1994 29c Blues and Jazz Singers: Bessie Smith

# 2854 - 1994 29c Blues and Jazz Singers: Bessie Smith

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US #2854
1994 Bessie Smith

  • Part of the Legends of American Music series
  • Set features eight Jazz and Blues singers from the 20th century

Category of Stamp:  Commemorative
Set: 
Jazz and Blues Singers, from the Legends of American Music series
Value: 
29¢, First-Class Mail rate
First Day of Issue: 
September 17, 1994
First Day City: 
Greenville, Mississippi
Quantity Issued: 
21,862,750
Printed by: 
Ashton-Potter
Printing Method:
  Lithographed
Format: 
Panes of 35 from printing plates of 210 (15 across, 14 down)
Perforations: 
11 X 10.8

Reason the stamp was issued:  The Jazz and Blues Singers stamps were issued as part of the Legends of American Music series.  They honor some of the most famous jazz and Blues singers of the 20th century.

About the stamp design:  The image on the Bessie Smith stamp was painted by Howard Koslow.  His inspiration was a photograph taken by Carl Van Vechten that was found in the Library of Congress.

The Blues and Jazz Singers stamps were originally planned as two separate sets, and different artists were hired for each set.  When the two sets were combined into one, both artists continued with their assignments.  Magazine illustrator Julian Allen, was given the four blues singers, while Howard Koslow created the artwork for the jazz singers.  The USPS supplied photos of the singers to both artists, but they were dissatisfied with the way some of the singers were portrayed and found other sources.

First Day City:  The First Day of Issue ceremony was held in Greenville, Mississippi, during the 17th annual Mississippi Delta Blues Festival.  Other cities also hosted First Day of Issue celebrations.  These included the hometowns of some of the featured singers.

About the Legends of American Music Series:  The Legends of American Music Series debuted on January 8, 1993, and ran until September 21, 1999.  The stamps were issued in semi-jumbo size.  The name of each performer is in white letters, sometimes on a black background to make it stand out.  The name of the set is shown running up the left side of the stamp.
More than 90 artists are represented from all styles of music:  rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and pop, opera and classical, gospel and folk.  In addition to individual singers and Broadway musicals, subjects include band leaders, classical composers, Hollywood songwriters and composers, conductors, lyricists, and more.  The Legends of American Music Series was a huge advancement for diversity because it honored many Black and female artists.

History the stamp represents:  

The “Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith was born in 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Smith’s musical career began early, in fact out of necessity – as a child she was so poor, she sang in the streets for pennies.  Her first stage appearance was at age nine at the Ivory Theatre.  From this humble start, Smith went on to tour.  Her big break was starring in Ma and Pa Rainey’s traveling vaudeville shows, where she perfected her skills.
By the early 1920s, Smith was an attraction on her own, which lead to the recording studio.  In 1923 she made her first recording, “Downhearted Blues.”  The song was immensely popular, selling an unprecedented 750,000 copies.  Bessie Smith went on to record over 100 songs, in blues and pop styles.
Stories credit Ma Rainey with introducing Smith to the blues, but she named an unknown singer, Cora Fischer, as her first inspiration.  Smith created the jazz-blues style of singing.  She preferred polished, “educated” musicians, such as pianist Fletcher Henderson or organist Fred Longshaw, as her bandleaders.  Smith sang with an incredible list of stars, including Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.  In 1937 Smith was fatally injured in a car accident – some believe her medical care was delayed due to the color of her skin.

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US #2854
1994 Bessie Smith

  • Part of the Legends of American Music series
  • Set features eight Jazz and Blues singers from the 20th century

Category of Stamp:  Commemorative
Set: 
Jazz and Blues Singers, from the Legends of American Music series
Value: 
29¢, First-Class Mail rate
First Day of Issue: 
September 17, 1994
First Day City: 
Greenville, Mississippi
Quantity Issued: 
21,862,750
Printed by: 
Ashton-Potter
Printing Method:
  Lithographed
Format: 
Panes of 35 from printing plates of 210 (15 across, 14 down)
Perforations: 
11 X 10.8

Reason the stamp was issued:  The Jazz and Blues Singers stamps were issued as part of the Legends of American Music series.  They honor some of the most famous jazz and Blues singers of the 20th century.

About the stamp design:  The image on the Bessie Smith stamp was painted by Howard Koslow.  His inspiration was a photograph taken by Carl Van Vechten that was found in the Library of Congress.

The Blues and Jazz Singers stamps were originally planned as two separate sets, and different artists were hired for each set.  When the two sets were combined into one, both artists continued with their assignments.  Magazine illustrator Julian Allen, was given the four blues singers, while Howard Koslow created the artwork for the jazz singers.  The USPS supplied photos of the singers to both artists, but they were dissatisfied with the way some of the singers were portrayed and found other sources.

First Day City:  The First Day of Issue ceremony was held in Greenville, Mississippi, during the 17th annual Mississippi Delta Blues Festival.  Other cities also hosted First Day of Issue celebrations.  These included the hometowns of some of the featured singers.

About the Legends of American Music Series:  The Legends of American Music Series debuted on January 8, 1993, and ran until September 21, 1999.  The stamps were issued in semi-jumbo size.  The name of each performer is in white letters, sometimes on a black background to make it stand out.  The name of the set is shown running up the left side of the stamp.
More than 90 artists are represented from all styles of music:  rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, country and western, jazz and pop, opera and classical, gospel and folk.  In addition to individual singers and Broadway musicals, subjects include band leaders, classical composers, Hollywood songwriters and composers, conductors, lyricists, and more.  The Legends of American Music Series was a huge advancement for diversity because it honored many Black and female artists.

History the stamp represents:  

The “Empress of the Blues,” Bessie Smith was born in 1894 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Smith’s musical career began early, in fact out of necessity – as a child she was so poor, she sang in the streets for pennies.  Her first stage appearance was at age nine at the Ivory Theatre.  From this humble start, Smith went on to tour.  Her big break was starring in Ma and Pa Rainey’s traveling vaudeville shows, where she perfected her skills.
By the early 1920s, Smith was an attraction on her own, which lead to the recording studio.  In 1923 she made her first recording, “Downhearted Blues.”  The song was immensely popular, selling an unprecedented 750,000 copies.  Bessie Smith went on to record over 100 songs, in blues and pop styles.
Stories credit Ma Rainey with introducing Smith to the blues, but she named an unknown singer, Cora Fischer, as her first inspiration.  Smith created the jazz-blues style of singing.  She preferred polished, “educated” musicians, such as pianist Fletcher Henderson or organist Fred Longshaw, as her bandleaders.  Smith sang with an incredible list of stars, including Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.  In 1937 Smith was fatally injured in a car accident – some believe her medical care was delayed due to the color of her skin.