An homage to important spycraft by women during World War II, plus the celebration of two late-year holidays wrap up the U.S. stamp program for 2022. All of the new stamps reviewed here are pressure sensitive first-class domestic Forever stamps issued in October. The set of 10 Snowy Beauty stamps will be reviewed in the January 2023 issue, along with a brief description of the new issues scheduled for 2023.
The issues include 10 stamps showing flowers in the snow from an award-winning artist who has created several previous U.S. stamps. New artists to U.S. stamps present designs for the holidays of Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and a veteran stamp designer created a stamp honoring the work of women cryptologists.
All of the stamps and other products from the U.S. Postal Service can be found in the fourth quarter edition of the USA Philatelic catalog at https://www.usps.com/stamp-collecting/assets/pdf/usa_philatelic_catalog.pdf.
Postal rates in several categories are expected to rise in 2023, according to an announcement from the United States Postal Service. The USPS expects approval for proposed changes from the Postal Regulatory Commission.
The proposed increases will raise first-class mail prices approximately 4.2 percent to offset the rise in inflation. The price changes have been approved by the Governors of the U.S. Postal Service.
The new price for 1-ounce first-class mail will rise from 60 to 63 cents, though any Forever stamps purchased before then will pay the freight on all 1-ounce cards and letters.
First-class metered mail will rise from 57 to 60 cents. The price to send a domestic postcard will rise from 44 to 48 cents. A 1-ounce letter or postcard mailed to another country will increase from $1.40 to $1.45; again, previously purchased Forever stamps will pay the new rate.
There will be no change to the single-piece letter and flat additional-ounce price, which remains at 24 cents.
More information about the Kwanzaa stamp and related products, can be found here.
The newest stamp honoring Kwanzaa – the year-end seven-day festival that encourages African Americans to celebrate their heritage – focuses on two children and a candleholder called a kinara.
The seven candles (mishumaa saba) are lit, symbolizing the completion of the holiday. The children are wearing robes similar to spiritual garments. The light blue circle behind their heads signifies wholeness and unifies the figures, according to the Postal Service.
“The annual Pan-African holiday, which takes place over seven days from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, brings family, community, and culture together for many African Americans,” the Postal Service said in a release.
Artist and illustrator Erin K. Robinson designed the stamp. Art Director Antonio Alcalá designed the stamp.
Each year, millions of African Americans gather with friends and family throughout the week of Kwanzaa to honor the Pan-African holiday’s seven founding principles — unity (umoja), self-determination (kujichagulia), collective work and responsibility (ujima), cooperative economics (ujamaa), purpose (nia), creativity (kuumba) and faith (imani).
Kwanzaa is a festive time for rejoicing in the prospect of health, prosperity and good luck in the coming year, the USPS said. It is also a time for contemplation and recollection of past hardships, faced by both individuals and communities, and the ways in which history can inform and impact future happiness.
With origins in ancient and modern first-harvest festivities occurring across the African continent, Kwanzaa incorporates and reimagines many communal traditions as a contemporary celebration and reaffirmation of African American culture
Banknote Corporation of America printed the stamps using offset lithography in cyan, magenta, yellow and black on its Gallus RCS press. A plate number consisting of a “B” followed by four single digits appears in the four corners of the pane, which does not feature a decorative selvage header.
This year’s Kwanzaa stamp is sold in booklets of 20 and is the 16th in a series that began in 1997. The first design of the first Kwanzaa stamp (Scott 3175) was repeated three more times for denomination changes. The second design first issued in 2004 (Scott 3881) also was repeated three more times for price changes. The most recent Kwanzaa stamp before this year’s was issued in 2020.
USPS Kansas-Missouri district manager Eddie Banner served as the dedicating official. Banner was joined for the ceremony by master of ceremonies Tracie Berry-McGhee, founder of the SisterKeeper Empowerment Center; Jeanice L. Baker, president of the St. Louis Metropolitan Alumnae Chapter Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Cheryl McNeil, fixed assets and sales use tax manager customer service at Edward Jones Investments; Cheryl Jordan, pharmacy benefit implementation specialist at Lumeris; Robinson, stamp artist and Emmy nominated illustrator.
“Kwanzaa reminds us to be intentional in making an impact within our families, communities and culture — to build bridges not barriers,” said Baker. “We are excited and honored to have partnered with the United States Postal Service in unveiling this beautiful Forever stamp.”
Robinson, who divides her time between Brooklyn, New York and Washington, D.C., is an Emmy-nominated illustrator in the News and Documentary category who trained at the Parsons School of Design and the Corcoran School of Art, according to her website. Although heavily involved in the area of fashion design, Robinson’s illustrations have been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and have appeared in magazines. Her illustrations for children’s books include Cheryl Willis Hudson’s upcoming Brave. Black. First; A Library (2022), by Nikki Giovanni; and A History of Me (2022), by Adrea Theodore.
