Vintage Children’s Books Helped Inspire Santa and Sleigh Stamps

The first thing artist Paul Rogers did after being asked to design a holiday stamp showing a “traditional” image of Santa Claus was search the Internet. He was looking for storybook images that would spark his childhood memories and give him a starting point for the project.

Several children’s storybooks gave him a feeling for possible ways to approach the subject:

“Donald Duck and Santa Claus,” illustrated by Al Dempster (1952)

“The Golden Book of Little Verses,” illustrated by Mary Blair (1953)

“The Night Before Christmas,” illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren (1951)

“Wonder Book of Christmas,” illustrated by Lou Myers (1951)

“I was worried about how to do it and not be corny,” Rogers said. “I grew up in California, so I’ve never seen a snowy village.”

First, Rogers did a rough sketch of Santa to suggest a basic look.

He then sent sketches for the block of four stamps to art director Howard Paine. They considered presenting Santa’s face as a sort of puzzle.

But in the end they decided on a different strategy. Rogers presented sketches with one stamp more “finished” to give a better sense of what he had in mind.

An early version of the solution they agreed on appears above. The final stamps are slightly different: The reindeer’s legs in the top right square, for example, joined its whole body in the top left in the finished version. Changes were made to the houses as well.

“Howard Paine is such a great art director,” Rogers said. “He always gave really great advice.”

This set includes a booklet of 20 stamps and four envelopes, each with an affixed stamp and a First Day of Issue color postmark (click for more info).

The special challenge posed by this assignment, Rogers said, was to create a composition that would work as four stamps together as well as individually. His original sketches were drawn in pencil on paper, but the final images were computer-generated—making the stamp art simultaneously traditional and new.

The Santa and Sleigh Forever® stamps are now available online and in Post Offices nationwide as double-sided booklets of 20 self-adhesive stamps each. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.  At the time of issuance, the Santa and Sleigh stamps are being sold at a price of 45 cents each, or $9.00 per booklet.

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About USPS Stamps

The Postal Service™ is proud of its role in portraying the American experience to a world audience through the issuance of postage stamps and postal stationery. Each year the Postal Service issues commemorative stamps reflecting subjects of national significance and appeal. More than 160 years of stamp development has yielded an incredible archive of imagery and commentary reflecting American culture and society. Even in this fast-changing world, stamps are still a versatile and convenient method of postage. And stamp collecting is a lifetime hobby that is fun and educational for all ages. Stamp collecting is easy to start without a big investment. It is also a great way to learn about the world and its many wonders, opening the door to an exciting universe of history, science, geography, the arts, technology, and sports. Our mission is to provide universal service that is prompt, reliable, efficient, affordable, and self-sustaining. Throughout its history the Postal Service has grown with the nation, binding it together by ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has the same ability to communicate regardless of technological change.