Stamp Academy: 45 Years of Love
The LOVE stamp is always a ubiquitous choice for wedding invitations and Valentine's Day, but we love this year's design so much we could use it every day! Designed by artist Anna Rifle Bond (of Rifle Paper Co.), the U.S. Postal Service fills us in on the story behind this year's addition to the LOVE Stamp series:
Love Flourishes is the latest stamp in the popular LOVE series, which began 45 years ago.
The stamp art features a fanciful garden of colorful flowers surrounding the word “Love” written in cursive script. Hand-painted by artist Anna Rifle Bond, the flower garden includes stylized roses, peonies and dahlias in pink, coral and yellow, with pale blue-green berries and fold fronds and leaves.
Maura McDevitt, Vice President, USPS Controller, dedicated the stamp in January of 2018, and shared a few thoughts on the importance of handwritten letters, and the specialness of the LOVE stamp:
“When it comes to expressing appreciation for the people we love most, nothing matches the mail. We hope the Love Flourishes stamp will help you send cards and letters to those you care about with a special touch of affection, and serve as a reminder that no matter what the season or reason, flowers, especially on a stamp, are the perfect way to send love.”
Love may be a universal theme, but the first U.S. stamp to commemorate this basic human emotion didn’t appear until January 1973. The design was based on the iconic LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana (born 1928), today one of the most well-known works in the pop art movement.
Although the first LOVE stamp was enormously popular, it would be eight years before the LOVE theme was repeated. Finally, following numerous requests, in 1982 the USPS released a floral tribute with the word “LOVE” spelled out in a variety of flowers.
Two years later, in 1984, a third LOVE stamp was issued, this one showing five repetitions of the word “LOVE” with a different colored heart replacing the “V” in each.
Generic LOVE stamps appeared in 1985 and 1986, picking up the primary color scheme from the 1984 issue. This color scheme would continue pretty consistently for the next ten years.
In 1987 the postal announcement was made that “in recognition of the universal nature of the theme” a new LOVE stamp would continue to be issued annually.
By 1988 the annual production of the popular series was approaching one billion stamps, and the USPS decided to offer something more. For the first time there would be two LOVE stamps: one for the standard 1-oz. first class postage rate and the other for the 2-oz. rate. This reflected the popular use of the stamp on wedding invitations.
There was no LOVE stamp in 1989, but there was a 25¢ stamped envelope issued. It was described as “designed to provide household mailers with an attractive envelope for personal correspondence.” There have been only a few stamped LOVE envelopes over the years and they are not easy to find.
The next major event was the 1995–1996 series of releases of two “cherub” LOVE stamps. The two designs each featured a cherub from Raphael’s Renaissance masterpiece The Sistine Madonna (1483–152).
The 1999 1-oz. and 2-oz. complementary LOVE stamps were the first U.S. self-adhesives to be die-cut to the shape of the images depicted.
The USPS continued to issue “paired” LOVE stamp designs — one paying the 1-oz. first class rate, the other paying the 2-oz. rate — on and off until 2006, when the first specifically designated “Wedding” stamps appeared.
The first set of the “Our Wedding” special stamps were released during a fashion show at Kleinfeld’s, New York City’s premier wedding and bridal store. A live model was in the window to unveil the stamps, which featured a white dove — a time-honored symbol of peace, love, and fidelity — and a heart. Reminiscent of a bygone era when letter writing was a form of art, the stamp design is based on Spenserian script, an elegant mid-nineteenth century form of cursive writing.
Since 2006, new LOVE stamps have been issued every year. We hope the tradition never ends!