US stamps feature Mexican artist Martín Ramírez

Martin Ramirez Forever stamps

The U.S. Postal Service has honored the work of Mexican artist Martín(pronounced Mar-teen) Ramírez by placing five of his more than 450 dynamic drawings and collages on Limited Edition Forever stamps. The First-Day-of-Issue stamp dedication ceremony took place Thurs., March 26,  at the Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York City. The event is free and open to the public.

Although confined to psychiatric hospitals for more than 30 years, Ramírez transcended his own situation to create a remarkably visualized world free from the constraints of borders or time itself. Characterized by repeating lines, idiosyncratic motifs, and daring perspective, Ramírez’s art blends the emotional and physical landscapes of his life in Mexico with the modern popular culture of the United States. Although he worked mostly outside the art world in his lifetime, Ramírez is recognized today as one of the great artists of the 20th century. He was born in 1895 in a rural community in Guadalajara, and died in 1963.

“Our choice of Martin Ramírez as the subject of a Forever stamp sheet reflects the widespread — and growing — influence he has had on art in the United States, as well as on artists throughout the world,” said U.S. Postal Service Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Joseph Corbett, who will dedicate the stamps.

“And though his name remained virtually unknown in the decade following his death in 1963, Martin Ramírez’s work has become some of the most highly valued examples of art. Today, he joins the ranks of other famous artists, such as Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keefe, William H. Johnson and Frida Kahlo, who have been honored on American postage stamps.”

Scheduled to join Corbett in the ceremony will be Ambassador Sandra Fuentes-Berain, Consul General of Mexico in New York; Prospect New Orleans/U.S. Biennial Executive Director Brooke Davis Anderson; “New York” magazine Senior Editor Jerry Saltz; and, Frank Maresca , partner, Ricco/Maresca Gallery.

Ramírez’s known body of work now comprises more than 450 drawings and collages “is a complete wonder,” said Brooke Davis Anderson, executive director of Prospect New Orleans, “because the artist defied his environment and diagnosis to create astounding art.”

The pane of 20 self-adhesive Forever stamps is imbued with hypnotic power and remarkable personal vision.

The first row of stamps highlights a floral detail from “Untitled (Horse and Rider with Trees),” created with crayon and pencil in 1954 on paper that has been pieced together. The artwork is owned by George and Sue Veiner.

The second row of stamps showcases the central image of “Untitled (Man Riding Donkey),” a gouache, colored pencil, and graphite drawing on paper from circa 1960 -1963. The artwork is owned by American author and academic Richard Rubenstein.

The third row of stamps shows a detail from “Untitled (Trains on Inclined Tracks),” a gouache, colored pencil, and graphite drawing on pieced paper from circa 1960–1963. The artwork is part of a private collection.

The fourth row of stamps showcases the central image of “Untitled (Deer).” The gouache, colored pencil, and graphite drawing on paper dates from circa 1960–1963. The owner of the image is unknown.

The fifth row of stamps features a detail from “Untitled (Tunnel With Cars and Buses).” The drawing was made with pencil, colored pencil, watercolor, and crayon on paper in 1954. The artwork is owned by the Guggenheim Museum.

The pane's verso includes brief text about Ramírez and his importance to 20th century American art.
Art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, designed the stamp pane.

Ramírez’s Origin
Ramírez and his family owned a small ranch and were devout Catholics, two cultural references that would later figure prominently in his art. By the early 1920s, Ramírez had set up his own small rural property and started a family, but ranchero life was difficult and money scarce. In 1925, he left Mexico for the United States, where, like other migrant workers at the time, he worked in mines and on the railroad.

Ramírez’s property was destroyed in a regional war just two years after he left Mexico, and the conflict prevented him from returning home to his wife and children. A few years later, he lost his job as a result of the Great Depression. Tens of thousands of Mexican migrant workers were deported from California during this period, but Ramírez was not among them. Emotionally upset and in poor physical condition, he was detained by police in 1931. Unable or unwilling to communicate, he was committed to a psychiatric hospital in northern California.

Catatonic Schizophrenia Diagnosis
After several months under observation, and without the aid of an interpreter, Ramírez was diagnosed with catatonic schizophrenia. During the clinical evaluation he limited himself to repeating that he did not speak English.

His Art
After leaving a psychiatric hospital, Ramírez began to draw obsessively. He worked crouched on the floor over enormous sheets of paper that he constructed out of discarded papers, cigarette packaging, and paper cups glued together with a paste he made himself. His usual art materials included pencils, crayons, shoe polish, red juice extracted from fruits, and the charcoal from used matchsticks.

