2020 Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
- Celebrates the 400th anniversary of the arrival in the New World of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower
Stamp Category: Commemorative
Value: 55c Forever stamp (non-denominated)
First Day of Issue: September 17, 2020
First Day City: Plymouth, Massachusetts
Quantity Issued: 25,000,000
Printed by: Ashton Potter (USA) Ltd.
Format: Issued in panes of 20 pressure-sensitive (self-adhesive) stamps
Printing method: Offset printed, with engraved Mayflower insignia
Why the stamp was issued: The US Postal Service® issued this stamp to commemorate a defining moment in American history – and its 400th anniversary – the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Harbor in late December, 1620. The stamp fulfilled the first-class postage rate for letters up to one ounce.
About the stamp design: The stamp shows the ship Mayflower as it sits in Plymouth Harbor, where over 100 exhausted immigrants to the New World dropped anchor after a treacherous sea journey of 66 days.
Writing on medium.com, the stamp’s designer – Greg Breeding, art director of the USPS – talks about his close collaboration with Greg Harlin, who created the original art. Harlin noted the use of strong vertical lines of the ship contrasting with the horizontal lines of the landscape shows how form can stir emotions “and in this instance a sense of beautiful but foreboding awareness.” While the Pilgrims didn’t know what dangers and challenges awaited them on those dark shores, the stamp’s artwork conveys the feeling.
Sunlight breaks through the clouds at dawn as the landing party’s boat starts for the shore. And it reflects on the water. In adding this element, artist and designer purposely brought light, and with it a sense of hope, to the darker scene of water, clouds, ship and shore. This “Forever” stamp, with its stunning design, will preserve the history and hope of people searching for religious freedom – forever.
Special design details: The original artwork was done in a combination of watercolor, gouache (opaque watercolor) and acrylic.
The Mayflower symbol in the upper right was drawn by the stamp’s designer – Greg Breeding. Printed in intaglio, it’s a stylized version of the mayflower shrub blossom, from which the hired ship took its name.
1620 at the top right indicates the date of the event and highlights its 400th anniversary.
Date of issue – 2020 – is shown in light type at bottom right of the stamp.
Ink goes right to the edges of the stamp in what’s called a “full bleed”, giving more space for the design.
The Mayflower is flying England’s Union Jack flag of 1620.
History the stamp represents:
The Pilgrims left England due to disagreements with the Church of England. They sailed to Holland, and stayed there for a time. Eventually, they were persecuted for their faith in this new country as well. The Pilgrims believed they had no choice but to go to the New World and start fresh. After a number of delays, they finally began their journey across the Atlantic on September 6, 1620. This was a particularly dangerous time to sail. It was known to be the season for strong western gales in the North Atlantic.
The Pilgrims sailed Mayflower through several horrific storms on their journey, including one that almost destroyed the main beam of the ship. Luckily, they managed to stabilize the ship, and Mayflower was able to continue sailing. The Pilgrims' determination and dream of living a life of religious freedom allowed them to overcome dire odds and finally reach America.
Other stamps honoring the Pilgrims’ arrival in the New World:
The U.S. Postal Service has commemorated the historic event twice before.
#548-50 were issued in 1920 to honor the 300th anniversary (Tercentenary) of the Pilgrims’ arrival. #548 pictures the Mayflower, #549 the actual landing, and #550 the signing of the Mayflower Compact. The Compact was an agreement forged by the newcomers. It created a foundation for self-government in the colony based on majority rule.
Interestingly, #548-50 are the only US postage stamps without a country designation.
In 1970, US #1420 Landing of the Pilgrims, showed Mayflower in the background, and Pilgrims in the foreground. This stamp was issued for the 350th anniversary.