June 4, 2015
United States Postal Service to issue the new Flannery O’Connor stamp this week
by Claire Kelley
This year marks the 90th anniversary of Flannery O’Connor’s birth (she was born on March 25, 1925) and the United States Postal Service has recently announced that it will issue a stamp honoring her as part of their USPS Literary Arts commemorative series. That series, which has been issued since the 1970s, includes Herman Melville (20 cent stamp issued in 1984), James Thurber (29 cent stamp issued in 1994), Zora Neale Hurston (39 cent stamp issued in 2003), and Mark Twain (a forever stamp issued in 2011). The Flannery O’Connor stamp is the 30th in the Literary Arts series, and costs 93 cents and is intended for three ounce letters. The only other three ounce stamp in the series is the Ralph Ellison stamp, which was issued in 2014.
The new stamp features a color portrait of Flannery O’Connor that the USPS describes as “a watercolor painting completed digitally.” Although Joyce Carol Oates thinks that the portrait does not accurately look like its subject, the image on the stamp is in fact based on a black-and-white photograph of O’Connor when she was a student at the Georgia State College for Women in the 1940s. The portrait was art directed by Phil Jordan and is based on artwork by Sam Weber who is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York.
The stamp shows O’Connor surrounded by peacock feathers—an homage to O’Connor’s love for the birds that she cared for on her mother’s farm toward the end of her life. She wrote about peacocks in a 1961 essay called “The King of Birds.” Today, three of those peacocks that were her pets have been returned to her homeplace in Andalusa, which has become a visitor center.
All three birds are named after characters in O’Connor’s work. The strutting male bird is Manley Pointer, after the scheming Bible salesman from O’Connor’s story “Good Country People.” One of the hens is named Joy/Hulga, after the woman whose prosthetic leg Pointer steals in the same story. The second hen’s name is Mary Grace, the “raw-complexioned girl” from O’Connor’s story “Revelation” in her collection “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”
In addition to being meant for three ounce mail, the Flannery O’Connor stamp is a Forever stamp, which means that “it will always be equal in value to the applicable price for the price category printed on them at the time of use.” The stamp will go on sale this Friday, June 5th and will be issued at the NAPEX Stamp Show in McLean Virgina.
Claire Kelley is a the former Director of Library and Academic Marketing.