1983 20c Street Cars

# 2059-62 - 1983 20c Street Cars

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U.S. #2059-62
1983 20¢ Streetcars

  • Issued for the 151st anniversary of the world’s first streetcar system 

Stamp Category:  Commemorative
Set: 
Streetcars
Value: 
20¢, first-class rate
First Day of Issue: 
October 8, 1983
First Day City: 
Kennebunkport, Maine
Quantity Issued: 
51,931,250 blocks
Printed by: 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: 
Photogravure and engraved
Format: 
Panes of 50 in sheets of 200
Perforations:  11

Why the stamps were issued:  To commemorate the 151st anniversary of the first streetcar system in the world.

 

About the stamp designs:  The Streetcars were the first stamps designed by Richard Leech.  He based his artwork on photographs of old trolleys as well as examples on display in museums.

 

First Day City:  The Streetcar stamp designs were initially unveiled on May 6 in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas, which was the last city to operate a horsedrawn trolley.  The First Day ceremony was held at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, which houses over 100 streetcars, several of which are still functional. 

 

Unusual fact about these stamps:  Streetcar error stamps exist with the black ink missing or dramatically shifted.

 

About the Streetcar Stamps:  A group of streetcar enthusiasts were the driving force behind the 1983 Streetcar stamps.  The group’s leader was also a stamp collector, Robert Everett Jr.  In 1974, Everett started creating his own streetcar cachets and sending them to towns and cities that offered special trolley car pictorial cancels.  Then in 1979, Everett suggested that the USPS issue stamps to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first horsedrawn car on rails in the world, which occurred on November 14, 1832, in New York City.  Others joined in his call in both non-stamp and philatelic publications.  Having received no announcements by September 1982, Everett’s group suspected there would be no stamps.  But then on October 1, they learned that the USPS requested images of the 1926 Sulphur Rock mule car.  An official postal release a month later announced the block of stamps would be released in the fall of 1983, marking the 151st anniversary.

 

History the stamps represent:  On November 14, 1832, the John Mason was inaugurated as the first streetcar service in America.

 

One man dominated the history of streetcars in America in the early days of their use. John Stephenson developed the first streetcar to run on rails. In general, he presided over the evolution of streetcars as public transportation.

 

Stephenson was an infant when his family immigrated to America in 1811. He grew up in New York City and went to college in Connecticut. A few years after Stephenson graduated, he started his own company of building “omnibuses” – horse-drawn passenger vehicles. Stephenson had worked as an apprentice under Abram Brower before striking out on his own.

 

It was a job order from banker John Mason that was Stephenson’s first big break. Mason wanted a passenger vehicle for a route for the New York and Harlem Railroad. Stephenson’s car was based on a modified English railway car. It ran on rails, making it a much more comfortable ride than the typically rough roads provided, and eventually earned him a sales contract.  He named the car the John Mason, in honor of the man who commissioned it.

 

The John Mason officially went into service on November 14, 1832. It was popular from the start, considered a luxurious upgrade from the omnibus. It was more comfortable, beautifully upholstered, and could travel nearly twice the speed (6-8 miles per hour) with fewer horses. It was also more efficient, so it cost 10¢ per ride compared to the 15¢ per ride on the omnibus. By 1870, horse-drawn streetcars made nearly 100 million trips a year.

 

Stephenson also worked on the St. Charles Streetcar, as part of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad. Construction began in February 1833 and the line opened to passenger and freight service on September 26, 1835. When it was first built the line used locomotives. As more people began to live near the line, complaints arose over the noise and smoke, so they switched to horse-drawn cars. Over time they experimented with overhead cable propulsion systems, ammonia engines, and fireless engines. New Orleans also experimented with electric cars in 1884 during the World Cotton Centennial World’s Fair, though the line wouldn’t be fully electrified until February 1, 1893.

 

The St. Charles Streetcar line is still in operation today, running 24 hours a day. It’s the world’s oldest continually operating streetcar line. The line was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark. It’s one of only two moving streetcar National Historic Landmarks.

 

Stephenson went on to build other famous streetcars, including the Bobtail, a lightweight, mule-drawn car used in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas.  In 1883, the Iron Mountain Railroad was built nearby, but it missed the town by about a mile.  And the only roads connecting to the railroad were hard to travel.  So the Sulphur Rock Railway was constructed to link the town with the railroad while also providing local streetcar service.  Construction lasted between two and six years and the cars were pulled by mules and horses.  In addition to offering passenger service, the trolley later transported freight and had a contract to carry mail for the US Postal Service. It was the last animal-drawn car to be used in the US on a regular basis until its service was discontinued in 1926.

 

In 1837, an economic panic hit the country as bank-issued bonds were often used to back currency, but became worthless when many banks failed to honor them. Stephenson had accepted a lot of payment in bonds, and lost all his property by 1842. He could only pay his creditors 50 cents on the dollar. He began again, and within a few years had repaid all his creditors in full, earning the nickname, “Honest John Stephenson.”

 

On April 15, 1886, the Capital City Street Railway opened in Montgomery, Alabama.  Also known as the Lightning Route, the streetcar system was designed by Charles Joseph Van Depoele.  The city’s existing horse-drawn system was converted to operate electric streetcars, which could travel up to six miles per hour.  With the introduction of the streetcar system, people were able to move away from the city center, leading to the development of suburbs. The 15-mile Lightning Route remained in operation for exactly 50 years, closing on April 15, 1936.  It was replaced by buses. Today, Union Station is preserved as a historic landmark and a pre-1900 street car is on display nearby.

