World Stamps

Smallpox eradication, Florence Nightingale celebrated on U.N. stamps

May 13, 2020, 9 AM

By Charles Snee

On May 8 the United Nations Postal Administration issued a stamp celebrating the 40th anniversary of the global eradication of smallpox. The 1.70-franc stamp is for use from the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

Four days later, on May 12 the UNPA paid tribute to Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), the founder of modern nursing, with a €1.35 stamp for use from the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria. The stamp was issued on the bicentennial of Nightingale’s birth.

The UNPA classifies these two stamps as definitives.

The 1.70fr Eradication of Smallpox stamp features a cropped photograph of a gloved hand administering a smallpox vaccine to a patient’s arm. Superimposed over the hand is a vial labeled “Smallpox Vaccine” set inside a circle with a red background.

“Eradication of smallpox” and “Word Health Organization” are written in French across the bottom of the stamp.

On Dec. 9, 1979, the World Health Organization confirmed that smallpox had been eradicated. A similar declaration was issued May 8, 1980, by the 33rd World Health Assembly.

Smallpox had affected humanity for millennia before being eradicated. During the 20th century, the disease killed 300 million people, according to the UNPA.

In its announcement for the stamp, the UNPA said: “The successful smallpox eradication programme yielded vital knowledge and tools for the field of disease surveillance, the benefits of ring vaccination and the importance of health promotion in fighting diseases such as poliomyelitis and the Ebola virus. It also laid the foundation for stronger national immunization programmes worldwide, underpinning the establishment of primary health care in many countries and creating momentum toward Universal Health Coverage.”

Sergio Baradat designed the stamp, and Cartor Security Printing in France printed the stamp by offset in panes of 20. A total of 12,000 panes (240,000 stamps) were produced.

The issuance of the €1.35 Florence Nightingale stamp coincides with the World Health Organization’s designation of 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife. May 12, the first day of issue, is International Nurses Day, which is celebrated in Nightingale’s honor.

Master engraver Martin Morck provided the artwork for the stamp, which was designed by Rorie Katz.

A close-up portrait of Nightingale is shown at right. At left is a quote from Nightingale in German. In English the quote is “Live life when you have it. Life is a splendid gift — there is nothing small about it.”

“Vereinte Nationen,” German for United Nations, is lettered up the right side of the stamp.

Nightingale first made her mark during the 1853-56 Crimean War by organizing “care for wounded soldiers,” the UNPA said. “While making her night rounds she became known as ‘The Lady with the Lamp.’ ”

Nightingale’s efforts eventually led to reforms in the health care industry in the 19th and 20th centuries, according to the UNPA.

“Nurses and midwives play a vital role in providing health services and are the largest professional group in the health care workforce, accounting for 50% of the personnel globally,” the UNPA said.

Joh. Enschede of the Netherlands printed the €1.35 Florence Nightingale stamp by offset in panes of 20. A total of 240,000 stamps (12,000 panes) were printed.

For ordering information, visit the UNPA website; email; telephone 212-963-7684 or 800-234-8672; or write to UNPA, Box 5900, Grand Central Station, New York, NY 10163-5900.

The UNPA has posted the following notice on its website: “Important information and alert: Please note that your orders and/or mail may be impacted or delayed due to the restrictions at the United Nations Headquarters and the United Nations office in Vienna as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are, however, committed to process and fulfill your orders as soon as we can. If there’s any question, please email us at or or Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

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