Lewis Hine: Made in America

DCP Keepsake

This collectible keepsake package includes one randomly selected pane of Made in America stamps and one randomly selected Digital Color Postmark First Day Cover. Click the image for details.

We love the iconic portraits of industrial workers found on the Made in America Forever® stamps—and while it’s obvious that those pictured are working hard, have you ever thought about the work of the photographer who created the images?

Documentary photographer Lewis Hine (who was born on this day in 1874) created 11 of the 12 stamp images, and four of those document the construction of the Empire State Building, the tallest building in the world from 1931 to 1972. Look at the photos, and take a second to think about this: Where exactly was Hine standing when he took those photos of construction workers balancing on steel girders, with nothing but empty sky behind them?

Capturing those classic scenes involved some risk. In 1930, Hine wrote about one of his most adventurous days at the Empire State Building in a letter to a friend:

My six months of skyscraping have culminated in a few extra thrills . . . just before the high derrick was taken down, they swung me out in a box from the hundreth floor—a sheer drop of nearly a quarter of a mile—to get some shots of the tower. The Boss argued that it had never been done and could never be done again and that, anyway, it’s safer than a ride on a Pullman or a walk in the city streets. So he prevailed.

During his career, Hine also achieved fame as a social reformer.

Hine duo

USPS has issued two other stamps featuring photographs by Lewis Hine, in 1998 (Celebrate the Century: 1910s; left) and 2002 (Masters of American Photography; right).

Best known for pictures of immigrants, child laborers, and industrial workers, he viewed his subjects with compassion and their harsh surroundings with an unflinching eye. His photographs of children working in mines, mills, and factories led Congress to try to regulate child labor, but the Supreme Court declared early laws unconstitutional.

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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.