The Edward Gorey Stamp Campaign

The Edward Gorey Charitable Trust has launched a petition for a postage stamp to honor the artist best known for his whimsical and macabre illustrations:

February 22, 2025 marks the 100th anniversary of Edward Gorey’s birth, and we would like to see it celebrated with a U.S. postage stamp recognizing him as one of America’s most inventive and influential cultural figures. And, we need your help!

Please join the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust and our friends at the Edward Gorey House in our joint campaign for a centennial 2025 Edward Gorey postage stamp. To make this stamp a reality, please consider sending a letter of nomination to the United States Postal Service. To petition USPS for a stamp, we all must send in actual letters on paper at least three years in advance of prospective publication.

You can visit the Trust’s website for instructions on how to support the campaign. Alas, we never had a set of postage stamps designed by Gorey. My photo essay on the artist’s house in Cape Cod can be read here at the blog.

“A Vaster Empire Than Has Been”

The world’s first Christmas postage stamp was issued in Canada in 1898. It depicts the Mercator map with the territory of the British Empire in red. It is dated “XMAS 1898.” Along the bottom reads the motto, “We Hold a Vaster Empire Than Has Been.” Pictured above is a specimen from my small collection.

An apocryphal anecdote concerns the origin of the design. Michael O. Nowlan writes,

At the time, stamp designs for the colonial countries had to be approved by Queen Victoria. The story goes that a post office official in discussing the new Canadian stamp for the Imperial Penny Postage rate (two cents) with Her Majesty said the new stamp could serve as a tribute to the prince. The official was referring to the then-Prince of Wales whose birthday occurred on November 9, the original date selected to release the stamp.

Queen Victoria, who had her gruff moments, is said to have replied “Which prince?” in a tone that suggested she would not be pleased with a royal connection other than herself. The official quickly said “Why, madam, the Prince of Peace,” referring, of course, to the Christ child. As a result, the stamp when it was officially released on December 7, 1898, bore, not only Mercator’s map, but also the words “XMAS 1898”.

In fact the Prince of Wales had already appeared on postage stamps from Newfoundland and New Brunswick beginning in 1860 and continuing in circulation at least until the late 1880s. I think the anecdote (much repeated in philatelic circles) is a post-hoc explanation for why the Christmas message appears on a stamp that does not otherwise relate to the holiday. But Christmas postage designs as we know them today only appeared much later in the mid-twentieth century.