Gulf Coast Lighthouses
Issue Date: July 23, 2009
City: Biloxi, MS
Please note: Due to the layout of the pane, the se-tenant may or may not be provided in Scott Catalogue order.
Lighthouses built along the Gulf Coast of the United States faced two remarkable forces – Mother Nature’s fury plus the devastation of America’s tragic Civil War. The few that survive bear witness to decades of hurricanes, erosion, and man’s attempts to save these towering sentinels.
Blockades prevented the transport of supplies and troops during the Civil War, making it critical for both sides to control waterways. The Gulf Coast lighthouses provided an ideal vantage point for the North to observe and protect its blockades or for the South to spy on them. Due to their strategic military importance, these sites were frequently disabled, destroyed, or turned into battle scenes.
Severe weather and erosion also threatened the structures. Lighthouses were built close to the water’s edge to guide ships around dangerous coastlines and safely into harbors. The terrain along the Gulf Coast of the United States presents a unique set of challenges. Much of the land is swampy, which makes it difficult to engineer a solid foundation. Frequent hurricanes compound the problem. The lighthouse must be sturdy enough to withstand high winds, plus counter shifts caused by eroding soil at its foundation.
Of all the lighthouses built along the Gulf Coast, only a handful have met these challenges and survive today. Five are honored on 2009 Gulf Coast Lighthouses U.S. commemorative stamps.
On April 26, 1990, the USPS issued the first booklet in its Lighthouse stamp series.
Beginning in 1986, the USPS began issuing topical booklets of five stamps each. Past topics had included fish, locomotives, classic cars, and steamboats. In April 1990, the set of lighthouse stamps would be the first of two such topical booklets issued that year.
Lighthouses had been featured on stamps in the past, but some lighthouse enthusiasts were calling for more. In 1987, James W. Hyland III, chairman of the Lighthouse Preservation Society, submitted a list of 10 lighthouses he thought should be honored on stamps to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee. Initially, the committee supported his idea and proposed issuing 10 stamps in two panes honoring all of the lighthouses. However, the USPS felt that would make for too many stamps, so they opted to just issue five, though a sixth would be pictured on the booklet cover. Two of the six lighthouses had been on stamps before, Cape Hatteras and Sandy Hook.
The stamp designs were first unveiled on August 4, 1989, at the Customs House Maritime Museum in Newburyport, Massachusetts. August 4th was the anniversary of the creation of the Revenue Marine (later the Revenue Cutter Service). The stamps would be issued in 1990 to mark the 200th anniversary.
The stamps were issued on April 26, 1990, in Washington, D.C. Less than two weeks after they were issued, some booklets were discovered without the white intaglio ink for “USA” and the denomination. Some of these error books sold for over $500 each.
Five years later, the USPS issued a second booklet featuring lighthouses. They included two lighthouses from the list submitted in 1990, but all of the lighthouses in this set were ones found along the Great Lakes. Both of these sets proved quite popular, so the USPS continued issuing stamps honoring lighthouses from different areas of the country every few years, with the final issue coming in 2013.