Skip to main content

Stamping Our History

June 2024
1min read

The Story of the United States Portrayed on its Postage Stamps

by Charles Davidson and Lincoln Diamant; A Lyle Stuart Book, Carol Publishing Group, New York; 254 pages.

From 1847, when the United States issued its first official postage stamps, until 1965, when the Postal Service changed to offset printing, American stamps were miniature steel engravings. The authors of this handsome volume have selected a number of these images, enlarged them, sometimes by as much as 2,000 percent, and used them to tell the story of our nation- Columbus and the Vikings, Yosemite and Yellowstone, Annapolis and West Point, Louisa May Alcott and Edgar Allan Poe, the transcontinental railroad and Project Mercury. The writing is excessively chatty at times—“Thank you, George, for so much” concludes their tribute to our first President—but the authors clearly love their subject, and the stamps themselves are wonderful to look at. The introduction contains the fascinating information that “those minuscule punched-out waste-paper dots” from the perimeters of stamps are called chads, and that each year the Bureau of Printing and Engraving disposes of seventy-five tons of them.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.