On September 12, 2019, in Huntington Station, NY, the United States Postal Service will issue a non-denominated Walt Whitman stamp priced at the 3-ounce rate (currently 85¢) in a pressure-sensitive adhesive pane of 20 stamps.
With this stamp—the 32nd issue in the Literary Arts series—the Postal Service honors the bicentennial birthday of one of the giants of American poetry, Walt Whitman (1819-92), in the town where he was born on north-central Long Island, New York.
The stamp features a portrait of Whitman based on a photograph taken by Frank Pearsall in 1869. In the background, a hermit thrush sitting on the branch of a lilac bush recalls “When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d,” an elegy for President Abraham Lincoln written by Whitman soon after Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865.
Considered by many as the father of modern American poetry, Whitman broke away from dominant European poetic forms and experimented with free verse and colloquial expressions, writing powerfully about nearly every aspect of 19th-century America.
The artist for the stamp was Sam Weber. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamp. The words “THREE OUNCE” on this stamp indicate its usage value, (currently 85¢).
Authors and poets both were the first to be celebrated with separate five-stamp sets by the Post Office Department in its Famous American series of 1940, and a 5¢ ultramarine stamp for Whitman with a long beard and artfully cocked hat was among them (Scott 867).
It’s been more than three generations since Walt Whitman was hailed as a Famous American Poet on this 5¢ stamp in 1940, Scott 867.
Though other stamps portrayed other poets and writers, the U.S. Postal Service began its current Literary Arts series in 1979 with a 15¢ dark blue engraved stamp honoring the late novelist John Steinbeck (Scott 1773). First-class letter-rate stamps were issued for other important writers thereafter, Edith Wharton in 1980 (Scott 1832), Nathanial Hawthorne in 1983 (Scott 2047), although a few noteworthy wordsmiths have stamps of different designs and for some reason were not included in the series, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1981 (Scott 1926).
The first stamp in the 40-year-old Literary Arts series was this 15¢ John Steinbeck stamp issued in 1979, Scott 1773.
In 2012, a “Forever” (45¢) stamp For O. Henry, the nom de plume of short-story writer William S. Porter (Scott 4705), was the last of the letter-rate Literary Arts stamps. In 2014, African-American novelist and essayist Ralph Ellison appeared on the first 91¢ Literary Arts stamp to pay the 3-ounce letter rate (Scott 4866). It was followed in 2014 by a non-denominated “Three Ounce” (93¢) Literary Arts stamp for Flannery O’Connor (Scott 5003), and a similar but reduced-rate (89¢) stamp for Henry James before Whitman’s 200th anniversary came round.
After more than three decades, this O. Henry “FOREVER” (45¢) commemorative from 2012, Scott 4705, became the last Literary Arts stamp to pay the domestic letter rate.
In 2014, this 91¢ Ralph Ellison stamp, Scott 4866, was the first Literary Arts stamp to pay the three-ounce first-class rate.
Customers have 120 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their post office or on the internet at usps.com/shop. They must affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others, and place them in a larger envelope with sufficient mint U.S. postage addressed to:
FDOI — Walt Whitman Stamp
USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services
8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300
Kansas City, MO 64144-9900
After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for up to 50 postmarks, but a 5¢ charge for each additional postmark over 50. All orders must be postmarked by January 12, 2020.