1957 4¢ “Old Glory”
Issue Date: July 4, 1957
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Color: Dark blue and deep carmine
This stamp was the first issue using the U.S. Flag as the central design. It was also the first issue to be printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in its natural colors in one operation - with the new multicolor Giori press.
Giori Press Added Color
In 1955, the Post Office Department acquired a new stamp press designed by Gualtiero Giori. Called the “Giori Press,” the new machine could produce stamps in two or three different colors, all in one pass. Different rollers each applied a different color.
The new press began producing stamps in 1957, with U.S.# 1094, the American Flag. It soon was used on the Champions of Liberty stamps. In 1962, the press was used for a secret project – some speculated that it was making money. Instead, the result was the “Project Mercury” stamp (U.S. #1193), printed in secret even among Post Office employees.
The stamp was shipped in sealed packages to over 300 postmasters across the country, with strict instructions not to open it until instructed. The secrecy was dependent upon the success of John Glenn’s historic space flight orbiting Earth – if the mission had failed, the stamp would not have been released.
50-Star U.S. Flag
The story of our nation’s 50-star flag begins back in 1958, when 17-year-old Robert G. Heft received a class assignment. At the time, Alaska and Hawaii were being considered for statehood. Heft’s interest in politics led him to design a flag accommodating the addition of two new states to the Union. Unfamiliar with needlework, Heft asked his mother to help him sew the flag, but she feared it would be desecrating the flag.
In one weekend, Heft spent 12 and a half hours removing the blue background from a family flag, attaching a new one, and ironing on 100 white stars (50 on each side). Heft’s main objective was to add the new stars in such a way that no one could tell the design had changed. The resulting design was five rows of six stars alternating with four rows of five stars.
Heft’s teacher, Stanley Pratt, gave him a B- on the project, claiming that it “lacked originality” and that anyone could have made it. After lengthy discussion, the two agreed that if Pratt could get his design accepted by Congress, he would raise his grade.
The determined Heft met the challenge head-on and sent the design to his Congressman, Walter Moeller. Heft’s design was officially adopted by Presidential proclamation after Alaska and before Hawaii was admitted to the Union in 1959. Upon its acceptance as our nation’s new flag, Pratt changed Heft’s grade to an A.
Since then, Heft’s homemade flag has flown over every state capitol building and over 88 U.S. embassies. Years of use have taken their toll on the flag, including an uneven patch in a lower corner from an attack on the U.S. embassy in Saigon in 1967. It is the only flag to have flown over the White House during five different administrations. Heft has received offers of up to $350,000 for his creation, but promises never to part with it.