when workmen involved in the construction of the center on the 5th Avenue site placed a small tree, complete with tinsel and gaily colored ornaments in the area that would eventually be the British Empire Building.

In the photo, the workmen are lined up to receive their pay on Christmas Eve.

To place the photo in philatelic context, shown nearby is a Christmas Day, 1931, cancellation of a stamp and 1931 Christmas seal aboard the United States Navy destroyer USS Perry.

In the intervening decades, the annual Rockefeller Center tree has reached new heights, and the setting for it is both beautiful and memorable. Wouldn’t it make a lovely U.S. Christmas stamp some time in the future?