In the 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson promoted efforts to make America more beautiful. The U.S. Postal Service encouraged participation in their beautification campaign with the issuance of five stamps.
For the first stamp (the third stamp down in the image below), a 5-cent commemorative issued in 1966, artist Gyo Fujikawa illustrated the Jefferson Memorial glimpsed through the branches of a flowering cherry tree.
The daughter of Japanese parents, Fujikawa worked for various companies in her career as a commercial artist including Walt Disney Studios, which she deemed “a most memorable and profound experience,” one she credits for the attention to detail seen in her work. During her career she wrote and illustrated more than four-dozen children’s books, including Babies (1963), credited with being the first children’s book to show infants of many nationalities and races.
In addition to the 1996 Beautification stamp, Fujikawa’s other USPS projects include the 20-cent commemorative stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of the International Peace Garden, issued in 1982, and a 4-cent stamp issued in 1960 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first treaty to promote mutual understanding and good will between Japan and the United States.
Walter D. Richards designed four stamps urging citizens to embrace the Johnsons’ beautification campaign. Scenes of a street, a highway, a park, and a city, each enhanced by flowers and flowering trees, encouraged people to use plants to beautify their surroundings.
The stamps, issued in 1969, were one among many of Richards’ projects for the U.S. Postal Service. Lady Bird Johnson introduced them to the public in January 1969. You can watch the video of her press conference here.
In addition to the Beautification of America series, Richards’ work appears on more than 30 other U.S. postage stamps, including a twelve-stamp architectural series that featured images ranging from Thomas Jefferson’s Rotunda at the University of Virginia to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater; the series was issued from 1979 to 1981. More information on each of his stamp projects can be found on the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum website.
This year USPS celebrates the centennial of the birth of Lady Bird Johnson and commemorates her beautification work with the release of a souvenir stamp sheet featuring adaptations of all five original 1960s stamps designed by Richards and Fujikawa. The souvenir sheet was issued last week and is now available online and in Post Offices nationwide