1994 29¢ Edward R. Murrow
· First broadcast journalist honored on a US stamp
Stamp Category: Commemorative
First Day of Issue: January 21, 1994
First Day City: Pullman, Washington
Quantity Issued: 150,500,000
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed
Format: Panes of 50; intaglio printing sleeves of 400
Why the stamp was issued: To honor one of the best-known radio and television reporters.
About the stamp design: The Murrow stamp features a portrait drawn in pencil by renowned stamp artist Christopher Calle. He based his portrait on a 1953 CBS publicity photo taken by Jerry Urgo.
The stamp was first suggested in 1985 by Edward Bliss Jr, who had worked with Murrow in the 1950s. At one point the USPS considered making the stamp part of the Great Americans definitive series, but they opted to make it a commemorative.
Special design details: The Murrow stamp was the first to implement two changes the USPS had intended to introduce on the Winter Olympics stamps issued earlier in the month. One was the standardization of plate numbers, measuring about two millimeters high. The other was an inscription showing the value of a full sheet (“50 x .29 = $14.50”) to make it easier for postal clerks to add up the value of the stamps in their drawers.
First Day City: The stamp was issued at the Washington State University Edward R. Murrow Communications Center’s television studio in Pullman, Washington. The school was Murrow’s alma mater and friends and family pushed to have the first day ceremony held there, rather than New York City as originally planned.
Unusual fact about this stamp: This is believed to be the first non-definitive intaglio stamp printed on prephosphored paper with embedded taggant, as opposed to surface taggant.
History the stamp represents:
Edward Roscoe Murrow was born on April 25, 1908, in Guilford County, North Carolina. Murrow spent the first few years of his life on the family farm without electricity or plumbing. When he was six years old, the family moved to Skagit County, Washington. In high school, Murrow was elected president of the student body and was a member of the debate team.
Murrow went on to attend Washington State College where he majored in speech. He grew increasingly interested in national and world affairs and was made president of the National Student Federation of America. After graduating, he moved to New York and was made assistant director of the Institute of International Education and assistant secretary of the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars.
Murrow joined Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1935 as director of talks and education. He would remain with the network for his entire career. In 1937, he went to London to serve as the network’s director of European operations. Initially, he didn’t do on-air reporting, rather he worked convincing European figures to broadcast on CBS. During this time he traveled around Europe and hired journalist William L. Shirer, marking the start of the “Murrow Boys” group of war reporters.
In March 1938, Murrow had his first experience with fame reporting on the German annexation of Austria. He coordinated the European News Roundup, which included correspondents from several European cities in one broadcast, which was revolutionary for the time. It was also his first on-the-scene news report. The success of that special led to the network’s World News Roundup, which is still broadcast today.
Later in 1938, Murrow and Shirer reported on the crisis over the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. Murrow won recognition for his crisp, accurate reporting and his reports increased American interest in international radio news. After World War II broke out in 1939, Murrow remained in London, recording live broadcasts during the Blitz. It was during this time he developed his signature opening, “This…is London.” And in 1940, he developed his closing statement, “Good night, and good luck.”
He returned to the US in 1941, but after America entered the war later that year, he would return to Europe. During the war he flew on 25 Allied combat missions, often recording vivid descriptions of the action while flying overhead. Listeners could often hear bombs exploding as Murrow described scenes. While in London he also worked closely with Winston Churchill, who offered to make him joint director-general of the BBC in charge of programming, but he declined. In 1945, Murrow was one of the first reporters at the Buchenwald concentration camp.
Following the war, Murrow returned to broadcasting with a weeknight newscast. In 1951, he began a new style of TV newscasting with his program See It Now. Based on the popular radio show called Hear It Now, this weekly documentary series brought the American public face-to-face with some of the most critical moments in contemporary US history. From 1953-59 he also narrated the TV program Person to Person, featuring interviews with famous people in their homes. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy appointed Murrow director of the US Information Agency, a post he held until 1964.
A heavy smoker for most of his life, Murrow died the following year on April 27, 1965. Murrow received a number of honors in his lifetime, including several Peabody Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. The Edward R. Murrow Award is given annually for “outstanding achievement in electronic journalism.” And his alma mater, Washington State University, named their College of Communication after him.