Sometimes he used a tongue depressor as a straightedge. He also clipped images from magazines, which he occasionally added to his drawings. In spite of the shortage of materials, his works range in size from two feet to more than 20 feet long. To evaluate such large-scale pieces, he would lay out the scrolls on the floor and climb on a table to get a good look.

One of the first characteristics most viewers notice about Ramírez’s work are the lines. Repetitive and hypnotic, the lines define both space and time without constricting them. Not only do the lines carry viewers across the narrative plane and give depth to Ramírez’s images, but they also draw viewers into an idealized world where overcrowded highways and the railroads that Ramírez helped build lead directly to the towns, churches, and countryside of rural Mexico — and back again.

Filled with nostalgic scenes of his life in Mexico, Ramírez's drawings balance tradition and modernity, the figurative and the abstract. As with his use of lines, Ramírez repeated a small but refined vocabulary of motifs in drawing after drawing. One of his most frequent motifs was the horseback rider, or jinete. Nearly as common are trains and tunnels, which came to dominate his later work, including one scroll nearly 20 feet long from 1963. Other favorite images include landscapes, buildings, churches, Madonnas and desert wildlife. Although he used these motifs again and again for 30 years, Ramírez altered the details in each of his drawings to create enormous variety. The content of his work suggests that drawing was a prime means for preserving memory and identity, and for giving sense and order to the world around him.

Critical and public interest in Ramírez’s art began in the early 1950s, when a number of visitors to the hospital, including Dr. Tarmo Pasto, a professor of psychology and art at California State University, recognized the unique value of Ramírez's artwork. For the next two decades, Pasto and others supplied Ramírez with art-making materials, preserved his drawings, and helped organize public exhibitions, including shows at the de Young Memorial Museum and other museums in Northern California.

His Work Shown Anonymously
Purportedly because of the California laws applicable to institutionalized persons, Ramírez’s work was shown anonymously during his lifetime, and his name remained virtually unknown in the decade following his death in 1963. By the mid-1970s, however, his drawings were being exhibited to a much wider audience. “Ramírez’s work anticipates many contemporary trends, while unconsciously echoing earlier styles,” wrote one “Chicago Tribune” reviewer. “The compelling use of space, poetic re-creation of forms, and extraordinary vitality all scream for attention.”

In 1985, a retrospective of Ramírez’s drawings was held in Philadelphia before touring the U.S. and then traveling to Canada and Mexico. Ten years later, curators at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City discovered ten previously unknown drawings that had been held by the museum since the 1950s. In 2007, a retrospective show at the American Folk Art Museum established Ramírez as one of the great artists of the 20th century. The following year and to wide acclaim, the same museum exhibited some of the more than 140 drawings by Ramírez discovered in a California garage. In 2010, the New York exhibit was replicated by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the foremost contemporary art museum in Spain. In the same year, one of Ramírez’s drawings was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for its permanent collection.

Customers may purchase the stamps at usps.com/stamps, the Postal Store, at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724) and at Post Offices nationwide or visit ebay.com/stamps to shop for a wide variety of postage stamps and collectibles.

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks
Customers have 60 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office, at The Postal Store website at usps.com/shop, or by calling 800-STAMP-24. They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others, and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

Martin Ramirez Stamps
Special Events Coordinator
380 West 33rd Street
New York, NY 10199-9998

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by May 25, 2015.

Ordering First-Day Covers
The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamp issues and Postal Service stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog, online atusps.com/shop or by calling 800-782-6724. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-782-6724 or writing to:

U.S. Postal Service
Catalog Request
PO Box 219014
Kansas City, MO  64121-9014

Philatelic Products
Eight philatelic products are available.

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Vintage rose and tulip stamps aimed at couples planning to wed

To add a special touch to Valentine’s Day, on February 14 the Postal Service issued two new stamps aimed at couples heading for the altar — the elegant Vintage Rose Forever stamp and the 2-ounce Vintage Tulip stamp. The flower stamps were dedicated in a ceremony at AmeriStamp Expo, the American Philatelic Society’s second largest annual event, held February 13-15, 2015 at the Riverside Convention Center in Riverside, California, featuring more than 75 on-site dealers and 300-plus frames of exhibits.

vintage rose and tulip stamps from the USPSBoth flower stamps are engraved to provide an elegant feel to wedding invitations and other heartfelt correspondence.

