“Humble,” is how award-winning landscape photographer Charles Gurche describes the image – a river, a covered bridge and a Civil War-era grindstone mill – that appear on a new Forever postage stamp honoring his home state of Missouri (Figure 8).
Figure 8. For purchasing information and technical details on the Missouri Statehood stamp, click here.
“This is just a tiny slice, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find out about all sorts of interesting things people were doing back when this mill and the covered bridge were made,” Gurche said about his photo, which graces the Missouri statehood Forever postage stamp that was issued August 10.
The U.S. Postal Service officially released the stamp 200 years to the day that Missouri became the 24th and westernmost state in the Union.
The stamp art is Gurche’s photograph taken of Bollinger Mill State Historic Site. The photo shows the multi-story mill, as well as the Burfordville Covered Bridge, Missouri’s oldest covered bridge and one of only four that remain in the state. The bridge spans the Whitewater River in the southeastern corner of the state.
“The mill represents more than 200 years of Missouri agriculture,” said Missouri Gov. Mike Parson. “We are proud of this stamp and its great tribute to Missouri’s history.”
Gurche and Parson commented via a virtual dedication ceremony presented by the USPS on its Facebook page.
Also presenting on the virtual ceremony is Peter Pastre, USPS vice president of government relations and public policy, who said Missouri, near the center of the Lower 48, played a key geographical point in the development of the nation and expanding postal services.
“The history of Missouri is closely linked to the history of the Postal Service,” Pastre said. “As settlers moved westward, they needed a secure, reliable way to exchange information and deliver correspondence. This led to the expansion of post offices and post roads, which strengthened our democracy by fostering the flow of ideas and increasing access to our free press.”
The use of a landscape and nature photography continues the Postal Service use of such images to commemorate statehood on recent stamps, which include Maine (2020) and Alabama (2019), Nebraska (2017) and Indiana (2016).
Greg Breeding served as art director for the pressure sensitive stamp, which is being sold in panes of 20. The issue was printed by Banknote Corporation of America and the Gallus RCS press.
Located near the center of the contiguous United States, Missouri is bordered by more states than any other except Tennessee. The Missouri River bisects the state, forming its border from the northwest corner to Kansas City, then flowing east to just above St. Louis, where it joins the Mississippi, which forms the entire eastern border. Jefferson City, located on the river in the middle of the state, is the capital.
Humans have inhabited the area for several thousand years. When French settlers from the east bank of the Mississippi began crossing the river for furs and mining, they called the people up the big river to the west the Missouria, from which both the river and state take their names. Their first permanent settlement was founded along the river at Ste. Genevieve in the early 1700s, first on the east bank and later on the west side of the Mississippi. St. Louis was founded in 1764. As the 19th century began, most settlers were still French, but after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans from the east, particularly Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, began flooding the area in search of land.
Missouri was the muster point for the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition, which began an exploration up the Missouri in 1804 to the territories acquired in the Louisiana Purchase.
A timeline history of the state can be found at the Missouri 2021 Bicentennial website.
Bollinger’s Mill was built along the Whitewater River shoreline in the early 1800s. Spanning 140 feet across the river, the Howe truss framework of the Burfordville Covered Bridge began in 1858. Both structures were completed in 1868. The Burfordville Covered Bridge is Missouri’s oldest covered bridge — one of just four remaining in the state.
Gurche, who started photographing when he was 10, said on the virtual dedication that he grew up in the Kansas City area, but his family took a lot of trips in the Ozarks area of the state in the southeast.
“I really wanted to promote that area and to take another look at that area,” Gurche said. “The rivers and springs and bluffs down in that area were so magical. I wanted to photograph that. This image (on the stamp) was taken with a 4-by-5 camera, so the film size is 4-by-5 inches. It’s the kind of camera that has a bellows and you have a hood over your head. The image on the ground glass [a type of glass for imaging used in a large camera] is upside down and you’re focusing with a loop on the ground glass. So, it’s a pretty slow process.”
The photo was shot at sunrise, said Gurche, who further explained the image.
“The sun is lighting up the four-story Bollinger’s Mill and that’s right on the other side of the Whitewater River and then there’s the Burfordville Covered Bridge right there. These three subjects kind of intersect together in the morning light.”
Several other U.S. stamps have featured Missouri in one form or another.
“One of the most legendary chapters of postal history also was written partly in Missouri,” Pastre said in the virtual dedication. “From 1860 to 1861, the Pony Express carried mail between St. Joseph, Missouri, the western-most point reached by railroad, and Sacramento, California in just 10 days, cutting the regular transit time by more than half.” The Pony Express is featured on a 4¢ 1960 stamp (Figure 9).
Figure 9. The 1960 Pony Express stamp.
The state’s 150th anniversary was marked with an 8¢ stamp showing a detail of a mural at the Truman Library completed by Thomas Hart Benton (Figure 10). “This was appropriate for a stamp celebrating Missouri as both (President Harry) Truman and Benton hailed from the state,” says the Smithsonian Postal Stamp Museum on its website. “Known as ‘Independence and the Opening of the West,’ the overall intent of the mural is to show the beginnings of Independence, Missouri. It depicts a wide variety of trappers, hunters, and settlers along with a group of painted Pawnee Indians who meet the newcomers.”
Figure 10. Missouri’s 150th anniversary stamp, issued in 1971.
The Missouri state flag (Figure 11), along with those of all the other states, was part of the 50-stamp State Flags pane of 1976. The pane of 50 was issued February 23, 1976. It was the first time that a pane featured 50 face-different stamps.
Figure 11. Missouri’s state flag, issued in 1976.
Missouri showed up on more multi-stamp panes, including the 1982 Birds and Flowers of 1982 and the 50-stamp Greetings of 2002, which included the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (Figure 12).
Figure 12. Greetings from Missouri, just one of a 50-stamp issue of 2002.
A 44¢ commemorative issued in 2009 as part of the Flags of Our Nation series shows the Missouri state flag and a paddle wheeler on the Missouri river (Figure 13). All the stamps in the set were issued as horizontal coils from 2008 to 2012 in six groups of 10.
Figure 13. A 2009 tribute to Missouri and its state flag.
Ice cream cones and the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 – which commemorated the centennial of Louisiana Purchase – are commemorated on a 32¢ stamp as part of the 1900s Celebrate the Century series and was issued in 1998 (Figure 14).
Figure 14. The St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904 was celebrated in this 1998 stamp.
The Gateway Arch of St. Louis has been seen on two other stamps, a 39¢ stamp from the 2006 Wonders of America (tallest man-made monument) set of 50; and as the prominent feature on the $23.75 Express Mail stamp of 2017.