1996 F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Commemorated F. Scott Fitzgerald's 100th birth anniversary.
- The 13th stamp in the Literary Arts Series.
Category of Stamp: Commemorative
Set: Literary Arts Series (13th stamp in the series)
Value: 23¢, Additional Ounce Rate
First Day of Issue: September 27, 1996
First Day City: St. Paul, Minnesota
Quantity Issued: 300,000,000
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method/Format: Gravure printing, Panes of 50 (5 across, 10 down)
Tagging: Phosphored paper
Reason the stamp was issued: This stamp was issued in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great American novelist, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
About the stamp design: The stamp pictures an oil painting of Fitzgerald by the same artist who creaated the 1995 Tennessee Williams stamp (Michael Deas). The portrait was based on a 1920 photograph of 24-year-old Fitzgerald sitting at his desk. The background of the painting includes an image of the Long Island seashore. There's a boat floating offshore and a green light casting a reflection on the water. The green light represents the light at the end of Daisy Buchanan's dock in Fitzgerald's iconic novel, The Great Gatsby. The green light in the novel has come to be synonymous with Fitzgerald. According to the Postal Service, Deas painted the scene more than three times before he was satisfied.
About the printing process: The previous Literary Arts stamp (picturing Tennessee Williams) was offset-printed by Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd. However, the F. Scott Fitzgerald stamp was printed on the BEP's old Andreotti gravure press. The resulting Fitzgerald stamp design is therefore not quite as clear and crisp as the original painting. The typography is also not quite as striking.
First Day City: This stamp was dedicated in St. Paul, Minnesota – Fitzgerald's hometown – as part of a week-long celebration of his birth. Deputy Postmaster General Michael S. Coughlin led the First Day ceremony. Eleanor Lanahan (Fitzgerald's granddaughter) spoke at the ceremony along with several others.
Early Usage: While the stamp wasn't officially issued until September 27th, there is a known usage on a cover postmarked to Cody, Wyoming on September 18th – nine days before.
Confusion at the post office: The Fitzgerald stamp's 23¢ denomination led to some mix-ups at the post office since the first-class rate at the time was 32¢. Some people thought the 23¢ was a misprint, while others simply misread what was typed on the stamp. An unknown number of Fitzgerald stamps were mistakenly sold for 32¢ and some were even used for the first-class rate instead of their intended purpose to cover an additional ounce.
What could've been: F. Scott Fitzgerald was on the short list for the Literary Arts Series since 1986. In fact, Bradbury Thompson (a well-known stamp designer and typographer) drafted a vertical stamp picturing Fitzgerald in profile. If the stamp was issued then, it would've been in the same style as engraved stamps honoring Herman Melville, T.S. Eliot, and William Faulkner. In the end, the idea was dropped until 10 years later.
The Literary Arts Series: The Literary Arts Series began in 1979 with a John Steinbeck stamp. The F. Scott Fitzgerald stamp was the 13th in the series. (Click here to get every stamp in the series issued from 1979 to 2021.)
History the stamp represents: Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was named after his second cousin three times removed on his father's side, Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Fitzgerald showed high intelligence and an interest in literature from an early age. His first work was a detective story published in the school newspaper. While attending Princeton University, he wrote for a theater group as well as the school magazine. He also submitted his first book to a publisher during this time, but was ultimately rejected.
Though he was bright, Fitzgerald's writing distracted him from his studies, leading him to be placed on probation. He left Princeton and joined the Army in 1917.
Fearing he might die in The Great War, Fitzgerald hastily wrote The Romantic Egoist just weeks before reporting for duty. Though Scribner's turned it down, they asked him to send more work.
Fitzgerald was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry and was assigned to Camp Sheridan, Alabama. It was there he met his future wife, Zelda. In the end, Fitzgerald was never deployed to Europe. When the war ended, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in advertising. He also wrote several short stories during this time as well as revised The Romantic Egoist, retitling it This Side of Paradise. Scribners finally accepted his book and published it in 1920 to instant success.
Fitzgerald's literary success proved to Zelda that he could support her and she agreed to marry him. The couple lived an opulent lifestyle that provided plenty of inspiration for Fitzgerald's writing. They spent much of their time in Paris and other parts of Europe, befriending American expatriates like Ernest Hemingway.
In between writing short stories, Fitzgerald also worked on his novels. His second, The Beautiful and the Damned, was published in 1922, with The Great Gatsby following shortly after in 1925. While Gatsby wasn't as popular at its time of release as it would be in later years, today it's considered by many to be Fitzgerald's masterpiece.
In the coming years, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood and worked with MGM studios on an unused draft of Gone with the Wind and revisions of Madam Curie. During his Hollywood tenure he also wrote his fifth and final novel The Last Tycoon, which was published posthumously.
Upon his death on December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald had written five novels and 160 short stories.