November 1, 1962, was a Banner Day for the United States Postal Service
On a blustery afternoon in Philadelphia, then Postmaster General J. Edward Day, led a dedication ceremony for what would be the first of the USPS’ official Christmas Stamp Series. The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (yes, the same guys who print our cold, hard cash) produced an initial run of 350 million units of this stamp. This was the largest number ever produced for a special stamp at the time, and the initial supply quickly sold out. Working around-the-clock, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing was tasked to print more. Much more. A mere two months later, 1 billion (with a B) stamps had been printed and distributed. That’s a lot of Christmas cards, my friend! The groundbreaking issue was a simple red and green 4-cent stamp that featured a wreath, two candles, and the words “Christmas 1962.”
This Wouldn’t be America if We Didn’t Have a Bit of Controversy
The decision to print a Christmas-themed stamp generated some controversy, of course, especially from groups concerned about maintaining the separation of church and state. The United States Postal Service is, after all, a government entity. There have been numerous concessions and appeasements over the years. In 1957, a Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (still in existence) was established to review and recommend new stamp designs to the postmaster general. This committee establishes specific criteria, such as national appeal and historical perspective. The ultimate goal: to create annual stamp designs that reflect America — from the events and people that bind the nation together, to the diversity of cultures that forms its foundation. The annual stamp selections are now known as the Holiday Contemporary and Holiday Traditional Postage Stamp Series, and over the past few years, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Eid al-Fitr & Eid al-Adha seasonal stamps have been added to the USPS’ collection.
Browse the slideshows below to see Christmas postage stamps through the years.
A USPS Christmas Stamp Retrospective Part 1: 1962-1992
A USPS Christmas Stamp Retrospective Part 2: 1993-2015
Do you have a favorite Christmas or holiday-themed stamp, or possibly a specific memory tied to one of these images? We at Prejean Creative would love to hear your story. Comment, email us, or better yet, send us a card!