The art of both stamps feature an elaborate floral line drawings. A small, deep crimson heart on each stamp brings a dash of color to the designs and makes them a natural pair. Greg Breeding of Charlottesville, VA, was the art director. The Vintage Tulip and Vintage Rose stamps are the latest additions to the popular Weddings series.

The all-occasion 1-ounce Vintage Rose Forever stamp can be used for wedding RSVP cards and thank you notes, Mother’s and Father’s Day cards, Valentine’s Day cards, birthday cards, sympathy cards, thinking-of-you cards — and for all occasions when a beautiful stamp is fitting. The 70-cent 2-ounce Vintage Tulip stamp accommodates the added weight of RSVPs in invitations for weddings and other celebrations as well as for greeting cards and mailings such as small gifts requiring extra postage.

Jeanne Greco of New York City designed the stamps using drawings from engraved plates originally created by naturalist artist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647–1717). A small, deep crimson heart on both stamps adds a dash of color to the designs and makes them a natural pair.

Customers may purchase the stamps by visiting the official United States Postal Service store at ebay.com/stamps to shop for a wide variety of postage stamps and collectibles. The stamps are also available at post offices nationwide or by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724).

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office, at official United States Postal Service store at United States Postal Service store on eBay. They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others, and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

The Vintage Rose/Vintage Tulip Stamps
Postmaster
Riverside Main Post Office
3890 Orange St.
Riverside, CA 92501-3638

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by Apr. 15, 2015.

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US honors architect of Tuskegee Institute with new stamp

Robert Robinson Taylor, believed to have been both the first African-American graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the nation’s first academically trained black architect was honored as the 38th person featured in the United States Postal Service’s Black Heritage Stamp series.

The first-day-of-issuance ceremony, which took place on February 12, 2015, at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, coincided with the opening of the museum’s “Freedom Around the Corner: Black America from the Civil War to Civil Rights” exhibit. Taylor's great granddaughter, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett joined Postmaster General Megan Brennan in dedicating the stamp.

us-robert-robinson-taylor-black-heritage-2015“Anytime I face a daunting challenge and self-doubt creeps in, I think of my great grandfather, Robert Taylor, the son of a slave, who traveled from Wilmington, NC, to attend M.I.T. in 1888,” said Jarrett. “He believed that with a good education, hard work, relentless determination and a dedication to family, there were no limits to what he could accomplish. The example he set gives me strength and courage. My family is proud to stand on his shoulders and we know that it is our responsibility to embrace his values, to ensure that his legacy will be ‘forever stamped’ in the conscious of future generations.”

“Robert Robinson Taylor expanded opportunities for African-Americans in fields that had largely been closed to them,” said Brennan, who earned her MBA from MIT. “Booker T. Washington recruited Taylor to the Tuskegee Institute to help show the world what an all-black institution could accomplish. Taylor designed and oversaw the construction of dozens of new buildings built in an elegant, dignified style that befitted his personality. But it was Tuskegee’s Chapel that Taylor considered to be his finest achievement and masterpiece. Washington referred to the graceful, round-arch structure as the ‘most imposing building’ at Tuskegee. As one of our nation’s calling cards, we hope this stamp will encourage more Americans to learn more about Robert Robinson Taylor’s life and career.”

Joining Brennan and Jarrett in the dedication were MIT President Dr. Rafael Reif; Tuskegee University President Dr. Brian Johnson; Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee member Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Smithsonian National Postal Museum Director Allen Kane.

For more than three decades, Taylor (1868–1942) supervised the design and construction of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama while also overseeing the school’s programs in industrial education and the building trades. Through his calm leadership and quiet dignity, he earned the admiration of colleagues and students alike while expanding opportunities for African-Americans in fields that had largely been closed to them.

Son of a Former Slave

Taylor was born June 6, 1868, in Wilmington, NC. His father was a former slave who had become a successful carpenter, contractor and merchant. From his father, Taylor learned carpentry and construction. After graduating from secondary school, he worked as a construction foreman before moving to Boston in 1888 to study in the architecture program at MIT.

Taylor’s studies were rigorous. He typically spent seven hours in class per day, and by his second year was taking as many as 10 courses per semester in such wide-ranging subjects as mechanics, acoustics, structural geology, heating, ventilation and sanitation, as well as in drawing, history, English and French. He earned honors in trigonometry, architectural history, differential calculus and applied mechanics, and was always at or near the top of his class.

