Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Post Office Honors US Merchant Marine In New Stamp Series

The United States Postal Service on Thursday commemorated the 75th anniversary of the signing of the law that created the modern US Merchant Marine with the dedication of a new series of postage stamps honoring the US Merchant Marine.

In several ceremonies across the nation, including one aboard a restored World War II Liberty ship in the Port of Los Angeles, the USPS unveiled the series of four new stamps, each featuring vessels that played key roles during the history of the US Merchant Marine.

"The new four-stamp pane that we are issuing today features vessels that have formed an important part of our country’s maritime history – clipper ships, auxiliary steamships, Liberty ships and container ships," USPS vice president of Product Information Jim Cochrane said at a similar dedication ceremony held Thursday at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York.

The Clipper Ship stamp is based on an undated Frank Vining Smith lithograph of the famous clipper Sovereign of the Seas, which launched in 1852.

The Auxiliary Steamship stamp is based on contemporary lithographs of ships of the Collins Line, which provided service between New York and Liverpool in the 1850s. These were steam-powered ships with back-up sailing rigs.

The Liberty Ship stamp is based on a photograph of an unidentified Liberty ship in the files of the public library in Westport, Conn. During World War II, the US built nearly 3,000 of these plain but sturdy cargo vessels for the war effort. 

The Container Ship stamp is based on an undated photograph of the R.J. Pfeiffer, a modern container ship launched in 1992 and operated by Matson Navigation Company.

"The men and women who built and sailed the ships depicted in these four postal stamps have buoyed our prosperity, liberty and way of life. Their sacrifice is worthy of remembrance, as they continue to be an integral part of America’s economy and national security," US Merchant Marine Academy administrator David Matsuda said.

The US Maritime Administration, whose forerunner the US Maritime Commission was also created 75 years ago by the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, is charged with developing and maintaining an adequate, well-balanced national merchant marine, sufficient to carry the nation's domestic waterborne commerce and a substantial portion of its waterborne foreign commerce, and capable of service as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency.

Known as MARAD, the agency also seeks to ensure that the US maintains adequate shipbuilding and repair services, efficient ports, effective inter-modal water and land transportation systems, and reserve shipping capacity for use in time of national emergency.

The US merchant fleet currently consists of just fewer than 200 large cargo vessels of various types. One hundred of these vessels fall under the Jones Act, which requires the vessels to be built in the US and staffed by US sailors.

"As we dedicate these stamps, we pay homage not only to the ships, but also to the valor of the thousands of dedicated members of the US Merchant Marine who served their country and served it honorably," USPS' Cochrane said.

The four stamp series are offered as "Forever stamps," meaning they are always equal in value to the current USPS First-Class Mail one-ounce rate, regardless of the original purchase price.

In addition to the restored Liberty ship S.S. Lane Victory, the Los Angeles port is also home to the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial, the first national memorial honoring the hundreds of thousands of merchant mariners that have served the nation in wartime.

tags: United States Merchant Marine, Port of Los Angeles