1994 29¢ Legends of the West
· Corrected version of the famed Legends of the West error sheet
· First sheet in the Classic Collection Series
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Set: Legends of the West
Value: 29¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: December 1994 (No official issue date)
Quantity Issued: 150,186 Panes
Printed by: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Format: Panes of 20 in sheets of 120
Perforations: 10.1 x 10
Why the stamps were issued: The Legends of the West sheet was the first issue in the Classic Collection Series. It was developed from an idea to honor “Western Americana.” After a small number of error sheets were sold before the official release date, the USPS decided to offer a mail-order lottery of 150,000 panes to recover their costs and make these modern rarities available to collectors.
About the stamp designs: Stamp artist Mark Hess spent nearly two years working on these stamps. He used a wide variety of sources as inspiration for his paintings…
Home on The Range – This was one of the original sketches Hess made before the stamp set was expanded to a sheet of 20. It was originally titled “Horse Handling/Cattle Herding” and was based on an old West show poster.
Buffalo Bill – Hess worked from multiple photographs to create the photo of the famed showman and placed him before a scene of buttes. Buffalo Bill Cody had previously been honored on a 1988 Great Americans stamp, #2177.
Jim Bridger – For the Jim Bridger portrait, Hess studied the best available photograph of the legendary mountain man. However, Bridger was older and gaunt in the photo, and the USPS wanted to honor these people at the time they were most famous. So Hess made changes to make him burlier and look more as he did as a young man. He was pictured in front of a forest scene with sunlight shining between the leaves.
Annie Oakley – The Annie Oakley Foundation in Greenville, Ohio had long campaigned for the sharpshooter to be honored with a postage stamp. Though they had hoped she would be honored in the Great Americans Series, alongside her contemporaries Buffalo Bill Code and Sitting Bull. Hess said that Oakley’s portrait was the easiest and only took four days. He used several photos and posters from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show for inspiration.
Native American Culture – This stamp image was based on an old lithograph by Charles Bodmer depicting the Minnetaree warrior Phriska-Rhupa in the middle of the Dog Dance. The stamp also includes a prairie scene, teepees, peace pipes, and an Indian painting.
Chief Joseph – Chief Joseph’s portrait was based on several different images, though much of it was taken from an 1878 photo. Chief Joseph was also previously pictured on #1364.
Bill Pickett – This is the stamp around which the Legends of the West controversy swirled. In researching this stamp, Hess found several images of Pickett in his later years, far from the camera. There was one image that was particularly striking, which pictured a young rodeo star carrying a coiled rope. The photo was inscribed as picturing Bill Pickett, and had been printed in numerous publications over the years about the rodeo star.
The corrected Bill Pickett stamp (#2869) was largely based on a movie poster for the 1923 film The Bull-Dogger.
Bat Masterson – The Bat Masterson portrait pictures the lawman in a black coat, vest, and bowler hat, as he was seen in photographs from the 1880s. And while many of the other people on the sheet are pictured in the wilderness, Masterson is shown in front of a building, as if in a frontier town.
John Fremont – The portrait of John Fremont was taken from an engraving made in 1861. It pictures the general in his blue Army uniform carrying a sword, with mountains in the background. Fremont had previously been featured on an 1898 Trans-Mississippi stamp, #288.
Wyatt Earp – The portrait of Wyatt Earp was based in part on a photograph taken in the 1870s. The different elements – a volunteer fireman’s blouse, cowboy bandana, Stetson hat, and badge – were taken from other photos. Some criticized the combination, but others said it “provided a remarkable likeness of Marshal Earp, tailored to the role that made him a true legend of the West.”
Nellie Cashman – Nellie Cashman’s portrait was based on an 1880s painting made by a Chinese cook who worked for her. The Cowtown in the background was generic, though citizens of Tombstone thought it was meant to be their town and said it wasn’t accurate.
Charles Goodnight – The portrait of Charles Goodnight was based on a 1911 photo of the businessman. He’s pictured with a herd of cattle and a mountain scene taken from a painting that once hung in Goodnight’s own ranch.
Geronimo – The Geronimo stamp was based on one of the most well-known photos of the Apache warrior, taken in 1884. He’s pictured in front of a forest and mountain, though some said this was incorrect as he was a “desert Indian,” but Hess believed his background was accurate.
