Our Favorite Links of the Week: Mail Art Edition

We’ve seen some amazing mail art in our time, and since the Internet makes it so easy to spread the love of letter-, envelope-, and postcard-based illustrations, we’re sharing some of our favorite sites and blogs that celebrate one of our favorite kinds of art!

Postmarked 2012 exhibits and then auctions off beautifully illustrated envelopes and letters from artists around the world. The proceeds benefit the Prison Library Project, which provides books and other educational material to prisons around the U.S. Submissions for this year’s auction will be accepted through the end of the month.

Serving as a repository for mail art competitions, exhibitions, and symposiums, Mail Art Project provides a forum for mail art enthusiasts to get involved in current projects around the world.

Mail Art Postcard Exhibition posts user-submitted photos of artfully decorated postcards that have been sent through the post.

With two exhibitions, two books, and more than 1,300 pieces of mail, Mail Me Art has brought together a diverse array of amateur and professional illustrators whose medium of choice is mail.

Are you a mail artist? We’d love to see some of your work! Share your art with us on Facebook, Twitter, or by email at uspsstamps [at] gmail [dot] com.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Stamp Swings Into Post Offices Today

“I have been writing for nineteen years and I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing, and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.”

So wrote Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875–1950) in the June 1930 issue of Writer’s Digest. And entertain he did. By 1930, Burroughs had published more than 40 novels, 13 of them about his most iconic character—Tarzan. By the end of his life he had written more than 70 books, including historical fiction and several popular series of science fiction tales.

Today we issue a new Forever® stamp in honor of Burroughs, one of the most popular and prolific writers of the early 20th century. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.) The artwork for the stamp features Tarzan, his most iconic character, clinging to a vine, with a profile of Burroughs in the background. The depiction of Tarzan is an interpretation of the character by artist Sterling Hundley. To create the portrait of Burroughs, Hundley used a photograph taken by the author’s son, Hulbert Burroughs. The 1934 photograph shows Burroughs reading a hardcover copy of Tarzan and the Lion Man, which was published the same year.

The first Tarzan story, “Tarzan of the Apes,” was published in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine and issued as a book in 1914. “I do not say the story is true, for I did not witness the happenings which it portrays,” writes Burroughs in the first chapter, “but the fact that in the telling of it to you I have taken fictitious names for the principal characters quite sufficiently evidences the sincerity of my own belief that it may be true.”

And with that, America was hooked. Tarzan grew into a phenomenon that has transcended the printed word.

First Day Cover (click image to order)

In the years that followed, Burroughs’s Tarzan stories were published in magazines, syndicated in newspapers, and republished in more than 24 books. In 1918, the silent film Tarzan of the Apes became the first of more than 50 Tarzan movies. Tarzan was the subject of a comic strip beginning in 1929, radio series in the 1930s and the 1950s, and several television series in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.

Burroughs also wrote prolifically beyond the Tarzan series. He published dozens of stories in pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories, Argosy All-Story, and Blue Book, resulting in eleven books about John Carter of Mars and six books in the Pellucidar series, which focused on a world at the center of the Earth—a world also visited by Tarzan in the 1930 book Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He wrote novels about Apache warriors, samurai, prehistoric islands, and adventurers on the planet Venus, and, in an interesting departure, he also explored the modern world in The Girl From Hollywood, a 1922 novel about stardom, drug abuse, murder, and power.

The Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp was issued today at a ceremony in (where else?) Tarzana, California. Those who missed the celebration can still pick up a ceremony program from the event.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.

Tarzan Creator A Constant Seeker

Stamps typically mark the anniversary of an honoree’s birth—but with the Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp, set to be issued Friday, August 17, in Tarzana, California, the U.S. Postal Service is doing something a bit different. This time, we’re celebrating the centennial of the start of the honoree’s writing career—an event to inspire anyone who dreams of escaping a dead-end job.

Born in 1875, Burroughs was a famously restless soul. After high school, he briefly taught geology before joining the Army, serving in the Arizona Territory with the U.S. Cavalry until being honorably discharged for health reasons. Afterwards, he ran a stationery store, dredged for gold in Idaho, worked as a railroad policeman, and sold books door-to-door. Craving adventure, he even sought—unsuccessfully—a commission in the Chinese army.

Ironically, Burroughs found adventure in one of the least swashbuckling jobs of his life. In 1912, while working as a manager at a pencil-sharpener company, he published his first story, “Under the Moons of Mars”—with the first Tarzan story springing from his typewriter later that year, and more than 70 books in the decades that followed. Young writers who fear that their chances of literary fame diminish with maturity can take heart in Burroughs’s example: One of the most prolific authors of the 20th century didn’t publish his work until he was 37 years old.

