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The Walt Disney Stamp of 1968
by Edward Bergen
U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

First Day Cover on Disneyland stationery


In just three days, it will be the 110th anniversary the day that Walt Disney was born—December 5, 1901. Walt Disney received many honors during his life and posthumously. One of these honors was a United States commemorative postage stamp issued on September 11, 1968.

Edward Bergen created an award-winning exhibit about the stamp for several stamp shows around the country. I think you’ll enjoy his article today, even if you’re not a stamp collector.

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, December 2, 2011


U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

First Day Cover with hand-drawn, hand-painted cachet by Dave Dubé, based on Paris Match magazine cover

The Walt Disney Stamp of 1968
by Edward Bergen

Walt Disney is an American, as well as worldwide, icon!

When Walt died on December 15, 1966, the world mourned. Perhaps no more iconic image exists so adequately reflecting the world’s mood at the time than the cover art for the December 24, 1966, issue of the French Paris Match magazine re-created on a Walt Disney First Day Cover by cachet artist, Dave Dubé. It profoundly captures the tear which Mickey and all of us shed when we learned the sad news. We shall not see Walt’s like again.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Framed stamp art at the U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri (2010 photo)

However, while many tributes to the creator of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Disneyland poured in from all corners of the globe, perhaps the most telling accolade came from Walt’s home nation, which, after many encouraging efforts and correspondence, issued a postage stamp in Walt’s honor less than 2 years following his death. The policy of the Post Office Department at the time stated that any individual (except for past Presidents) must be dead for 10 years before any postal tribute would even be considered. But through the efforts of then California Governor Ronald Reagan and a host of congressmen and senators, Postmaster General Lawrence F. O’Brien relented in the case of Walt Disney and allowed Walt’s commemorative stamp to be issued on September 11, 1968!

The stamp itself was, at the time, only the second U.S. postage stamp to be produced outside the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). Postmaster General O’Brien wanted the finished stamp to accurately capture the soft pastel colors of the final approved design (Walt’s portrait surrounded by a parade of children…shades of “It’s A Small World After All”?) and had the Post Office Department contract with Union-Camp Corporation to print the colorful image as a mini work of art.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Examples of printing errors

However, because Union-Camp had no prior experience in producing postage stamps, there are more “errors” for the Walt Disney stamp than for any other stamp ever issued by the U.S. Postal Service. Color omissions, imperforate stamps (with no “perforations” surrounding a given stamp which allowed them to be torn individually from a pane of 50 stamps) as well as mis-perforations abound for the issue and provide specialists opportunities to chronicle the mis-adventures with this postage stamp unlike any other stamp issue in U.S. history!

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri (2010 photo)

But even with all the challenges which presented themselves in issuing the Walt Disney commemorative, the “First Day of Issue” ceremonies took place in Marceline, Missouri on September 11, 1968, just one day prior to its release at post offices nationwide. In 1968, the post office’s practice (as for each stamp issue beginning around 1930) was to place a commemorative postage stamp on “First Day” issuance and sale in one particular city, which had some significance to the person or event being commemorated, before releasing the stamp for nation-wide use the following day.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Plaque on the Post Office in Marceline, Missouri (2010 photo)

The Walt Disney stamp was issued in Marceline, Missouri, as Walt had spent his early years in that North-Central Missouri small town. He thrived in this community, growing up on a farm. He learned to appreciate and draw barnyard animals in this rural Missouri town, the main street of which Walt would later re-create, and forever memorialize, as the Main Street of Disneyland! Walt would often say, even much later, that the best years of his life had been spent in Marceline.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Autographs signed on September 11, 1968