Upon graduating, Taylor had several offers for teaching jobs, including an invitation from educator and activist Booker T. Washington to work at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. Washington had founded the school in 1881 not only to help African-Americans acquire valuable practical skills, but also to show the world what an all-black institution could accomplish.

Developed Tuskegee’s Architectural Curriculum

When Taylor arrived at Tuskegee in 1892, he was both a beginning architect and a busy teacher of architectural and mechanical drawing to students in all industrial trades, including building construction. Before the decade was over, he had established a beginning architecture curriculum that included carpentry, cost estimation, training in drawing building plans and the study of construction problems. Tuskegee soon began offering a certificate in architectural drawing, which would help graduates enter collegiate architecture programs or win entry-level positions in architectural offices. Taylor’s efforts furthered Washington’s dream of producing not just African-American builders and carpenters, but designers and architects who planned the buildings as well.

Designer of Tuskegee’s Campus

At the same time, Taylor set about designing and building the Tuskegee campus. Upon his arrival, the school was an assortment of cottages, cabins, and simple wood-frame or brick buildings scattered across an abandoned plantation. In the years following, Taylor designed and oversaw the construction of dozens of new, state-of-the-art buildings, from libraries and dormitories to lecture halls, faculty housing, gymnasia, scientific and agricultural facilities, industrial workshops, a hospital — and, most memorably, a handsome chapel that was used for conferences, graduation ceremonies, and religious services.

Taylor’s Colonial-style designs, including half a dozen buildings with grand porticos and large classical columns, were built of richly textured, multihued bricks made by the students themselves. In keeping with Washington’s belief that well-designed community buildings proved and nurtured racial progress, Taylor typically built in a style that was also consistent with his own personality: elegant, dignified and persuasive without being showy.

Taylor left Tuskegee in 1899 to work and study new building methods in Cleveland, but continued to design buildings for the school. When he returned in 1902, he was given the title he held for the rest of his career: Director of Mechanical Industries. He continued to design new buildings and oversaw the Department of Mechanical Industries, which included 22 divisions that trained harness makers, tinsmiths, wheelwrights, tailors, plumbers, steamfitters and many other skilled artisans.

His Inspirational Words

A 1915 letter captures the calm determination that surely inspired students under Taylor’s care. “There are not a great many colored architects and engineers in the country — comparatively few — but the number is increasing and I am glad to say that because of their work they have gradually gained the confidence of the public,” Taylor wrote. “I realize that in any movement which borders on that of the pioneer, that it takes some courage and some determination, but I believe that any risk which we may take in any operation, in any business or in any occupation, we will be fully repaid when we see that more and more avenues are being opened up for colored young men and colored young women, and the best lesson that we can give them is to let them see the things which have actually been accomplished by colored men and by colored women. I believe this would be among the greatest contributions that we can make towards racial progress.”

Unfaltering Leadership

Later in his career, Taylor played such a major role at Tuskegee that he served as acting principal when the principal was traveling. When members of the Ku Klux Klan paraded on a public road through the campus in 1923, Taylor kept the peace. He allowed a student dance to proceed as scheduled, assured the press that the institute could handle any trouble, and calmly watched from his veranda as the parade passed. He soon earned a promotion to vice principal for his strong, dignified display of leadership — but continued to serve as Director of Mechanical Industries.

Later in his career, Taylor designed or co-designed buildings beyond the Tuskegee campus as well, including a combined classroom, chapel and administrative building at Selma University; a combination office, entertainment, and retail building in Birmingham, and elegant libraries in North Carolina and Texas. In 1929, presented with a particularly interesting opportunity, he traveled to Liberia to help establish the Booker T. Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute. He helped organize the curriculum and advised on staffing, leadership, and facilities, serving as an intermediary between missionaries, businesses, and the Liberian government; he also designed plans for the campus and its first structures. The trip was covered by the African-American press, and Lincoln University in Pennsylvania awarded him an honorary doctorate for his work.

Public Service and Advocacy Following Retirement

After retiring in 1932, Taylor returned to Wilmington, NC, and spent the final decade of his life engaged in quiet but determined public service and advocacy. He promoted a federal homesteading project for African-American farmers and argued in favor of federally funded African-American recreation projects. He was elected vice chairman of the Wilmington Inter-Racial Commission, served on the board of Fayetteville State Teacher’s College, and wrote to the U.S. Civil Service Commission in 1941 to protest discrimination against African Americans in the defense industry.

