Outline of the Hawkeye state

23 10 2008

United States, 1946, Scott 942, 38mm x 23mm, plate block

The map on this stamp from six decades ago shows the outline of the US state of Iowa to commemorate the centenary of statehood. The monochrome blue design is adorned with a state flag and with the border showing a flowering stalk of corn to each side. No topographical features, towns or cities, or much of anything else is depicted. In particular, the great rivers, the Mississippi to the east and the Missouri to the west, are in evidence solely by the shape of the state borders there.

The state is at the center of the region that was hit hard by the floods in early summer of this year with several billion dollars of property damage. The recovery is expected to be fairly slow for the most affected areas, perhaps even slower now that the national and global economic situation has been thrown into turmoil. Were it not for this disaster, the news event of the year for Iowa might have been the way that during the first week of the year, the Iowa caucuses marked the first emergence of Barack Obama as a viable candidate for President.


The route to Africa

20 07 2008

Liberia, Scott C43, 1942, 39mm x 24mm

Once again we have a stamp issue commemorating the air supply route from North America via South America to western Africa in the middle of World War II. Only three countries are depicted (the United States, Brazil, and the issuing country of Liberia). An outsized 4-engine transport plane (possibly a C-108 Flying Fortress) is shown alongside the coast-hugging path southward.

I am not sure that the business of transport is considered to have enough charisma to show up much on stamps nowadays, relatives to the most popular topicals.



12 03 2008

CabrilloCabrillo with added infoUnited States, Scott 2704, 1992, 22mm x 38mm
The design depicts the 16th century Spanish-Portuguese explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo wearing a breastplate and a helmet in the Morion style backed by a galleon and the outline of the California coast near San Diego. I am showing it here both as a traditional plate block of 4 and as a strip of 3 with attached selvage, which reads:

On September 28, 1542, explorers representing Spain landed at San Diego Bay, California.

Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo led the expedition. He named the area San Miguel and claimed it for Spain.

If he was Portuguese as many believe, his name would be spelled João Rodrigues Cabrilho.

The plate block just has registration numbers along the edge. The map content is pretty minimal, lacking labels definitively identifying the location within California.

For me the main interest in this issue is not so much the map but the portrait. Cabrillo is tan, virile, visionary. He looks like Jonathan Frakes in costume and makeup. To me he looks nothing at all like his portrait, making me suspect that some parties in the office of the U.S. Postmaster General of sexing up this subject to entice the collecting public. This is perhaps not a bad thing in itself, just a bit of warning on using philately as a source of historical fact.

The other point of interest for me is the street name mentioned in the Wikipedia article. Convienently, this fellow’s last name falls nicely in the alphabetic sequence of the avenues out near where I grew up in San FranciscoAnza, Balboa, Cabrillo up in the Richmond district up against Golden Gate Park, down through the Sunset including Santiago where my parents still live, all the way down to Wawona and Yorba. Not all of these were featured on postage stamps, of course.

Where the Severn flows into the Chesapeake

7 02 2008

Annapolis plate block

United States, Scott 984, 1949, plate block 24098

This issue commemorating the 300th anniversary (tercentenary) of the founding of Annapolis, Maryland, has that old-time feel to it with a sailing ship, fish, boat launch, and blue crab occupying the estuary, each at a gargantuan scale proportionately, and the state arms and a compass rose on the left and right flanks of the design. A legend picks out the location of the original settlement in the area, at the location of the Severn River Naval Complex.

I am fond of this stamp because Annapolis is the first place I ever visited aside from the West Coast, on a trip to the US Naval Academy when I was fifteen years old. It was the first time I was allowed to be away from home for more than a week. I had been selected for a program for high school students who did well in their placement exams which the government put on in order to attract students to apply to the service academy. My thirty-year-old memories are of gas chromatography, model rockets, analog computers, and the orientation literature given to entering plebes, nothing significant about the area (which I’ve visited subsequently and find charming). I also recall a raging argument about some arcane details of the German army activities World War II between two of the other boys attending the program (this was just before women were allowed to become midshipmen), one to which I could unfortunately contribute nothing.

I wore the USNA t-shirt I received on this trip until it fell apart.

On the way home from that trip, I went through Chicago and visited the place that eventually became my alma mater. I was never very serious about pursuing that military academy route, as it turned out, though I have often wondered what would have happened if I had.

The Oregon Trail

1 01 2008

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By milkfish, shot with HP Scanjet G3010 at 2008-02-02
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
By milkfish, shot with HP Scanjet G3010 at 2008-02-02
Here is a nice stamped cover with a couple of blocks of the 3 cent Oregon Territory Centennial issue (Scott 783), lightly hand-cancelled. The cost of the stamps back then is roughly equivalent to $3-4 in 2008 dollars, not an insignificant amount for a collector to spend during the Great Depression for this cover.

This stamp displays the kind of detailed engraving work that I miss in stamp issues of the last fifty years or so. The map shows the path that the Oregon Trail settlers took to arrive at Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon, with just a small border on either side to depict the covered wagons they used (the horses on the right hand side appear to be about to step on the southern end of the Trail). The eastern end of the trail is not shown, with its beginning in Missouri and the Great Plains.

Unlike most of my map stamps, the region depicted is one I have in fact visited once, though only briefly on a trip to Seattle a couple of years back. It does look as if Fort Astoria, Oregon, might be worth a personal visit someday.