By Joe Darby
(Note to readers: This is one in an occasional series of columns by Joe Darby on stamps and coins. If you have any questions Joe would welcome your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Did you know that Louisiana was the first state to be honored on a US postage stamp?
Well, technically, the stamps, issued in 1904, commemorated the Louisiana Purchase, but what’s the purchase without Louisiana, right? After all, what President Thomas Jefferson really wanted was New Orleans and control of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Of course what he ended up with was enough land ceded by France to double the size of the young United States.
The five-stamp set was issued in 1904, one year after the 100th anniversary of the purchase, but close enough for those days, I suppose. A green one-cent stamp and a brown 3-cent stamp depict Robert Livingston and James Monroe, respectively, the chief American negotiators in Paris. A red 2-cent stamp shows Jefferson and a blue 5-cent issue depicts the late President William McKinley, who was shot in 1901. He was likely honored both because he was assassinated and because like Jefferson he expanded US territory, by annexing Hawaii and by acquiring the Philippines and Guam from Spain.
Finally, a brown 10-cent stamp shows a map of the Louisiana Purchase territory. This is a popular set with collectors and the lower denominations can be obtained relatively cheaply while the 5 and 10 cent issues are more pricey but not out of reach for most.
Louisiana has been honored in the ensuing years since 1904 on a number of other interesting stamps. In 1953, the Post Office issued a brown 3-cent stamp noting the 150th anniversary of the purchase, showing Monroe, Livingston and Barbe-Marbois Napoleon’s negotiator on the land deal.
Then, in 1962, a stamp honoring the 150th anniversary of Louisiana statehood was issued. It showed a sketch of a paddle-wheeled steamer proceeding down a bayou with moss-draped trees in the foreground. The original cost of that stamp was 4 cents, the going rate for first class mail at the time.
Just three years later the Post Office honored the 150th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, with a 5-cent stamp showing Gen. Andy Jackson and the American flag as they triumphed over the Brits on the fields of Chalmette in 1815.
Again, after 38 years, another special Louisiana stamp was issued in 2003, commemorating the 200th anniversary of the purchase, showing the signing of the treaty in full color. That first-class stamp cost 37 cents.
And of course our statehood’s 200th anniversary was honored in 2012, with a lovely swamp scene at sunset — or maybe at sunrise — on a first class stamp costing 45 cents.
Finally, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans was noted in 2015, with a realistic depiction of the American firing line at Chalmette, on a 49-cent first-class stamp.
All of the above stamps since the 1953 issue are very inexpensive and easy to find through a good stamp dealer and are all unique to our state. Louisiana has been honored in a number of other issues in the last 30 years or so, along with stamps from all of the other 50 states, in huge 50-stamp sheets.
These depict such things as state flowers, birds, wildlife or flags, as well as renderings of tourist post cards representing each state. I’ve shown an example of the latter, issued in 2002.
So, if you have an interest and a few bucks, you can amass a neat little collection honoring good ole Louisiana in stamps. Have fun.