US Stamps

Artwork in the mail found on postcards and postal cards

Apr 5, 2019, 9 AM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

In the U.S. Stamp Notes column in the April 8 Linn’s, I wrote about stamp design art with a focus on the popular rendition of Western Cattle in Storm on the $1 Trans-Mississippi stamp of 1898 (Scott 292).

Art can also be found on mailed items — printed on postcards and sometimes as original art on United States postal cards.

I would hesitate to call such items beautiful. They are most often dreary-looking scenes with little to recommend them artistically — at least to my untrained eye.

But there are occasional exceptions, and I want to share one of each type in this column.

Figure 1 shows both sides of an unused 1¢ side-face McKinley postal card (Scott UX18) issued in 1902. What appears to be Easter-oriented artwork on the reverse of this card combines watercolor painting with a glued-on bunny. This original artwork is complex, in half a dozen colors and with much fine detail.

I’m told by flower expert Mary Ellen Jones of Portsmouth, Va., that the flowers are most likely crocuses, but they are out of proportion to the rabbit. Also the artist appears to have taken some liberties with the details. Perhaps it was just an attempt to try to show something springlike.

Figure 2 shows a printed postcard sent from East Orange, N.J., to announce the birth of a baby boy on Aug. 6, 1910. The card perpetuates the old myth about babies being brought by the stork. Given the size of the baby in the picture, this stork must have needed a good rest after this delivery.

The name of the artist is not in evidence, which is too bad as the work is nicely done, and he or she should be given credit. The back of the card does tell us that it was printed in Germany as part of a series and was registered with the U.S. Patent Office.

Here again, the detail and the coloring is spectacular as is the subject. The presentation of the art is also unusual in that the stork, the baby and the vegetation in the foreground are all printed in relief. It is altogether a very attractive effort.

The point here is it is always worthwhile to take the time to turn over cards received in the mail. Stamps are not the only aspect of mail that can be beautiful.

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