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U.S. #2059-62
1983 20¢ Streetcars

  • Issued for the 151st anniversary of the world’s first streetcar system 

Stamp Category:  Commemorative
Set: 
Streetcars
Value: 
20¢, first-class rate
First Day of Issue: 
October 8, 1983
First Day City: 
Kennebunkport, Maine
Quantity Issued: 
51,931,250 blocks
Printed by: 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: 
Photogravure and engraved
Format: 
Panes of 50 in sheets of 200
Perforations:  11

Why the stamps were issued:  To commemorate the 151st anniversary of the first streetcar system in the world.

 

About the stamp designs:  The Streetcars were the first stamps designed by Richard Leech.  He based his artwork on photographs of old trolleys as well as examples on display in museums.

 

First Day City:  The Streetcar stamp designs were initially unveiled on May 6 in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas, which was the last city to operate a horsedrawn trolley.  The First Day ceremony was held at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine, which houses over 100 streetcars, several of which are still functional. 

 

Unusual fact about these stamps:  Streetcar error stamps exist with the black ink missing or dramatically shifted.

 

About the Streetcar Stamps:  A group of streetcar enthusiasts were the driving force behind the 1983 Streetcar stamps.  The group’s leader was also a stamp collector, Robert Everett Jr.  In 1974, Everett started creating his own streetcar cachets and sending them to towns and cities that offered special trolley car pictorial cancels.  Then in 1979, Everett suggested that the USPS issue stamps to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first horsedrawn car on rails in the world, which occurred on November 14, 1832, in New York City.  Others joined in his call in both non-stamp and philatelic publications.  Having received no announcements by September 1982, Everett’s group suspected there would be no stamps.  But then on October 1, they learned that the USPS requested images of the 1926 Sulphur Rock mule car.  An official postal release a month later announced the block of stamps would be released in the fall of 1983, marking the 151st anniversary.

 

History the stamps represent:  On November 14, 1832, the John Mason was inaugurated as the first streetcar service in America.

 

One man dominated the history of streetcars in America in the early days of their use. John Stephenson developed the first streetcar to run on rails. In general, he presided over the evolution of streetcars as public transportation.

 

Stephenson was an infant when his family immigrated to America in 1811. He grew up in New York City and went to college in Connecticut. A few years after Stephenson graduated, he started his own company of building “omnibuses” – horse-drawn passenger vehicles. Stephenson had worked as an apprentice under Abram Brower before striking out on his own.

 

It was a job order from banker John Mason that was Stephenson’s first big break. Mason wanted a passenger vehicle for a route for the New York and Harlem Railroad. Stephenson’s car was based on a modified English railway car. It ran on rails, making it a much more comfortable ride than the typically rough roads provided, and eventually earned him a sales contract.  He named the car the John Mason, in honor of the man who commissioned it.

 

The John Mason officially went into service on November 14, 1832. It was popular from the start, considered a luxurious upgrade from the omnibus. It was more comfortable, beautifully upholstered, and could travel nearly twice the speed (6-8 miles per hour) with fewer horses. It was also more efficient, so it cost 10¢ per ride compared to the 15¢ per ride on the omnibus. By 1870, horse-drawn streetcars made nearly 100 million trips a year.

 

Stephenson also worked on the St. Charles Streetcar, as part of the New Orleans and Carrollton Railroad. Construction began in February 1833 and the line opened to passenger and freight service on September 26, 1835. When it was first built the line used locomotives. As more people began to live near the line, complaints arose over the noise and smoke, so they switched to horse-drawn cars. Over time they experimented with overhead cable propulsion systems, ammonia engines, and fireless engines. New Orleans also experimented with electric cars in 1884 during the World Cotton Centennial World’s Fair, though the line wouldn’t be fully electrified until February 1, 1893.

 

The St. Charles Streetcar line is still in operation today, running 24 hours a day. It’s the world’s oldest continually operating streetcar line. The line was added to the National Register of Historic Places and declared a National Historic Landmark. It’s one of only two moving streetcar National Historic Landmarks.

 

Stephenson went on to build other famous streetcars, including the Bobtail, a lightweight, mule-drawn car used in Sulphur Rock, Arkansas.  In 1883, the Iron Mountain Railroad was built nearby, but it missed the town by about a mile.  And the only roads connecting to the railroad were hard to travel.  So the Sulphur Rock Railway was constructed to link the town with the railroad while also providing local streetcar service.  Construction lasted between two and six years and the cars were pulled by mules and horses.  In addition to offering passenger service, the trolley later transported freight and had a contract to carry mail for the US Postal Service. It was the last animal-drawn car to be used in the US on a regular basis until its service was discontinued in 1926.

 

In 1837, an economic panic hit the country as bank-issued bonds were often used to back currency, but became worthless when many banks failed to honor them. Stephenson had accepted a lot of payment in bonds, and lost all his property by 1842. He could only pay his creditors 50 cents on the dollar. He began again, and within a few years had repaid all his creditors in full, earning the nickname, “Honest John Stephenson.”

 

On April 15, 1886, the Capital City Street Railway opened in Montgomery, Alabama.  Also known as the Lightning Route, the streetcar system was designed by Charles Joseph Van Depoele.  The city’s existing horse-drawn system was converted to operate electric streetcars, which could travel up to six miles per hour.  With the introduction of the streetcar system, people were able to move away from the city center, leading to the development of suburbs. The 15-mile Lightning Route remained in operation for exactly 50 years, closing on April 15, 1936.  It was replaced by buses. Today, Union Station is preserved as a historic landmark and a pre-1900 street car is on display nearby.