1993 Classic Books
- Four-stamp set honors beloved children’s books that have become literary classics nearly every American has read
- Issued during the annual conference of Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky
29¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
October 23, 1993
First Day City:
American Bank Note Company (6-color Miller offset sheetfed press and 3-color Giori Simplex intaglio sheetfed press)
Panes of 40 (vertical 8 across, 5 down)
11 x 11.1 (Bickel reciprocating stroke perforator)
Prephosphored paper and block tagging applied over Little Women
and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Why the stamps were issued:
To honor four popular children’s books that have become literary classics in the United States.
About the stamp designs:
The Classic Books stamps were created using artwork by Jim Lamb of Issaquah, Washington, with input by art director Richard Sheaff. The artwork pictured on the stamps was created using acrylic, with the posing of the figures referenced from photographs of Lamb’s family and friends in costumes. Lamb altered everyone’s faces to avoid the controversy of picturing living people on stamps. “What I was after was the poses and the way the fabric lies and the way the light strikes the subject,” he said. “When you’re doing a painting you like to have access to that kind of information, to bring a little more credibility, a little more reality to it.” Lamb skimmed each of the books to be represented on the stamps to get an idea of what images might be best. “In no case did I try to paint a specific scene from any of the novels. My whole idea was just to kind of capture the feel of the book rather than anything specific.”
Selvage design details:
The selvage of the panes reads “These stamps honor four/classic books enjoyed by/’youngsters of all ages.’” “Mark Twain’s (Samuel/L. Clemens) classic novel/ Huckleberry Finn
was/first published in 1884.” “Louisa May Alcott’s/enduring two-volume/Little Women
was first/published in 1868 &/1869.” “Kate Douglas Wiggin’s/long-popular Rebecca of
was/first published in 1903.” “Laura Ingalls Wilder’s/popular Little House on
was first/published in 1932.”
First Day City:
The stamps were issued in Louisville, Kentucky, to coincide with the annual conference of Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc.
Public Opinion Leads to Design Changes:
When the USPS pre-released the four stamp designs to the public in October 1992, some of their feedback led to adjustments to the original artwork. The Little Women
design was altered to make the oldest sister appear younger as audiences mistook her for Mrs. March rather than one of the sisters (Lamb gave the figure a braid instead of a bun and softened her features). The letter on the oldest sister’s lap was also changed from having a ragged, torn top to a smooth one.
The Huckleberry Finn
design was also changed to make the steamboat a sidewheel model rather than the original sternwheeler that was pictured (this made the boat more historically accurate to the time period the novel was set in). Lamb also took out some of the white flowers at Huck’s feet to improve the legibility of the “USA.”
History the stamps represent:
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
Although she wrote more than 20 children’s books, Kate Douglas Wiggin is best remembered for her endearing novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
. Born Kate Smith in Philadelphia in 1856, she spent her childhood in Maine.
Moving to California at age 17, she established the first kindergarten in the West, as well as a training school for teachers. To raise funds for her kindergarten projects, Wiggins began writing children’s books. Her first novel, The Story of Patsy
, was published in 1883, and was followed four years later by the enormously popular The Birds’ Christmas Carol
. Her greatest triumph, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
, was published in 1903.
One of the few stories for young girls to rival Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
, this lively tale tells the adventures of Rebecca Randall, who leaves Sunnybrook Farm after her father’s death to live with her aunts. Many of the novel’s characters, places, and events were taken from Wiggin’s childhood in Maine.
In addition to writing children’s stories, she also wrote several adult books and an autobiography.
Little House on the Prairie
Inspired by her childhood travels through the undeveloped frontier of the Midwest, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series known as the “Little House” books, has been praised as a vivid literary saga of the American frontier.
Born in 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin, Wilder traveled with her family by covered wagon through Kansas, Minnesota, and the Dakota Territory, where she met and married Almanzo Wilder. Although there was deprivation and hard work, there were also many happy times of love and laughter, all of which is captured in her endearing classics.
An editor for 12 years for the Missouri Ruralist
, Wilder began recording her childhood experiences at the urging of her daughter. Published in 1935, Little House on the Prairie
followed her first book, Little House in the Big Woods
. Seven other books later became part of the series. Received warmly by the public, the popularity of her books was boosted by the success of the television series, which first aired in 1974.
A reconstructed log cabin sits on the original site where the Ingalls family lived in Little House on the Prairie
from 1869 to 1879.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Based on his childhood experiences along the Mississippi River, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
provides a vivid record of 19th
century America. Begun in 1876 as a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
, the book describes the adventures of two runaways – the boy Huckleberry Finn and a slave named Jim – as they travel on a raft down the Mississippi.
Told from Huckleberry Finn’s point of view, Twain used realistic language to make Huck’s speech sound like actual conversation, and imitated a variety of dialects to bring the other characters to life. It was this realistic use of speech that set Twain’s work apart from other writers of the day and influenced numerous other modern American authors. “All modern American literature comes from… Huckleberry Finn
,” Ernest Hemingway once stated.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest American novels ever written, the book is not without its foes. As when it was first published in 1885, Huckleberry Finn
still receives criticism for Huck’s lack of morals, as well as his unrefined manners and careless grammar. Its deeper themes, however, argue for equality and universal opportunities for all races.
Largely autobiographical, Little Women
tells the story of four sisters growing up in New England in the 1800s. Instantly popular with the public, this classic gave American juvenile fiction an enduring family story.
The daughter of noted philosopher and educational reformer Bronson Alcott, Louisa May Alcott was surrounded by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Henry David Thoreau – all individuals who helped shape her ideas of social reform. When her father’s idealistic ventures repeatedly failed, she began working to support her family.
A nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War, she described her experiences in her first successful book, Hospital Sketches
. In 1867, she became the editor of Merry’s Museum
, a magazine for young girls. At the urging of her publisher to create a book for girls, she wrote Little Women
. Published in 1868-69, the book was an immediate success. Little Men
(1871) and Jo’s Boys
(1886) continued the story of the March family.