Memorabilia and artifacts abound from the “First Day of Issue” ceremony held in Marceline on September 11, 1968. Walt’s wife Lillian, his brother Roy O. Disney, his daughter Diane Disney Miller, Postmaster General W. Marvin Watson, and the two artists responsible for the Disney stamp, Paul E. Wenzel (Walt’s portrait) and C. Robert Moore (the stamp’s designer) were among many others who attended the festivities. The “First Day of Issue” Ceremony Program with Walt’s grinning photo gracing the cover has become an important collectible from the event. A similar photo of Walt forms the cover of the accompanying Luncheon Menu which also has become a similar, and more scarce, artifact of the postal commemoration.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Historic photos in the Post Office, Marceline, Missouri (2010 photo)

There was also the proclamation issued by then Missouri Governor Warren E. Hearnes, which was enclosed within each Ceremony Program declaring the day, September 11, 1968, “Walt Disney Day” in Missouri. Adding to the significance of some of the memorabilia mentioned above are the signatures of some of the honored guests who attended the ceremonies: Roy O. Disney, Lillian Disney, Diane Disney Miller, W. Marvin Watson, and the stamp’s co-creators, C. Robert Moore and Paul E. Wenzel, who personally signed some of the programs and other commemorative items.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Framed photo of Postmaster General W. Marvin Watson, Lillian Disney, and Diane Disney Miller

Marceline was a seminal influence in Walt’s early life and it was certainly fitting that the U.S. Post Office Department made the decision to issue Walt’s stamp in this small, but significant, venue. Walt would return to Marceline several times during his life, and such visits were always celebrative for him as he fondly remembered how foundational his growing up in this small Missouri town was for his entire career as visionary, entrepreneur, as well as loving husband and family man! The roots Walt put down here served to fashion both the human being and global visionary Walt would grow to become.

In a letter written September 15, 1960, and now enclosed in the cornerstone of Marceline’s elementary school bearing his name, Walt Disney wrote: “Through the fleeting years of maturity, I am always able to relive many joyous moments from the experiences of my early boyhood in Marceline. I hope the youth of today and the future will know a childhood as happy as was mine in Marceline.” The Walt Disney Hometown Museum is a must visit for any fan of Walt Disney, as it chronicles Walt’s early life in Marceline pointing to what this young boy who was obsessed with drawing animals would later become.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Plaque from 2003 in the Post Office, Marceline, Missouri (2010 photo)

Over the years, many of the town’s important sites have had the name of Walt Disney added to their official titles: Walt Disney Municipal Park & Pool, Walt Disney Elementary School, and the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. It is therefore also fitting that on August 23, 2004, the post office in Marceline, where Walt’s 1968 postal tribute was first issued, was renamed, “The Walt Disney Post Office” and is the only Federal building that has ever been named after Marceline’s favorite son!

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

First Day Cover with hand-drawn, hand-painted cachet by artist Herman Maul

However, perhaps the greatest philatelic (stamp) tribute of all to Walt are the hundreds of “First Day Covers” which were produced for the 1968 Disney stamp issue from that Marceline post office by both collectors and fans of Walt Disney, the man and the entrepreneur! A “First Day Cover” is an envelope (usually a #6) which has the stamp placed in the upper right-hand corner, the “First Day of Issue” ink cancellation, indicating both the date and place of issue, placed over the stamp itself, and printed or hand-drawn artwork, relating to the theme of the stamp issue, then positioned on the left-hand side of the cover (envelope), creating what is known to collectors as a “First Day Cover”! A selection of these Walt Disney “First Day” tribute covers are throughout this article.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

First Day Cover with hand-drawn, hand-painted add-on cachet by artist Dave Dubé

Because The Walt Disney Company has, over the years, sought to create unique collectibles utilizing both Disney artwork combined with the Walt Disney “First Day Covers” from 1968, a “First Day Cover” for this 1968 Disney stamp issue has become more difficult for collectors to find. Hence, the value of a Walt Disney “First Day Cover” has seemed to grow in value to a greater extent than “First Day Covers” for the other commemorative stamp issues surrounding it. Of course, the Disney “magic” also has had something to do with the special place this Disney stamp issue holds in the minds of millions of Disney fans. It was the FIRST postal commemoration of Walt Disney which would later prompt the issuance of hundreds of other Disney stamp issues by other nations of the world!

