The following is part two of the article. To read part one click here.
The Mississippi River carries the mud of thirty states and two provinces 2,000 miles south to the delta and deposits 500 million tons of it there every year. The business of the Mississippi, which it will accomplish in time, is methodically to transport all of Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico.
– Charles Kuralt (1934-1997), news correspondent
“The Mississippi River is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity and biological productivity,” according to the National Park Service. “It is also one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and one of North America's great migration routes for both birds and fishes.”
Figure 4. The Mighty Mississippi pane of 10 features scenic photography from the 10 states that the river flows through. Information and purchases at https://aps.buzz/MightyMiss.
Ten Mighty Mississippi stamps (Figure 4) take modern look at this historic river, one of the world’s most important waterways. Each stamp shows a contemporary image from each of the 10 states in which the river flows, from its origins in Minnesota, to Louisiana and Mississippi, where it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Other scenes shown are from Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Perhaps the Postal Service was considering a quote from Mark Twain when it determined the theme of these stamps. From his book, Life on the Mississippi (1883), “The Mississippi River towns are comely, clean, well built, and pleasing to the eye, and cheering to the spirit,” wrote the great American humorist and philosopher, who held a great bond with the river. “The Mississippi Valley is as reposeful as a dreamland, nothing worldly about it . . . nothing to hang a fret or a worry upon.”
The diverse set of stamps was dedicated in a formal release on May 23 at Beale Street Landing in Memphis, Tennessee, and went on sale nationwide that day.
The stamps – printed on the Muller A76 press by Ashton Potter USA, in Williamsville, New York – are being sold in panes of 10 with three separate images in the selvage. Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp pane with existing photographs. The back of the pane shows a map of the central portion of the U.S. with the river highlighted.
The Mississippi River is at the core of the nation’s heritage and is variously referred to as America’s backbone, its heart and its soul. From Lake Itasca’s trickling overspill in Minnesota, the Mississippi flows and grows for 2,300 miles, the Postal Service noted. It streams through varied topography in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area, past Iowa’s millennium-old effigy mounds, and by the remains of Cahokia, the nation’s largest pre-Columbian city, in Illinois. The Gateway Arch in Missouri rises near where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked to venture westward in 1803.
The Ohio River, flowing in along Kentucky’s northern border, doubles the Mississippi’s volume. The Lower Mississippi is a riparian superhighway. Massive engineering works — channels, locks, dams and levees — help accommodate barge tows more than 1,000 feet long, common along the Arkansas-Tennessee boundary and beyond.
Abundant bayous in Mississippi and Louisiana split the river into a bird-foot-shaped delta. The New Orleans area hosts the river’s largest port. At the point where the Mississippi reaches the Gulf of Mexico, the trickle that started in Lake Itasca has intermingled with waters from 31 states.
The Postal Service identified the photographers, the respective states depicted and the photos, from left-to-right by rows from top down as the following:
Top row: Dana Holm, Minnesota, Lake Itasca; Jay Olson-Goude, Wisconsin, autumn view of the Great River Road.
Second row: David Sebben, Iowa, the steamboat American Queen near Bettendorf, Iowa; Walter Blackledge, Illinois, sailboat gliding past a limestone cliff wreathed in fall foliage.
Third row: Evan Spiler, Missouri, the Gateway Arch set against the St. Louis skyline at sunset; Larry Braun, Kentucky, city of Wickliffe, just south of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
Fourth row: Mississippi River Parkway Commission photo, Arkansas, curved levee flanked by a forest and farmland; M.J. Scanlon, Tennessee, towboat pushing a massive array of barges upriver with the Memphis skyline off in the distance.
Bottom row: Sean Pavone, Louisiana, brightly lit skyline of New Orleans and the twin Crescent City Connection bridges; Ron Levine, Mississippi, delta bayou dotted with cypress trees draped with Spanish moss.
Three photographic riverscapes illustrate the selvage. From top to bottom, the photos show the Julien Dubuque Bridge that spans the Mississippi River to connect Dubuque, Iowa, and East Dubuque, Ill., taken by Don McLaughlin; the skyline of St. Louis set against a multicolored cloudy sky, by Jeffrey Smith; and a bayou in Mississippi, by Tom Wolf.
The back of the pane features a map of the central United States that shows the course of the river and its major tributaries.