Far from an irrelevant prelude to a successful career, that endless stream of unsatisfying jobs appears to have honed Burroughs’s professionalism. As he told Writer’s Digest in 1930, “the profession of fiction writing should be carried on upon a high plane of business integrity and professional ethics, without any vain and silly illusions as to the importance of fiction outside of the sphere of entertainment.”

Burroughs frequently downplayed his own literary merit, but from the first word to the last, he felt a deep sense of professional obligation. “My first stories were the best stories that I could write, and every story that I have written since has been the very best story that I could write,” he insisted. “I have felt that it was a duty to those people who bought my books that I should give them the very best within me.”

The Edgar Rice Burroughs stamp, which is available for pre-order now, commemorates the author who invented Tarzan, but it also celebrates an ambitious American who continually reinvented himself until finding his true calling. The lesson of his life story may be that tangents have something to teach us, and that even an unfulfilling job can stir the imagination, filling our futures with stories untold.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.

Satisfy Your Choreographic Cravings With “A Century of Dance”

Our toes are tingling in anticipation of the new Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps, and we have just the thing to help feed your need for dance!

The 32-page A Century of Dance book will help you discover 100 years worth of dance in America. Illustrated with images of historic and great dance-makers of the 20th century, this gorgeous booklet is perfect for dance lovers. It also includes a collectible set of Innovative Choreographers (Forever®) stamps, featuring Isadora Duncan, José Limón, Katherine Dunham, and Bob Fosse. This book is the perfect addition to any collection and makes a great gift, too!

The Innovative Choreographers stamps, as well as dance-related philatelic products, will be issued on July 28 in Los Angeles, California. But you can pre-order yours today!

Gone With the Wind & the Books That Shaped America

Margaret Mitchell’s epic Civil War-era novel Gone With the Wind was published on this day in 1936. The only one of her works to be published in her lifetime, the book was an instant success, earning Mitchell critical recognition and remaining a national bestseller for two years.

Much to our delight, Gone With the Wind is also included in a new exhibition that opened on June 25 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The exhibition is called “Books That Shaped America,” and it aims to

spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives . . . Some of the titles on display have been the source of great controversy, even derision, in U.S. history. Nevertheless, they shaped Americans’ views of the world and the world’s views of America.

Here’s what the Library of Congress has to say about Gone With the Wind:

The most popular romance novel of all time was the basis for the most popular movie of all time (in today’s dollars). Margaret Mitchell’s book, set in the South during the Civil War, won both the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and it remains popular, despite charges that its author had a blind eye regarding the horrors of slavery.

Looking more closely at the exhibition’s list of books, we are very pleased to see many whose authors have appeared on U.S. postage stamps, including three (!) authors from the 2012 stamp program: poets Gwendolyn Brooks and William Carlos Williams, and Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. From the exhibition website:

  • Gwendolyn Brooks, A Street in Bronzeville (1945)

“A Street in Bronzeville” was Brooks’s first book of poetry. It details, in stark terms, the oppression of blacks in a Chicago neighborhood. Critics hailed the book, and in 1950 Brooks became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was also appointed as U.S. Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress in 1985.

  • William Carlos Williams, Spring and All (1923)

A practicing physician for more than 40 years, William Carlos Williams became an experimenter, innovator and revolutionary figure in American poetry. In reaction against the rigid, rhyming format of 19th-century poets, Williams, his friend Ezra Pound and other early-20th-century poets formed the core of what became known as the “Imagist” movement. Their poetry focused on verbal pictures and moments of revealed truth, rather than a structure of consecutive events or thoughts and was expressed in free verse rather than rhyme.

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1914)

“Tarzan of the Apes” is the first in a series of books about the popular man who was raised by and lived among the apes. With its universal themes of honesty, heroism and bravery, the series has never lost popularity. Countless Tarzan adaptations have been filmed for television and the silver screen, including an animated version currently in production.

Mark Twain, whose stamp was issued in 2011, is also included in the exhibition. “Books That Shaped America” will be on view through September 29. The Gwendolyn Brooks and William Carlos Williams stamps were issued in April 2012 as part of the Twentieth-Century Poets stamps pane and are still available. The Edgar Rice Burroughs stamps will be issued on August 17, 2012, in Tarzana, California.

Anyone want to start a stamp subjects book club?!

Gone with the Wind TM, its characters and elements are trademarks of Turner Entertainment Company and the Stephens Mitchell Trusts.

Tarzan™ Owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. and Used by Permission.