Kit Carson – The Kit Carson stamp pictures the trailblazer and mountain man wearing a fur cap and fur-lined collar, holding a rifle and powder horn. Hess based the background on a photograph of a mountain and waterfall.
Wild Bill Hickock – Wild Bill Hickok’s portrait was based on a photo taken around 1873. While he was originally painted holding a six-shooter, Hess eventually changed it to a handful of cards, depicting his well-known habit of gambling.
Western Wildlife – At the center of this stamp stands a bison, appearing similar to the one on #569. In the corners are four other animals common to the west: a bald eagle, grizzly bear, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep.
Jim Beckwourth – Hess based his portrait of Jim Beckwourth on a photo taken around 1860. He embellished it was a fur-collared coat and red scarf. It’s one of the few Legends of the West stamps with a distinct winter background.
Bill Tilghman – The Bill Tilghman portrait was based on several photos of the lawman. His gloved hand rests on a saddle horn, which led some to question if it’s a horse next to him. As one critic said, if it is a horse, then Tilghman must be seven feet tall. Hess responded that the saddle horn was actually sitting on a fence rail.
Sacagawea – No photos of Sacagawea exist, and nearly all statues and portraits were based entirely on artists’ imaginations. Hess referenced at least 10 different artists’ depictions in the creation of his Sacagawea portrait. He based her clothes and cradleboard on the earliest Shoshone photos and artifacts he could find.
Overland Mail – The Overland Mail stamp pictures a red stagecoach driving through a California mountain pass. A pony express rider is also shown in a small oval, showing how mail transportation to the West changed in the 1800s. Overland mail (#1120) and the Pony Express (#1154) had both previously been depicted on US stamps.
Special design details: This famous issue contained two mistakes made by the United States Postal Service and led to a string of events without precedent in the history of US stamp collecting.
One of the people to be featured on the sheet was black rodeo star Bill Pickett. After the stamps were announced, but not officially issued, a radio reporter phoned Frank Phillips Jr., great-grandson of Bill Pickett, and asked him about the stamp. Phillips went to his local post office, looked at the design and recognized it as Ben Pickett – Bill’s brother and business associate. The stamp pictured the wrong man! That was the first mistake.
Phillips complained to the Postal Service and Postmaster General Marvin Runyon issued an order to recall and destroy the error stamps. Runyon also ordered new revised stamps be created – US #2869.
But before the recall, 186 error sheets were sold by postal workers – before the official “first day of issue.” This was the second mistake. These error sheets were being resold for sums ranging from $3,000 to $15,000 each!
Several weeks later the US Postal Service announced that 150,000 error sheets would be sold at face value by means of a mail order lottery. This unprecedented move was made with the permission of Frank Phillips Jr. so the Post Office could recover its printing cost and not lose money. Sales were limited to one per household. The remaining stamps were destroyed.
About the printing process: In order to include the text on the back of each stamp, it had to be printed under the gum, so that it would still be visible if a stamp was soaked off an envelope. Because people would need to lick the stamps, the ink had to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration as non-toxic. The printer also used an extra-fine 300-line screen, which resulted in some of the highest-quality gravure stamp printings in recent years.
About the Legends of the West: The Legends of the West sheet was ultimately born out of a discussion to issue a stamp to honor the 100th anniversary of Ellis Island in 1992. That plan was abandoned, but was Ellis Island was featured on a postal card in the Historic Preservation Series (#UX165). Talks then pivoted to a stamp honoring “Western Americana.” Stamp artist Mark Hess was tasked with producing four semi-jumbo stamp images capturing the colorful and graphic look of old Wild West show posters. The Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) discussed Hess’ images and decided to expand on the idea and honor 16 significant men and women that played major roles in the expansion of the West. At one point, they considered outlaws such as Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James, but ultimately decided to “come down on the side of right and justice.” The sheet of 20 had a decorative header and descriptive text was included on the back of each stamp.
The Legends of the West stamp designs were also adapted to postal cards, #UX178-97.
History the stamps represent: Stories about America’s West have long been among the most popular pieces of American folklore. This set pays tribute to 16 individuals and features four topic-oriented stamps as well. Each of the individuals honored played an important part in the amazing history of America.
