Stamp for first lady Nancy Reagan July 6 at Ronald Reagan library in California
By Chad Snee
More than 120 years after the United States issued a postage stamp picturing Martha Washington, the first presidential first lady, the U.S. Postal Service will pay tribute to Nancy Reagan (1921-2016), the wife of Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States. She served as first lady during her husband’s administration from 1981 to 1989.
An official first-day ceremony for the Nancy Reagan stamp will be held July 6 at 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, Calif. The issue date of the stamp coincides with Nancy Reagan’s 101st birthday.
The Postal Service said that “the ceremony serves as the culmination of the Nancy Reagan Centennial celebration,” which was delayed one year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ceremony is free and open to the public. Those who plan to attend are encouraged to register online at usps.com/nancyreagan. On the form, each registrant can invite up to a maximum of four additional people.
The vertical image of Nancy Reagan shown on the stamp is based on Aaron Shikler’s official White House portrait painted in 1987. James Galanos designed the flowing red gown that she is wearing in the painting. The stamp illustrates a tightly cropped head-and-shoulders image taken from the painting, which is a full-length portrait.
The new stamp will be issued in panes of 20 with a simple, unadorned header that reads “Nancy Reagan” in serif capital letters. The Postal Service’s preliminary artwork for the pane shows two plate numbers in the bottom selvage.
The design of the stamp was publicly unveiled June 6 at the White House by first lady Jill Biden. The USPS announced the unveiling in a press release sent to media outlets June 1. Biden was joined by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy; Fred Ryan, chairman of the board of trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute; and Nancy Reagan’s niece, Anne Peterson.
“Isn’t this stamp just beautiful?” Biden said. Biden praised Reagan’s performance as first lady, noting that the stamp is a testament to her service during her husband’s two terms in the White House.
Although he couldn’t attend the ceremony, Ron Reagan, son of Nancy and Ronald Reagan, was pleased to see his mother honored with a stamp.
“She would, of course, have reacted modestly to this wonderful commemoration. But secretly she would be very pleased,” he said.
Postmaster General DeJoy was also effusive in his remarks at the June 1 unveiling.
“I, along with the 650,000 women and men of the United States Postal Service, am proud to honor First Lady Nancy Reagan with this stamp,” he said.
Nancy Reagan was born July 6, 1921, in New York City. At age 6, she was adopted by Loyal Davis, her mother Edith’s husband. Reagan grew up in Chicago.
Not long after graduating from Smith College with a
major in theater, she became a professional actress.
“Billed as Nancy Davis, she performed in 11 films from 1949 to 1956,” according to a biography of Nancy Reagan on the White House website (www.whitehouse.gov).
Nancy met Ronald Reagan in 1949; they were married in 1952 in Los Angeles. She played opposite her husband in her final film, Hellcats of the Navy.
“Throughout her life, Reagan held a deep passion for her country, championing many causes along the way,” the Postal Service said.
She supported the Foster Grandparents Program (the subject of To Love a Child, her 1982 book), raised awareness of the challenges facing veterans of the Vietnam War (including prisoners of war and those missing in action), launched efforts to combat drug and alcohol abuse among youth through her “Just Say No” campaign, and pushed for more research focused on breast cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
“Mrs. Reagan shared her lifelong interest in the arts with the nation by using the Executive Mansion as a showcase for talented young performers in the PBS television series ‘In Performance at the White House,’” the White House said.
Her memoir, My Turn, was published in 1989.
Nancy Reagan died at her Los Angeles home on March 6, 2016. She is interred next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
Nancy Reagan is the sixth first lady to appear on a U.S. postage stamp.
Martha Washington (1731-1802), first lady to George Washington, her husband and the nation’s first president (served 1789-97), is shown on the 8¢ violet black stamp (Scott 306) in the 1902-03 Second Bureau definitive series, so named because it is the second group of regular-issue stamps produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The Bureau ceased producing U.S. stamps in 2005.
A 4¢ yellow brown Fourth Bureau stamp (Scott 556) picturing Martha Washington was issued in 1923. This same design also was used on printing varieties of the 4¢ Martha Washington stamp (585, 601 and 636) issued during 1925-27.
She also appears on the 1½¢ bister brown stamp (Scott 805) in the popular 1938 Presidential series, which many collectors affectionately call the Prexies. To date, Martha Washington has appeared on 10 Scott-listed stamps, more than any of the other five first ladies.
John Adams, the nation’s second president, made the first of his four U.S. stamp appearances on the 2¢ rose carmine Prexie (Scott 806) issued in 1938.
First lady Abigail Adams (1744-1818) followed her husband 47 years later, on a 22¢ stamp (Scott 2146) issued in 1985. A more subtle tribute to Abigail Adams can be found on the 2001 55¢ Love stamp (Scott 3499) that illustrates part of an Aug. 11, 1763, love letter she wrote to her husband.
Dolley Madison (1768-1849), wife of President James Madison, appears on a tiny 15¢ stamp (Scott 1822) issued in 1980 in panes of 150.
In 1963, the U.S. Post Office Department issued a 5¢ bright purple stamp (Scott 1236) to honor first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, himself the subject of 11 U.S. stamps issued between 1945 and 1998.
She is also the subject of a 20¢ deep blue stamp (Scott 2105) issued in 1984 and a 32¢ stamp in the 1998 Celebrate the Century pane of 15 (Scott 3185) celebrating significant people and events of the 1930s. Another stamp in that pane shows her husband.
Prior to the Nancy Reagan stamp, the most recent first lady to appear on a U.S. stamp issue is Lady Bird Johnson (1912-2007), who graces one of the six commemorative forever stamps (Scott 4716f) in a souvenir sheet (4716) issued Nov. 30, 2012.
Two pictorial first-day postmarks for the Nancy Reagan stamp are available from the Postal Service.
Collector-submitted envelopes for first-day covers will receive a black postmark showing her name in capital letters.
Full color pictorial first-day cancels found on covers marketed by the Postal Service and others prepared by some cachetmakers feature Reagan’s name in capital letters in two colors, red for the first name and blue for the last.
All orders for Nancy Reagan first-day cancels must be postmarked by Dec. 6.
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