My thanks to John Bodnar and Sheila A. Brennan for commenting on an earlier version of this article. Address correspondence to Ivan Greenberg, Independent Scholar, Silver Spring, MD 20901. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 1847, when U.S. postage stamps first were used for mail, about 5,000 different designs have been developed by the American government for mass circulation. In this essay, I explore how the state remembers the past via the medium of stamps and also exercises power by projecting these government documents across the domestic landscape. Stamps reflect what government views as important at any given time and wants to communicate to the public. In this sense, stamps aid the process of “state-making” by helping to establish historical traditions and by developing national collective memory. Postal authorities have sifted through the American experience to present diverse images and text in order to promote nationalism, patriotism, and the distinctive achievements of the nation. Overall, very little attention has been focused on the content of postage in the U.S, as opposed to postal administration and mail delivery systems.