Home on the Range
Riding the open range, cowboys tended herds of cattle, rounding them up in spring so the calves could be branded and the young bulls neutered. In the fall, the cowboys would cut the marketable steers from the herd and drive the cattle to cow towns where they were shipped East on the railroads. A major event in a cowboy’s life, the trail drive lasted 2-3 months and covered as much as 1,500 miles. The era of the open range did not last long. By 1885, advancing homesteaders, the invention of barbed wire, and fierce blizzards brought an end to the cowboy’s way of life.
Buffalo Bill Cody
Born William Frederick Cody, “Buffalo Bill” was the embodiment of the romanticized western hero. Cody became an accomplished horse wrangler, hunter, and “Indian fighter” by his teens. He served as a scout for the Union Army during the Civil War and supplied meat for workmen building a railroad. In 1883 he was inspired to organize his spectacular Wild West Show – an extravaganza featuring fancy shooting, hard-riding cowboys, and war-whooping “Indians.” Extremely popular, Cody took his show across the U.S. and even across the sea to Europe, where he delighted audiences in England, Paris, Venice, and the Vatican.
One of America’s greatest frontiersmen, Jim Bridger has been called the “Walking Atlas of the West.” He spent 20 years exploring new territory, and blazing early paths across the West. His vast geographical knowledge proved valuable in planning overland stage routes, including the Oregon Trail. Bridger also guided numerous exploration parties, as well as military expeditions for the US Army.
At age 15, Annie Oakley competed against professional marksman Frank Butler in a shooting exhibition. To the cheers of the amazed crowd, she defeated Butler on the last shot, 25 to 24. Taking the stage name Oakley, she toured with vaudeville shows and circuses. In 1885 Oakley joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. So enthusiastic was the response to her daring feats, she was given top billing as “Miss Annie Oakley – the Peerless Lady Wingshot.” The popular Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, was loosely based on Oakley’s life.
Native American Culture
The New World was first settled 40,000 to 20,000 years ago by Asian peoples crossing a land bridge formed by glaciers at the Bering Strait. The Native Americans were a diverse group, developing their cultures by harmonizing with the natural world. At first the Native Americans tolerated the small flow of whites through their lands, but the flow soon grew into a flood. Attitudes changed, and although the Indians were fearless warriors, winning many victories, they were no match for well-equipped American troops. In the end, the Native Americans were settled onto reservations – their ways of life changed forever.
In 1877, Chief Joseph led his people on a 15 week, 1,700 mile fighting-retreat that ended only 40 miles from the safety of the Canadian border. Outnumbered 10-to-1, the Nez Perce repeatedly outmaneuvered the US Army, and actually gained the upper hand in several clashes. After the surrender, the Nez Perce were promised they could again return to their tribal land. And although some eventually did, Chief Joseph never again saw the land of his birth.
Bill Pickett was one of the 5,000 early black cowboys to work on the western ranches. It was during his days as a cowhand that he developed the technique of “bulldogging” – a trademark for which he became internationally famous. Galloping alongside a steer, he would seize the animal by its horns and twist its head up until he could sink his teeth into its upper lip, causing the beast to drop to the ground in pain.
Bat Masterson was known more for his handsome dress than as a quick draw, and was more likely to use his cane than his Colt pistols to settle a dispute. But his relentless pursuit of outlaws – he seldom failed to get his man – inspired fear and respect in criminals. His reputation earned him an appointment to Deputy US Marshall by President Theodore Roosevelt.
John C. Fremont
Known as “The Pathfinder,” John C. Fremont explored the vast territory west of the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. He helped produce the first scientific map of the American West and played an important role in the development of California. In 1878 he was appointed territorial governor of Arizona, a position he held until 1883.
Few stories capture the imagination like that of Wyatt Earp and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. During his long life, Earp drove stagecoaches, worked the railroads, hunted buffalo, prospected, kept saloons, and gambled. In 1871 he was even arrested for stealing horses in Indian Territory. But it was Ned Buntline’s highly fictionalized dime novels that immortalized Earp as a gun-toting lawman.
Struck by gold rush fever in the 1860s, Nellie Cashman joined the stampede north to the remote Cassir strike in British Columbia. Her encounter with men dying along the way from scurvy moved her to organize a relief expedition laden with fresh fruits and vegetables – beginning her career as the “Miners’ Angel.” She spent two decades in Tombstone, Arizona aiding the ill and the injured, before bringing her services to Alaska.
