Postage Stamps

By | Monday, April 24, 2023 1 comment
In 1893 Postmaster General John Wanamaker came up with the idea of creating a special stamp to honor something, and the first commemorative stamp honored the World Columbian Exposition held in Chicago that year. Since that time, commemorative stamps have been created to immortalize a wide variety of things including the states, the presidents, American heroes, great inventions, monumental days in history, and popular icons. Today's question: how many comic strips and/or comic strip characters have been honored on postage stamps? (I'll keep this US-centric because... well, I only have so much time to research these blog posts!)

Well, my initial search turns up a good chunk right off the bat. In 1995, the US Postal Service created a series called "Comic Strip Classics" consisting of newspaper comics that were created before 1950. There were twenty comics represented in that series:
  • The Yellow Kid
  • The Katzenjammer Kids
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland
  • Bringing Up Father
  • Krazy Kat
  • Rube Goldberg’s Inventions
  • Toonerville Folks
  • Gasoline Alley
  • Barney Google
  • Little Orphan Annie
  • Popeye
  • Blondie
  • Dick Tracy
  • Alley Oop
  • Nancy
  • Flash Gordon
  • Li'l Abner
  • Terry and the Pirates
  • Prince Valiant
  • Brenda Starr
In 2010, there was a smaller series called "Sunday Funnies" that featured:
  • Archie
  • Beetle Bailey
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Garfield
  • Calvin and Hobbes
Archie was a bit of a stretch since he debuted in comic books in 1939. But an Archie comic strip did begin in 1947 and ran until 2011, at which time he switched over to re-runs. So technically, he would qualify, I suppose. But that would mean I'd also have to mention that there have been stamps featuring:
  • Tarzan
  • Superman
  • Batman & Robin
  • Wonder Woman
  • Spider-Man
  • Betty Boop
  • Mickey Mouse
  • Donald Duck
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Bugs Bunny
  • Pink Panther
  • Raggedy Ann
  • The Muppets
  • Charlie McCarthy
  • Star Wars
  • Charlie Chaplin
While none of them are really known for being comic strips, having debuted in other media, they did all technically have comic strips at one point.

I was thinking that Peanuts had been something of a mainstay of philately, but evidently, the first Peanuts stamp did not debut until 2001. The most recent ones from 2015 were specifically focused on A Charlie Brown Christmas animated holiday special.

A curious piece I wasn't expecting to find was that, in 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin was featured on a stamp. The stamp features a photo of him, as well as drawings of two of his recurring characters, Willie and Joe from his Stars and Stripes strips.

From what I can tell, the USPS tended to shy away from fictional characters until the 1990s. Prior to that, there were only a few instances where a fictional character was honored, and most of those were of the "personification of an idea" variety: Victory, Freedom, etc. In the 1970s, they started getting a little more in pop culture with the likes of Santa Claus and Tom Sawyer. (Yes, the first stamp featuring Santa didn't come out until 1972.) Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog show up in the 1980s. But it's not until the '90s where the USPS starts anything with pop culture, and it's not until that 1995 release of "Comic Strip Classics" that we start seeing references to pop culture on a more regular basis.

But that's who all I can find. Did I miss anyone? I must've. What other comic strips have found their way onto US postage stamps?
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Billy Hogan said...

You might like to check out Bill Mauldin's two books from the 1940's, "Up Front" and "Back Home". Up Front chronicled his time in the Army Infantry, illustrated by reproductions of his one panel cartoons first published in Stars & Stripes. Most featured his two characters, Willie and Joe, two privates who gave people back home a mostly humorous look at all aspects of a grunts' life in the Army. Back Home also featured his cartoons, mostly editorial cartoons that at first chronicled a G. I.'s adjustment to civilian life, as well as his more political editorial cartoons. A lot of these later cartoons skewered the KKK. If I'm not mistaken, Mauldin won two Pulitzer Prizes for editorial cartoons. One was for his wartime cartoons, and the other was for his editorial cartoon published after the JFK assassination, of a weeping Lincoln statue. These two books were reprinted I think during the 50th Anniversary of the end of WWII.