The Nevah Black Down website describes Robinson’s work: “Her daydreamy, magical imagination is inspired by travel, color, texture, the feminine shape and the many shades and coifs of Brooklyn. She works in a variety of mediums that include watercolor, ink, markers, charcoal, stencil, collage as well as digital artistry.
Interestingly, from another website, you can see that the artist created stamps of a sort before. A piece titled “Note to Self” features two silhouettes of the artist facing each other – they are in the foreground of a heavily decorated postcard that includes several stamp-like images and cancellations
Robinson’s postcard art can be seen along with some other works and an interview on a March 29, 2022 page (https://centralcityopera.org/meet-erin-robinson-2022-festival-artist/) sponsored by Central City Opera (Colorado), where Robinson served as the 2022 season’s festival artist.
Women Cryptologists of World War II
More information about the Women Cryptologists stamps and related products, can be found here.
The back of the Women Cryptologist pane offers the cipher needed to solve the message on the front of the stamp.
Secret codes and ciphers, meant to give the upper hand to one side, have been especially important tools during times of war. And when one side sends messages by secret means and methods, it’s certain the other side will want to decipher and decode those secret transmissions.
Allied Forces during World War II were determined to break codes sent by Axis powers.
A stamp now honors all of the women cryptologists of World War II. One of the conflict’s best-kept secrets, their service played an inestimable role in the Allied victory.
The stamp art features an image from a World War II-era Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) recruitment poster with an overlay of characters from the “Purple” code. In the pane selvage, seemingly random letters can be deciphered to reveal some key words. The reverse side of the pane discloses the cipher needed to read the words.
Established in July 1942, the WAVES were part of the U.S. Naval Reserve. The poster was designed by John Philip Falter (1910-1982), who designed more than 300 recruiting posters during his military service. The Purple code was used by the Japanese government to encrypt diplomatic messages.
The stamp, designed by Antonio Alcalá, was formally issued Oct. 18 at the National Cryptologic Museum in Annapolis Junction, Maryland. Jakki Krage Strako, chief commerce and business solutions officer and executive vice president for the U.S. Postal Service, was the dedicating officer at the ceremony.
The Postal Service offered the following details about the stamp, the WAVES and cracking WWII enemy codes:
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor made it clear that an enormous and immediate increase in the number of cryptologists was essential.
With young men enlisting to serve overseas and more needed every day, the armed forces looked to women. Many women cryptologists were civilians recruited while still in college or working as schoolteachers. By the end of the war, women cryptologists numbered around 7,000 in the Army and about 4,000 in the Navy — more than half of all U.S. cryptologists.
These women helped break and decipher the encryption systems that revealed vital shipping and diplomatic messages, built the machines that allowed cryptologists to break encrypted messages and performed many other duties.
“Their work was both frustrating and exhilarating (sometimes simultaneously) — and one of the conflict’s best-kept secrets,” Krage Strako said. “With this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service honors all of the women cryptologists of World War II, whose service played an inestimable role in the Allied victory.”
Their service played a significant role in the Allied victory. Women cryptologists deciphered Japanese fleet communications, helped prevent German U-boats from sinking vital cargo ships, and worked to break the encryption systems that revealed Japanese shipping routes and diplomatic messages. They built high-speed machines to break encrypted German messages, intercepted enemy communications, and ensured that encrypted U.S. messages were secure and error-free — an early form of cybersecurity.
Sworn to secrecy — under penalty of treason — the women cryptologists of World War II remained silent about their crucial and far-reaching contributions for decades.
Today, they are widely considered pioneers in science, technology, engineering and math — especially because their wartime work coincided with the development of modern computer technology. Their contributions opened the door for women in the military and helped shape intelligence and information security efforts for generations.
Falter, whose poster serves as the background for the stamp, was a well-known illustrator and especially known for covers he created for the Saturday Evening Post.
Falter was born in Plattsmouth, Nebraska and grew up in Falls City, Nebraska. He started a comic strip called Down Thru the Ages, which was spotted by Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonish J.N. Ding Darling, who is credited with starting the Federal Duck Stamp program. Darling recommended that Falter become an illustrator.
Falter eventually made his way to New Rochelle, New York, somewhat a colony for illustrators and artists and got his big break in 1933 by selling three illustrations to Liberty Magazine. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and wound up creating about 300 recruiting posters, including some for the WAVES. In that same year, he sold a cover illustration to Saturday Evening Post, which began a 25-year relationship.
