By Stacy B. C. Wood, Jr.
Over the years the U.S. Postal Office/Service has twice issued stamps commemorating the landing of the Pilgrims. The first issue was on December 21, 1920 for the Tercentennial. It consisted of three horizontal stamps: a one cent green stamp with the inscription 'THE MAYFLOWER,' a two cent red stamp with the inscription "LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS," and a five cent blue stamp inscribed "SIGNING OF THE COMPACT." The top of each stamp reads "PILGRIM TERCENTENARY" while at the bottom are the dates "1620" and "1920."
In 1952 The General Society issued a stamp or seal, in vertical format, which shows the Mayflowerin color on a blue background, all within a double black border or frame. The inner frame reads "1620" at the bottom and "SOCIETY OF / Mayflower / DESCENDANTS" reading from right side, across the top, and down the left side.
The second US Post Office issue was a vertical six cent stamp of August 4, 1970. It is a six-color stamp showing a group of Pilgrims in the foreground and the Mayflower in the background. "U.S. POSTAGE 6 CENTS" is at the bottom and "1620 THE LANDING OF THE PILGRIMS" is on the right side. Unfortunately, the Pilgrims are shown in the stereotypical and incorrect black and white clothing, and the Mayflower is flying the British flag that came into use after 1806. The General Society had submitted a correct design (see below) that was ignored by the Post Office. A first day cover was issued on November 21, 1970. It bears an illustration of the Mayflower under full sail as seen from the starboard forward quarter and has the General Society's seal in the upper left corner of the envelope.
Another first day cover issued in 1970, but not well illustrated, had a signed 2"x3" engraved plate depicting an aft starboard quarter view of the Mayflower. It read "350th Anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower."
In 1971 the second General Society non-postage stamp was printed. It was a modified version of the one rejected by the Post Office in 1970. It was designed by member Irene K. Lenher and shows the Mayflower being led by its shallop, both under full sail in the embrace of Cape Cod within Cape Cod Bay. In the lower left corner are the dates "1620" and "1897," the latter being the year of the founding of the General Society. The scene is framed in mayflower pink and in fact shows strings of mayflowers in pink and white, the Society colors, on the left and right sides. In the top of the frame is inscribed "General Society of" and "Mayflower Descendants" at the bottom.
On December 4th, 1986 the United States Postal Service issued this precancelled embossed envelope portraying the Mayflower. The caption simply read..."The Mayflower, The ship carried the Pilgrims across the Atlantic to America in 1620."
Thanksgiving (not necessarily our American version) has also been honored on postage stamps. The Mayflower, also known as trailing arbutus, has appeared on a stamp depicting the birds and flowers of Massachusetts issued in 1982.
The United Nations has declared the year 2000 as the International Year of Thanksgiving by issuing a 33-cent stamp from the Glory Window of the Chapel of Thanksgiving in Dallas, Texas.
The United Kingdom celebrated the Pilgrim Fathers and the Mayflower in their Millennium postage stamp series, "The Settlers' Tale" which was released in 1999.
Over the years, the following nations are among those who have issued stamps honoring the ship Mayflower: Bangladesh, Antigua/Barbados, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Grenada, Great Britain, Tanzania and Uganda.
In 1976 Liberia helped celebrate America's Bicentennial by issuing a commemorative 75 stamp showing the Mayflower with a superimposed US 1921 Tercentenary 1 replica stamp inset on a artists rendition of the Plymouth Plantation Village.
The flower for which the good ship Mayflower is named has also appeared on stamps of other nations. In 1965 Canada issued a 5-cent stamp in their Provincial Flowers & Coats-of-Arms series showing the flower of Nova Scotia.
A 33-cent Thanksgiving stamp is being issued in conjunction with the year 2000 United Nations International Year of Thanksgiving. In 1994 Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" series of WWII appeared in a pane of four. One of the Freedoms is "Freedom From Want" and shows an American family at Thanksgiving turkey dinner.
A Pilgrim on a Bicycle!
A whimsical series of stamps was issued by the Netherlands that included the image of a Pilgrim man and woman on a bicycle. Can you find them? They are near the bottom on the right-hand side between the foot and the running dog. Note the detail enlargement below. It was part of a five-stamp sheet titled “Mooi (Beautiful) Nederland (Netherlands).” The stamps all bear the name “Leiden” which they honored and are of the 39 Eurocent value. They were issued on February 1, 2006 and were the eleventh block in the “Beautiful Netherlands” series.
On January 18, 2009, the Netherlands issued a stamp celebrating the eleven years that the Pilgrims spent taking religious refuge in Holland. The stamp, shown here, in addition to its nationality and value in Eurocents, includes a Pilgrim couple, the dates of their arrival in and departure from Leiden, the Leiden flag of that period with its white crossed keys having their “beards” facing inward on a solid red field, an image of the Mayflower, and the title “The Pilgrim Fathers.” The current Leiden flag has three horizontal bars of equal width, the top and bottom bars being red and the middle one white. Imposed upon it to the left of its center is a white circle outlined in red, containing two red crossed keys with their beards facing outwards.
If one of the stamps is not shown here (or if you know of other stamps both current or earlier) and you have any of the stamps in your collection, our Webmaster would appreciate it if you would scan the stamp(s) and e-mail the image(s) to him for inclusion on this page. Images of First Day Covers are also appreciated. He would be pleased to include your name as a valued information contributor.
The above information gleaned from Centennial History - General Society of Mayflower Descendants - 1897-1997 compiled and edited by Duane A. Cline, GSMD, 1999 with additions by Stacy B.C. Wood, Jr., and Joseph Wood.