1994 29¢ Stocking
· First Christmas stamp to feature a stocking
· 30th Contemporary Christmas issue
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Series: Contemporary Christmas
Value: 29¢, rate for first-class mail
First Day of Issue: October 20, 1994
First Day City: Harmony, Minnesota
Quantity Issued: 602,500,000
Printed by: Ashton-Potter
Printing Method: Lithography
Format: Panes of 50 in sheets of 400
Microprinting: “CHRISTMAS” on the teddy bear’s left ear and “1994” on the bib
Why the stamp was issued: For use on holiday mail
About the stamp design: The stamp art was created by Lou Nolan. This was Nolan’s second US stamp assignment – his first was the block of four Christmas toys in 1992. Nolan based his painting on a two-and-a-half foot long stocking his wife had made him in 1976. The final design pictures a red stocking with geometric patterns and a teddy bear, candy cane, orange, present, and a spring of evergreen sticking out of the top. Nolan didn’t want the stocking to just float on the stamp, so he suspended it from a red ribbon hanging from the second “e” in “Greetings.”
First Day City: Harmony, Minnesota – The Christmas Philatelic Club (CPC) was celebrating its 25th anniversary in 1994 and planned a large celebration. They launched an extensive campaign to get that year’s Christmas stamps issued in Harmony, where the CPC was founded. The USPS ultimately obliged, issuing three of that year’s Christmas stamps in Harmony.
About the Christmas Series: By the early 1960s, the US Post Office was receiving 1,000 letters a year (for several years) asking for a Christmas-themed stamp to frank their holiday mail. The idea was approved and the US issued its first Christmas stamp on November 1, 1962.
The stamp was wildly popular, featuring popular holiday decorations of a wreath and candles. The Post Office Department had expected there would be a great demand for the issue, so they printed 350 million stamps – the largest print run for a special stamp up to that time. Those 350 million stamps sold out quickly, leading the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to produce more stamps – reaching over 860 million by the end of the year.
While the Christmas stamp was very popular, it wasn’t without its detractors. Some didn’t agree with the idea of the post office issuing a stamp honoring a religious holiday. Others wanted Christmas stamps that were more religious. The Post Office would continue to issue Christmas stamps in the coming years that featured the National Christmas Tree, seasonal plants, and an angel in 1965. The angel was considered less controversial because angels are included in many religions, not just Christianity.
In 1966, the Post Office came up with a plan to produce Christmas stamps utilizing classic paintings of the Madonna and Child. These stamps wouldn’t violate the separation of church and state because they were a celebration of culture. On November 1, 1966, they issued the first US Madonna and Child stamp in Christmas, Michigan. The stamp featured the 15th century painting, Madonna and Child with Angels, by Flemish painter Hans Memling.
That stamp was very popular and over 1.1 billion were printed. The same design was used again the following year, however, the 1967 stamp was larger and showed more of the painting. The stamp’s continued popularity led the Post Office to issue another traditional Christmas stamp in 1968, this time picturing the Angel Gabriel. For the 1969 issue, they reverted back to the non-religious theme, with a stamp picturing a painting called Winter Sunday in Norway, Maine.
The Post Office made a big change in 1970. To keep people in both camps happy, they issued one traditional Christmas stamp, picturing a classic painting of the Nativity, plus a block of four picturing Christmas toys. That decision proved popular and they have continued to issue stamps with both traditional and contemporary Christmas themes ever since.
History the stamp represents: Hanging stockings by the fireplace became a custom in the early days of eighteenth-century England. When the English took over the colony of New Amsterdam (which later became New York), the Dutch colonists adopted the custom, since wooden shoes were no longer worn in the new colony. Long, heavy, woolen stockings however, were worn by both boys and girls and so on Saint Nicholas Eve, these were hung upon the mantle instead.
Because they stretched, these stockings could hold lots of surprises. Filled with small presents, candy, and fruit they became mysterious-looking, bumpy objects. A new coin was always placed in the toe, followed by an orange – the first a symbol of wealth, the second a symbol of the return of the sun in the coming year. If a child were naughty, he might find coal in his stocking instead.
Eventually special Christmas stockings were made. Cut from brightly colored material, they were often trimmed with braid or ribbon, and decorated with sequins, cut-out trees and stars, tiny sleigh bells, and tufts of cotton to represent snow. Each child would have his own stocking, which was put away each year to be used the following Christmas.