All right, so now for the fun part.
For those interested in testing their cyphering ability, the pane selvage has seemingly random letters (ZRPH QF UB SWRORJLVWV RIZRUOGZDULL, FLSKHU, DQDOBCH and VHFUHW) which can be deciphered to reveal some key words.
If you are stumped, the reverse side of the pane has the cipher needed to read the words.
More information about the Hanukkah stamp and related products, can be found here.
I’m not sure that Hanukkah, the year-end Jewish holiday celebrated throughout the world, ever looked so bright and cheery.
With about 10 colors ranging from dark blue and purple to shades of orange and red, the 2022 Hanukkah postage stamp has the look of a sun-lit stained glass window. But it’s not. The stamp replicates a newly crafted original quilt-like wall hanging.
Artist and stamp designer Jeanette Kuvin Oren created the fiber art piece, which was hand-dyed silk appliquéd and quilted to form an abstract image of a hanukkiah, the nine-branch candelabra used only at Hanukkah. Ethel Kessler was the art director.
“I must express how honored and thrilled I am to have been asked to create the 2022 Hanukkah stamp,” Kuvin Oren said in an email interview. “All my life I have dreamt of having my art on a U.S. stamp. I did not expect it to actually happen and I am grateful beyond words.”
The Hanukkah stamp was issued Oct. 20 during a ceremony at Temple Emanu El in Orange Village, in eastern Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. The stamp is being issued in panes of 20. Sharp-eyed first day collectors will notice that the first day cancellation says “Chagrin Falls,” not “Orange Village.” Orange Village falls within the Chagrin Falls Post Office service area, according to Linn’s Stamp News.
Kuvin Oren has created artwork for many synagogues in the U.S. and elsewhere, including covers for the sacred scroll called a Torah.
Though an entirely new piece, the stamp design is patterned after a previous work of the artist’s called “Light Unto the Nations.”
“The original wall-hanging was created for the purpose of photographing it and creating glass doors for a synagogue in Medford, Massachusetts,” explained Kuvin Oren. “The design is a seven-branch menorah, perhaps the most significant symbol for the Jewish people. ‘Light Unto the Nations’ means that we are commanded to follow God’s laws and to do good for the entire world.”
Hanukkah is a joyous Jewish holiday, also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah begins on the 25th of Kislev in the Hebrew calendar, a date that falls in late November or December. In 2022, Hanukkah, celebrated for eight days and eight nights, begins at sundown on Dec. 18.
Hanukkah commemorates the 164 B.C. victory of the Jewish Maccabees over Syrian occupiers in and the subsequent rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem.
The holiday is a feast day and does not come with other obligations, thereby making it a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. However, Hanukkah has become a popular family and end-of-year secular celebration for many and carries traditions, including gift-giving and the evening lighting of the menorah, adding one new flame every night. The center candle (the shammash) is used to light the other candles at sunset. The menorah used for Hanukkah is called a hanukkiyah.
Kuvin Oren is a graduate of Princeton and Yale universities, according to her website. She completed a Master’s degree in public health and most of her PhD in epidemiology before switching careers and devoting herself full time to commissioned art and graphic design. Since 1984, she has created installation pieces for more than 400 houses of worship, schools, community centers and camps around the world.
Oren specializes in large installations of glass, mosaic, metal, fiber art, calligraphy, papercutting, and painting. She also creates Torah covers, Ark curtains, donor art, Huppot, Ketubot, wall hangings, and many other items for homes and institutions. The artist works with architects, professional and volunteer committees, fabricators, families and institutions commissioning her art.
Kuvin Oren’s website (https://www.kuvinoren.com/stamp) has a page dedicate to the stamp, including a video. She is married to Dr. Dan Oren, the mother of two grown daughters, and “Oma” to two grandchildren. She has studios in Connecticut and Jerusalem.
Jeannette Kuvin Oren – Stamp Artist
Jeannette Kuvin Oren shows her original quilt wall-hanging that became the basis for the 2022 Hanukkah stamp.
Somehow, Ethel Kessler saw “Light Unto the Nations” and contacted you. Did she tell you the circumstances of her viewing that piece?
Ethel saw the piece on my website and asked me to create a Hanukkah menorah (with nine flames) in the same style.
Do you recall when you started working on this piece?
In 2021 we were deep in the throes of the pandemic when Ethel called. I mean, what a truly uplifting and thrilling call! I am so deeply honored to have been asked by the USPS to create a stamp design.
The original “Light” piece just shows seven flames and the Hanukkah menorah, of course, is nine. So, this stamp artwork really is a whole new piece, correct?
