34¢ American Illustrators
Issue Date: February 1, 2001
City: New York, NY
Printed by: Avery Dennison Security Printing
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: Serpentine die cut 11.25
This set of stamps from the Classic Collection Series showcases the art of twenty American illustrators of magazines, posters, books, and advertisements. The illustrators featured include:
Coles Phillips (1880-1927) – Known for his “fadeaway girl” – who was illustrated in colors or fabrics that blended into the background.
Robert Fawcett (1903-1967) – Well-known for illustrations related to Sherlock Holmes that accompanied a popular series about the fictional detective in Collier’s magazine.
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951) – Early role model for Norman Rockwell. He illustrated over 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post.
Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) – Creating detailed fantasy lands that were immensely popular with the American public. His rich use of colors led to one being named in his honor – “Parrish Blue.”
James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960) – Used his own facial features to create the famous appearance of “Uncle Sam” in the “I Want You” military recruiting posters.
Dean Cornwell (1892-1960) – Created illustrations that accompanied stories written by authors like Pearl Buck and Ernest Hemingway.
Rose O’Neill (1874-1944) – Developed “Kewpies” – playful, child-like figures who were so popular they became a line of collectible dolls.
Howard Pyle (1853-1911) – Ran prestigious art school that helped earn him the nickname “Father of American Illustration.”
Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928) – Illustrated the “Uncle Remus” stories written by Joel Chandler Harris, including “Br’er Rabbit” and “Br’er Fox.”
Al Parker (1906-1985) – Well-known for illustrations of mothers and daughters on women’s magazines. His images helped set fashion trends.
Harvey Dunn (1884-1952) – Created solemn images of World War I as a military artist, and later developed a series of paintings of life on the Dakota prairie.
Jon Whitcomb (1906-1988) – Presented images of stylish and glamorous women. Was a U.S. Navy artist who created illustrations of homecoming soldiers in World War II.
Neysa McMein (1888-1949) – A member of the “Algonquin Round Table” literary group, McMein helped define images of modern women of the era.
Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935) – Specialized in pictures of mothers and children. She illustrated almost 200 covers of Good Housekeeping magazine.
Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) – Was best known for his detail in illustrating works of Shakespeare or other British historical legends.
John Held, Jr. (1889-1958) – His cartoons showed American culture during the “Jazz Age.”
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) – Chronicled life in Small Town, U.S.A., on over 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post. Also was a primary illustrator for the Boy Scouts of America.
Newell Convers Wyeth (1882-1945) – Dramatic illustrator known for his scenes of American historical events.
Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) – Worked in different artistic styles, including wood engraving, painting, and lithography. Known for rugged outdoors scenes.
Frederic Remington (1861-1909) – Painter and sculptor who chronicled life in the Old West. Also was an artist in Cuba in the Spanish-American War.
Final Issue Of The Classic Collection
On June 13, 2002, the USPS issued the final sheet in the Classic Collection Series.
The series began six years earlier with the infamous Legends of the West sheet in 1994. That sheet and the series that followed it actually developed out of plans to honor the centennial of Ellis Island!
After the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee requested artwork for the potential Ellis Island stamp, they found the art was “grim and lacked color.” As they continued to discuss the project, their focus shifted from immigration to America’s Westward migration in the 19thcentury. And that, in turn, became a Western Americana project. They initially considered a four-stamp set but had ideas to honor several figures and ultimately decided on 20 stamps. Then the USPS manager of philately and the head of stamp design came up with the idea for the Classic Collection series, of which the Legends of the West would be the first issue.
Each sheet in the series would have the same unique 20-stamp format. Each would have broadly-defined Americana themes, exceptional artwork, a banner printed on the selvage of the sheet, and descriptive text on the back of each stamp. Additionally, postal cards with matching artwork would be issued to coordinate with a few of the sheets.
The series got off to a memorable start when it was discovered before the Legends of the West stamps were even issued that the stamp picturing Bill Pickett actually pictured his brother Ben. The sheets were recalled, but 186 were sold before the First Day of Issue, so the USPS sold 150,000 sheets through a mail-order lottery. The corrected sheet was issued on October 18, 1994.
The Classic Collection series continued in 1995 with two more sheets. The first was the Civil War sheet, which marked the 130thanniversary of the end of the war. The creation of this sheet brought about the most extensive effort in USPS history to review and verify the historical accuracy of each of its stamp subjects. Each of the 16 individuals and four battles featured were chosen from a master list of 50 subjects. The goal of the USPS was to show the wide variety of people who participated in the Civil War.
Also issued in 1995, the Comic Strip Classics sheet honored comics that were created within the first 50 years of comics, from 1895 to 1945. One of these stamps included a rare USPS spelling mistake. In the text on the backside of the Little Orphan Annie stamp, “indispensable” is misspelled “indispensible.”
Next up in the series came the 1996 Olympics sheet. The 1996 Olympic Summer Games marked the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics. More than 11,000 athletes from 197 countries reached for excellence as they took the Olympic motto, “Swifter, Higher, Stronger,” to heart.
The fifth issue in the series featured Classic American Aircraft. According to the back of the pane, “The aircraft chosen for this Classic Collection are representative of the first fifty years of powered flight in America. They are a chronicle of our aviation history from the days of wood-framed, fabric-covered contraptions to high-flying supersonic vehicles.”
In 1998, the sixth addition to the series honored four centuries of American Art. The text on the back of the pane reads, “The American artists represented here were born in diverse places around this country, as well as elsewhere. Some were self-taught, others were academically trained… These images … reflect some of the enduring themes in American visual arts: a concern with individuality in a democratic society, reverence for the variety of landscape across the continent, down-to-earth realism, and a recurring sense of optimism and energy.”
While the 1999 addition to the series may seem like a departure from the Americana themes of previous issues, the USPS had their reasons for this sheet. Picturing 16 insects and four spiders, the sheet was created to display their educational value and create interest among children. The species represent the wide range of colors, lifestyles, and behaviors exhibited by these amazing creatures.
The first 2000 addition to the series might be the most patriotic yet! It shows the evolution of the American flag from Colonial times to the present. According to the back of the sheet, “The United States flag has evolved over the past 200-plus years from a variety of local, regional, and national designs, including unofficial and semi-official ones… These 20 examples, which are based on the most recent research available, offer a visual sampling of variations on a theme.”
The second sheet of 2000 honored America’s favorite pastime. The Legends of Baseball issue honored 20 baseball greats who were named to the “All-Century Team,” announced after the 1999 season. Votes from fans, as well as members of a special panel, selected the team.
In 2001, the Classic Collection honored the art of 20 American illustrators of magazines, posters, books, and advertisements. According to the USPS, “Advances in printing and publishing made possible by the Industrial Revolution ushered in a new era for American illustrators during the last quarter of the 19thcentury, allowing their work to be reproduced with increasing fidelity and attracting some of the country’s finest talents to the field.”
On June 13, 2002, the USPS issued the final sheet in the Classic Collection Series, honoring 20 renowned American photographers. The sheet adopted a different format, similar to the Legends of Hollywood sheets. The works on the sheet are displayed in chronological order and the selvage shows a photo taken by William Henry Jackson or one of his assistants. These artists combined daring, craftsmanship, and creativity to enlarge our view of America and the American people.