Final Moments Surrounded by his Masterpiece

Taylor died Dec. 13, 1942, at the age of 74 after collapsing in a chapel during a visit to Tuskegee. According to family, moments before an aneurism struck Taylor, the famously modest man who rarely talked about his work acknowledged that the chapel was his masterpiece.

In her 2012 book about Taylor and Tuskegee, architectural historian Ellen Weiss writes that Taylor was eulogized for “his principled character, his organizational abilities, his special tact on interracial matters, and his achievements as an educator and architect.” Colleagues and friends recalled him as eloquent, intelligent, dignified and kind.

MIT’s Influence

In a talk he gave on the occasion of MIT’s 50th anniversary in 1911, Taylor summarized what his MIT training helped bring to Tuskegee. In the process, he encapsulated both his personal strengths and his lasting legacy: “the love of doing things correctly, of putting logical ways of thinking into the humblest task, of studying surrounding conditions, of soil, of climate, of materials and of using them to the best advantage in contributing to build up the immediate community in which the persons live, and in this way increasing the power and grandeur of the nation.”

The Robert Robinson Taylor stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp which is always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Customers may purchase the stamps by visiting the official United States Postal Service store at ebay.com/stamps to shop for a wide variety of postage stamps and collectibles. The stamps are also available at post offices nationwide or by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724).

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office, at The Postal Store website at usps.com/shop, or by calling 800-STAMP-24. They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others, and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

Robert Robinson Taylor Stamp
Special Events
PO Box 92282
Washington, DC 20090-2282

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by Apr. 13, 2015.

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US issues $2 Patriotic Wave stamp

United States Postal Service has issued a new $2 Patriotic Wave stamp for use on packages, large envelopes and other mailings. The stamp was released in ceremonies at the Southeastern Stamp Expo in Norcross, Georgia on January 30, 2015.

Bringing a contemporary vibe to the traditional red, white and blue, $2 Patriotic Wave is one of two similarly designed stamps issued by the Postal Service in 2015. The other stamp, issued Jan. 12, is denominated at the $1 price.

us-patriotic-wave-2015The stamp features red and blue intersecting lines on a white background in an abstract pattern reminiscent of billowing flags. A portion on the lower right side of the stamp provides white space to display the dollar sign and the numeral 2. Designer Michael Dyer of Brooklyn, NY, worked with art director Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, VA, to create this stamp.

Customers may purchase the stamps by visiting the official United States Postal Service store at ebay.com/stamps to shop for a wide variety of postage stamps and collectibles. The stamps are also available at post offices nationwide or by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724).

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They should purchase and affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

$2 Patriotic Waves Stamp
Norcross Main Office
265 Mitchell Rd.
Norcross, GA 30071-9998

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by March 31, 2015.

The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamp issues and Postal Service stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the official United States Postal Service store at the official United States Postal Service store on eBay or the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-782-6724 or writing to:

U.S. Postal Service
Catalog Request
PO Box 219014
Kansas City, MO 64121-9014

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US stamp features Year of the Ram

The U.S. Postal Service welcomed the Year of the Ram on February 7, 2015 by issuing the eighth of 12 stamps in its Celebrating Lunar New Year series. The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Forever stamp took place at the Chinese Culture Center in San Francisco. The series will continue through 2019 with Forever stamps for the Year of the Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. Year of the Ram is being issued as a souvenir sheet of 12 self-adhesive stamps.

US year of the ram stamp (2015)Joining Lee in dedicating the stamp was stamp artist Kam Mak. “One of my favorite Lunar New Year pastimes was to raid my grandmother’s tray of togetherness with all of the wonderful treats inside,” said Mak. “She would remind my sisters and I to save some for the visiting guests. People born under the Year of the Ram are artistically talented and have an appreciation for the fine arts. The artwork depicting the beautifully hand-lacquered tray of togetherness with the intricate inlay of flowers and bird, express these traits vividly.”

Art director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, MD, worked on the series with illustrator Kam Mak, an artist who grew up in New York City’s Chinatown and now lives in Brooklyn. The artwork focuses on some of the common ways the Lunar New Year holiday is celebrated. For the Year of the Ram, (Feb. 19, 2015 – Feb. 7, 2016), the illustration — originally created using oil paints on panel — depicts a wooden candy tray known as a chuen-hop or Tray of Togetherness. The tray is filled with dried fruits, candies, and other treats to provide a sweet beginning to the New Year.