Pioneering markets in the West, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving, an experienced drover, opened the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Although many cattle were lost along the way, the survivors sold readily, establishing the Goodnight-Loving Trail as one of the main highways of the cattle drives and launching Goodnight as one of the first great cattle barons. In 1876, he built an immense empire, grazing 100,000 cattle on more than 700,000 acres. To improve his stock he imported Durhams and Herefords, transforming the Texas longhorn into today’s cattle.
One of the most feared and respected Indian warriors, Geronimo fought overwhelming odds in trying to win freedom for his people. Described as having the “eye of a hawk, the stealth of a coyote, and the courage of a tiger,” the great warrior was finally defeated after more than 5,000 troops were deployed against him. Surrendering for the fourth and final time in 1886, Geronimo was moved in 1894 to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Kit Carson’s contributions to the westward expansion of the United States rank him as one of the nation’s great folk heroes. He worked in fur trapping and trading and joined explorer John C. Fremont’s government-financed expeditions. During the Civil War he served in the Union Army as colonel of the 1st New Mexico Volunteers. Following the war he was appointed superintendent of Indian affairs for the Colorado Territory. Carson’s fairness and sympathy for the plight of Native Americans made him an ideal choice for the position, which he held until his death.
Wild Bill Hickok
The victor in an authentic western shootout, Wild Bill Hickok established the ideal for the fast drawing lawman. Born James Butler Hickok, “Wild Bill” received his nickname while serving as a Union scout and spy during the Civil War. In 1869 the harassed citizens of Ellis County, Kansas, elected him sheriff. Spending much of his time in Hays City, he tamed the wild frontier town. In 1871 he moved on to Abilene, Kansas, where he served as the town’s marshal.
Grizzly bears, mountain lions, deer, elk, big horn sheep, pronghorn antelope, bald eagles, and prairie dogs were all abundant in the wild west. But the story of America’s largest animal (weighing up to 3,000 pounds), the bison or buffalo, best describes how white settlement affected western wildlife. Two hundred years ago, about 70 million buffalo thrived on the plentiful grasses of the plains. Native Americans first hunted buffalo for commercial purposes in the early 1800s, trading the hides to whites for manufactured goods. Whites soon began harvesting the animals to feed railroad workers. After nearly two decades of unabashed slaughter, a survey discovered there were only 800 buffalo left on the continent! Due to protection, the buffalo has made a remarkable comeback, and today tens of thousands of these remarkable animals once more roam the prairies.
Born a slave in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Jim Beckwourth was emancipated in 1810, and spent six years of his life living with the Crow Indians. Hired for a fur-trapping expedition into the Rocky Mountains in 1824, Beckwourth was lured to the life of a scout. While serving as a scout for the US Army, he discovered a pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which became part of a major emigration route to California. Beckwourth also participated briefly in the Mexican War and served as a guide and interpreter for U.S. troops during the Cheyenne War in 1864.
In 1875 Bill Tilghman became famous as a fearless lawman for Ford County – home of the notorious cow town Dodge City. He continued to battle frontier lawlessness in Indian Territory. His greatest triumph was the defeat of the notorious gang-leader Bill Doolin after three years of pursuit; in the end Tilghman vanquished the criminal in hand-to-hand combat. The famous lawman Bat Masterson described Bill Tilghman as “the greatest of us all.”
Born in present-day Idaho to Shoshone parents, Sacagawea was only 12 when she was captured by an enemy tribe and taken to what became North Dakota. In 1803, she was sold to French-Canadian fur trader Toussaint Charbonneau, who made her his wife. That same year, Lewis and Clark hired Charbonneau as an interpreter. Because she spoke Shoshone, they agreed to add Sacagawea to their party. Carrying her infant son on her back, she guided the expedition over treacherous mountain trails and down roaring whitewater rivers. Her presence with the explorers also eased the suspicions of other tribes, for as Clark noted, “A woman with a party of men is a token of peace.”
Although various companies set up stagecoach runs from the Missouri frontier to the West, the service was unreliable and oftentimes inefficient. In 1857, Congress finally took action and directed the Postmaster General to accept bids for establishing an overland mail service. A year later the Butterfield Overland Mail Company opened a regular service between St. Louis, Missouri and California. The trip was a jolting 25-day ordeal that traveled 2,800 miles through the burning desert. The stagecoach mail run lasted two years before the Pony Express rode into history in 1860. But the glory of the Pony Express was also short-lived. By 1861, advancing railroads and the telegraph brought a close to another chapter in American history.