US Stamps

Stamp honoring first lady Betty Ford to debut April 5 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Mar 25, 2024, 11 AM
Betty Ford was first lady during the 1974-77 administration of her husband Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States. She will be honored on a commemorative forever stamp to be issued April 5.

By Charles Snee

On April 5, the United States Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp in honor of first lady Betty Ford, wife of Gerald Ford (1913-2006), the 38th president of the United States.

The nondenominated (68¢) Betty Ford forever stamp will be issued in the Helene Galen Auditorium of the Annenberg Health Sciences Building, 39000 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Issuance of the Betty Ford stamp comes one month after the surprise March 6 unveiling of the stamp’s design at the White House.

The first-day city is a fitting tribute to her and her husband, President Ford, because both of them died there, the president on Dec. 26, 2006, and the first lady on July 8, 2011. Both were 93 at the time of their deaths.

Amber McReynolds, a member of the Postal Service’s board of governors, will serve as the dedicating official at the ceremony, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

Scheduled to speak at the ceremony are Susan Ford Bales, daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford; and Joseph Lee, president and CEO of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Bales is a trustee of the foundation.

Although free and open to the public, the ceremony location will have limited seating. Those desiring to attend should register online with the USPS. According to the USPS, each attendee may invite up to four additional guests.

The vertical image of Betty Ford shown on the stamp is based on Felix de Cossio’s official White House portrait that he painted in 1977.

The stamp illustrates a tightly cropped head-and-shoulders image of Ford taken from the painting, which portrays her seated in a chair, her right hand resting over her left.

According to the White House Historical Association, Ford sat for the painting in Vail, Colo. The portrait was unveiled May 24, 1978, at the White House by President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter.

USPS art director Derry Noyes began her work on the Betty Ford stamp in September 2022.

“I looked at numerous photos and paintings and mocked up variations before settling on this [design],” Noyes told Linn’s. “I believe this was one of her favorites, according to her daughter, Susan Ford Bales.”

Noyes was open in her admiration for Ford and the obstacles she faced.

“I admire Betty Ford’s courage and candor dealing with her own struggles and opening them up to the public,” Noyes said. “She was forthright talking about her breast cancer treatment and her alcohol addiction.”

“The Betty Ford Center is her legacy, helping people nationwide,” Noyes said. “I hope people recognize how brave she was to make this a cause we now can talk about without stigma. What a tremendous gift to the world.”

Noyes emphasized the importance of Ford and her predecessors in their role as first lady.

“We rarely take the time to recognize the contributions of First Ladies,” Noyes asserted. “Betty Ford deserves to be commemorated for the hard work she did in those 2 ½ years in the White House and beyond. She truly made a difference for the better. Her legacy carries on.”

According to production details published in the March 7 USPS Postal Bulletin, Banknote Corporation of America of Browns Summit, N.C. (one of the Postal Service’s two contract printers), produced 12 million Betty Ford stamps that were finished into 600,000 panes of 20 to be sold at post offices and other authorized philatelic outlets.

The pane has a simple, unadorned header that reads “Betty Ford” in serif capital letters. The Postal Service’s preliminary artwork for the pane shows two plate numbers in the bottom selvage.

During the March 6 event in the East Room of the White House, first lady Jill Biden unveiled the design of the stamp. She was joined on the stage by two honored guests: Bales, Ford’s daughter; and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

“Betty Ford changed the role of first lady,” DeJoy said. “She used the role not just as a platform to represent the nation and advance and support her husband, she used it to speak openly and honestly about issues she cared about, and about personal issues she faced.”

“Mom would be humbled and grateful beyond words for the extraordinary tribute of her commemorative stamp,” Bales told the audience.

“To Mom, the stamp would be a heartwarming reminder of joys of millions of breast cancer and substance use disorder survivors who have overcome their diseases and individually added to her legacy of candor and courage.”

To read the rest of this story about the Betty Ford stamp, subscribe to Linn’s Stamp News.

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