The ram, alternately referred to as a sheep or a goat, is one of 12 animals associated with the Chinese lunar calendar. According to an old legend, the animals raced across a river to determine their order in the cycle. The rat crossed by riding on the back of the ox, jumping ahead at the last minute to win the race. Next came the ox, then the tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake and horse, followed by the ram in eighth place.

People born in the year of a particular animal are said to share characteristics with that animal. Individuals born during the Year of the Ram are said to be shy, creative and wise.

As the most important holiday of the year for many Asian communities around the world, the Lunar New Year is celebrated primarily by people of Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tibetan and Mongolian heritage. Images associated with some of these widespread customs are depicted in the Celebrating Lunar New Year series.

In the United States and elsewhere, the occasion is marked in various ways across many cultures; parades featuring enormous and vibrantly painted papier-mâché dragons, parties, and other special events are common. Many families set out a candy tray known as the chuen-hop or Tray of Togetherness like the one depicted in the stamp art to provide guests with an assortment of dried fruits and candies for a sweet beginning to the new year. Drums are played to celebrate this time of renewed hope for the future, with drumsticks sometimes painted red for luck. Firecrackers are set off to ward off evil spirits. Red envelopes (hong bao) containing money are given as gifts to children and loved ones.

The U.S. Postal Service introduced its Celebrating Lunar New Year series in 2008 with the Year of the Rat stamp. The Year of the Ram is being issued as a Forever stamp. This Forever stamp will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail 1-ounce price.

Customers may purchase the stamps at 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), at Post Offices nationwide or visit the USPS Postal Store at ebay.com/stamps to shop for a wide variety of postage stamps and collectibles.

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain the first-day-of-issue postmark by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office, at The Postal Store website at usps.com/shop, or by calling 800-STAMP-24. They should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others, and place them in a larger envelope addressed to:

Lunar New Year: Year of the Ram Stamp
Attention: Station Manager
Chinatown Station
867 Stockton St.
San Francisco, CA 94108-9998

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for the postmark up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged 5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by March 31, 2015.

Ordering First-Day Covers

The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamp issues and Postal Service stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog, online at usps.com/shop or by calling 800-782-6724. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-782-6724 or writing to:

U.S. Postal Service
Catalog Request
PO Box 219014
Kansas City, MO 64121-9014

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Canada issues first fabric stamp

Pushing the boundaries of stamp production, Canada Post has created Canada's first fabric stamp as a fitting celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag, a symbol cherished at home and widely recognized and respected abroad.

Denominated at $5, the innovative stamp uses a satin rayon fabric and special ink to create a durable and spectacular image. Canada Post is also issuing a celebratory PermanentTM rate stamp that showcases an undulating flag with a blue sky and "50" in the background.

Canada Post to issue Canada's first fabric stamp"Our flag is a symbol that resonates with Canadians the world over," says the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, responsible for Canada Post. "When we see our flag at home, it reminds us of our freedoms and values, and when we see it abroad, it reminds us of home."

"The flag has become part of the fabric of our lives," says Deepak Chopra, President and CEO of Canada Post. "As these stamps travel far and wide, they will be a fitting tribute."

The flag was flown in public for the first time on February 15, 1965, at an inaugural ceremony before a crowd of thousands on Parliament Hill. It was immediately and enthusiastically embraced – but it had been borne of emotional debate. The first version had been sewn on short notice by a young amateur seamstress, Joan O'Malley, who was asked by her father, a senior civil servant, to sew prototypes during Canada's flag debate. Her prototype flags helped bring Canada closer to the maple leaf.

Canada Post's tributes to the flag were designed by Kosta Tsetsekas, a veteran stamp designer at Signals, a Vancouver design firm. He and the printer, Canadian Bank Note, collaborated on the painstaking production details of the fabric stamp. A series of tests refined the application of the ink on the fabric and ensured the die cutting would be precise. The result of this extensive planning is a consistently stunning production run that showcases the flag on fabric.

About the stamps
Canada Post is issuing two stamps to celebrate the anniversary of the flag. Canada's first fabric stamp, printed on a satin rayon fabric, is a self-adhesive $5 stamp that measures 100 mm by 50 mm and is available as a souvenir sheet or affixed to an Official First Day Cover (OFDC) cancelled in Ottawa. One thousand limited edition uncut press sheets, signed by the original seamstress, Joan O'Malley, are also available to mark the occasion. In addition, a Permanent self-adhesive commemorative stamp that measures 40 mm by 32 mm is also available in booklets of 10 or affixed to an OFDC, also cancelled in Ottawa, ON.

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