Several previous stamps, of course, have paid tribute to the Mississippi River. The best place to start is with the classic nine-stamp Trans-Mississippi set of 1898. The low and high values in the set show the river. French priest Father Jacques Marquette’s explorations are featured on the 1-cent stamp while the $2 stamp shows the 1,500-foot Eads bridge in St. Louis. The designs of all nine stamps were shown again in a centennial tribute souvenir sheet in 1998; the $2 bridge stamp became a 2-cent stamp on that sheet.
The 4-cent Louisiana Statehood stamp of 1962 shows a steamboat on the Mississippi River. A map of the river is found on the 5-cent Great River Road commemorative of 1966. Father Marquette appears again, this time in a canoe (presumably on the Mississippi) in a 6-cent commemorative from 1968. The Trans-Mississippi stamps of 1898 were repurposed into modern versions for their 1998 centennial. The 40-stamp Wonders of America pane of 39-centers of 2006 includes two Mississippi River stamps: as the largest delta in America, the Mississippi River Delta; and Mississippi-Missouri Longest River System.
Mississippi River Facts
The following are some facts from the National Park Service (https://www.nps.gov/miss/riverfacts.htm) about the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi River is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity and biological productivity. It is also one of the world’s most important commercial waterways and one of North America’s great migration routes for both birds and fishes.
Native Americans lived along its banks and used the river for sustenance and transportation. Early European explorers used the Mississippi to explore the interior and the northern reaches of what was to become the United States. Fur traders plied their trade on the river and soldiers of several nations garrisoned troops at strategic points, at various times, along the river when the area was still on the frontier.
White settlers from Europe and the United States (and often their slaves) arrived on steamboats dispossessing the Native Americans of their lands and converting the landscape into farms and cities.
Today, the Mississippi River powers a significant segment of the economy in the upper Midwest. Barges and their tows move approximately 175 million tons of freight each year on the upper Mississippi through a system of 29 locks and dams. It is also a major recreational resource for boaters, canoeists, hunters, anglers, and birdwatchers and offers many outdoor opportunities.
The Mississippi River powers a significant segment of the economy in the upper Midwest. Barges and their tows move approximately 175 million tons of freight each year on the upper Mississippi through a system of 29 locks and dams. It is also a major recreational resource for boaters, canoeists, hunters, anglers, and birdwatchers and offers many outdoor opportunities.
The Mississippi River is the second longest river in North America, flowing 2,350 miles from its source at Lake Itasca through the center of the continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico. The Missouri River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, is about 100 miles longer.
When compared to other world rivers, the Mississippi-Missouri River combination ranks fourth in length (3,710 miles) following the Nile (4,160 miles), the Amazon (4,000 miles) and the Yangtze rivers (3,964 miles).
At Lake Itasca, the river is between 20 and 30 feet wide, the narrowest stretch for its entire length. The widest part of the Mississippi can be found at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena, Minnesota, where it is wider than 11 miles. The widest navigable section in the shipping channel of the Mississippi is Lake Pepin, where the channel is approximately 2 miles wide.
At the headwaters of the Mississippi, the average surface speed of the water is about 1.2 miles per hour - roughly one-half as fast as people walk. At New Orleans the river flows at about three miles per hour.
A January 2000 study published by the Upper Mississippi River Conservation Committee states that close to 15 million people rely on the Mississippi River or its tributaries in just the upper half of the basin (from Cairo, Illinois to Minneapolis) for a daily water supply.
Agriculture has been the dominant land use for nearly 200 years in the Mississippi basin and has altered the hydrologic cycle and energy budget of the region. The agricultural products and the huge agribusiness industry that has developed in the basin produce 92 percent of the nation's agricultural exports, 78 percent of the world's exports in feed grains and soybeans, and most of the livestock and hogs produced nationally.
Shipping at the lower end of the Mississippi is focused on petroleum and petroleum products, iron and steel, grain, rubber, paper, wood, coffee, coal, chemicals and edible oils.
The Mississippi River and its floodplain are home to a diverse population of living things:
- At least 260 species of fish, 25 percent of all fish species in North America, live in the Mississippi River
- Forty percent of the nation’s migratory waterfowl use the river corridor during their spring and fall migration.
- Sixty percent of all North American birds (326 species) use the Mississippi River Basin as their migratory flyway.
- The Upper Mississippi is host to more than 50 mammal species.
- At least 145 species of amphibians and reptiles inhabit the Upper Mississippi River environs.
Nicknames: Big River, Ol’ Man River, The Great River, The Mighty Mississippi, The Father of Waters, Old Blue, the Muddy Mississippi.