This is a new piece. A Hanukkiah has nine branches and flames: the eight flames symbolize the “miracle” of the oil staying lit in the Temple for eight days (when it should have lasted only one day). The ninth flame, the shamash, lights the other eight. The shamash is given a special honor by being a different height from the other flames. The original seven-branch menorah stood in The Temple in Jerusalem. It was stolen by the Romans when The Temple was destroyed in 70 CE. The Arch of Titus in Rome has an image of that menorah being taken to Rome.
As for size, the “Light” piece is 72 inches by 52 inches. I know that stamp artwork must be relatively small, though yours seems a bit larger than some pieces I have seen from other artists. How big is this piece that the stamp is based on?
The USPS wall-hanging is 22 inches by 16 inches and will hang in the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.
Was working in the smaller size much of a challenge? If so, how so?
Since I am used to working much larger, this smaller size was a bit of a challenge. I used the same hand-dyed fabrics (silks in a variety of textures) I use for larger projects. But I had to be careful with the tiny details. I posted a one-minute video on “How I Made the Art” on my website, https://www.kuvinoren.com/stamp
Do you call this Hanukkah piece a quilt?
The Hanukkiah is a small quilt. It is made from hand-dyed silks (and other fabrics) that I piece and then quilt with layers of muslin and cotton batting. I embellish the quilt with black outlines and finish it with a backing fabric.
And the main fabric used was undyed silk?
All of the fabric on the front of the wall-hanging is silk that is hand dyed by me.
How did the colors for the stamp come about? All your choice or was Ethel involved? Is there significance to any of the colors and their placement?
The USPS has been so easy to work with! I painted a sketch and Ethel loved it. The green/browns and the round shape near the bottom of the stamp design symbolize “earth.” As you move upwards you see blue “water” and “sky.” The orange/yellow “flames” symbolize the hope of Hanukkah.
After you laid down the main pieces you “added” black outlines, according to the video. What is that material used for the black outlines?
After I’ve pieced and quilted the wall hanging, I sew black “bias tape” to create outlines. The overall effect makes it look like stained glass.
Along the way, did Ethel talk to you about what text had to be included and where it would go?
I wasn’t involved in the text placement but I love how the stamp came out!
Is there anything else interesting about this stamp or the process you would like to add?
After the USPS announced the stamp, I decided to create my own cachet. I’ve been hand-painting a Hanukkah design onto 6 ¾-inch envelopes and have really enjoyed learning about stamp collecting!
Your higher education was in health and medicine at Princeton and Yale – a master’s degree in public health and most of your PhD – and then you became an artist. That’s a pretty interesting switch. Care to offer the elevator version of how and why that happened?
You did your homework. I was on a course to complete a PhD in epidemiology and to work in public health. My husband and I were planning our wedding in 1984 when Rabbi Jim Ponet at Yale suggested I make our “ketubah” (the Jewish marriage contract, traditionally decorated and hung in the home after the wedding). I made our ketubah and started creating ketubot for other couples. After a while, I called my parents and said “Thank you for a great education, but I want to become a full-time Judaic artist.” We had an intense discussion but I haven’t looked back. (Of course, during the pandemic I did think what a cool time it has been to be an epidemiologist!)
What was your artistic training and background before this switch?
I am completely self-taught (but I’ve always loved creating!).
You have so many different areas you work in. Do you have a favorite?
I love moving between projects and media. Creating fiber art — dyeing fabric, piecing, sewing, quilting and embellishing — has always been my favorite activity. But I also love designing mosaics, glass art, and metal. And, of course, I love papercutting!
I am sure every project has its challenges and triumphs, but would you care to mention a couple of your most challenging projects and what you did to overcome those challenges?
The biggest challenge is before the designing begins. Unlike this commission, I am usually working with a large committee. I need to help the committee members get to “yes” on a single design idea. Before we can do that, there is a lot of discussion about theme, color, style and many other design elements. Happily, I’ve worked with hundreds of committees all over the work and we’ve all gotten to “yes.”
Excuse me if I have this wrong, but something noticeable to me about your works is that you are using very old techniques and processes, but the works often have a very fresh and modern look. I assume that is on purpose. What kinds of things go into creating that modern look?
All of my work begins with a love of being Jewish. I try to reflect the joy in all of my work, whether it’s in muted colors and a traditional design, or in bright colors and a more contemporary design. My personal tastes have become more streamlined over the years, but I love trying new techniques and styles to fit any project and the committees with whom I’m working.
Is most of your work linked to Judaism or do you also do secular pieces?
I would love to create secular art but in 37 years I haven’t had the time. All of my professional work has been Judaic art.