This postal tribute from his home country is a fitting tribute to the man who not only gave us Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Disneyland but a host of other cartoon characters who have entered our collective consciousness and transformed world culture! Walt’s vision, his dogged determination and drive to explore new worlds, and his indomitable “can do” spirit in the face of mountains of obstacles have not only made the world a happier place but a better one as well. The legacy which Walt has left us will never die and continues to show itself in the creations that continue to emanate from the company created by the one and only Walt Disney!

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Interior of U.S. Post Office in Marceline, decorated with more recent Disney postage stamp art

 

After Ed Bergen sent the Walt Disney Stamp article to me, I mentioned that I would let Yesterland readers know about the Carl Barks Fan Club. Ed Bergen is the president of the club, which he founded to preserve and promote the legacy of Disney Legend Carl Barks (1901-2000).

In response, Ed wrote about how he came to form the club. And he shared fun first day covers featuring the work of Carl Barks.

Werner Weiss

 

About Carl Barks
by Edward Bergen

I originally met Carl Barks, the “father” of the Disney Ducks, in 1990, and over the next 10 years, Carl and I became good friends and did several projects together. Carl had originally begun working for Walt Disney in 1935 as an “inbetweener” for animated sequences, but branched out on his own in the early 1940s, and for the next 25 years, produced Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories for Disney comic book licensee, Western Publishing of Racine, Wisconsin. Upon his “retirement” from formal comic book work in 1966, Disney allowed him to paint a series of portraits of the ducks and scenes from his comic book stories, centering around Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and the nephews. Carl also created (for Disney) the characters of Gladstone Gander, Gyro Gearloose, and Magica De Spell. He created Duckburg, where all of his cartoon characters could grow and thrive, as well as travel from on their global adventures to seek gold and rare antiquities—all courtesy of the riches in Uncle Scrooge’s Money Bin.

Carl Barks Fan Club

Carl Barks Fan Club home page

In 1999, just prior to Carl’s passing in 2000, he and I formed the “Carl Barks Fan Club” which Carl sanctioned and for which I have produced quarterly newsletters for the last 12 years (we’re now on issue 47 for Fall 2011). We are always looking for new members for our CBFC which now includes approximately 200 members worldwide. The club’s web address is www.thecarlbarksfanclub.com. You may also contact me directly, Ed Bergen, President, Carl Barks Fan Club, at my e-mail address: revcorvette1@yahoo.com if you would like more information, request a sample newsletter via e-mail, or inquire re: joining our Carl Barks Fan Club.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Scrooge McDuck drawn by Carl Barks at age 97

At one point in the 1990s, I asked Carl if he would add a cachet to one of my “blank” Walt Disney “First Day Covers” from 1968. He agreed and drew, in pencil, the marvelous little head of Uncle Scrooge (above). Carl was around 97 at the time he drew this image and, while a little shaky, still exudes the master’s “touch” in this sketch of his premier cartoon creation, Scrooge McDuck.

First Day Cover with Scrooge McDuck
First Day Cover with Scrooge McDuck

Hand-drawn, hand-painted add-on cachets by David Peterman, based on oil paintings by Carl Barks

The Disney “First Day Covers” (above) which depict Carl Barks’ art from both his comic book stories and his later oil paintings are the work of cachet artist, David Peterman. Two of the covers depict scenes from the 1953 Carl Barks comic book saga, “Back To The Klondike” which tells the story of Scrooge’s discovery of his famed “Goose Egg (Gold) Nugget” in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, during the height of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.

U.S. Post Office in Marceline, Missouri

Another cover (above) depicts Scrooge in his Money Bin surrounded by mountains of coins.

Cachets, such as these, are termed “add ons” by cover collectors since they were “added” much later than the actual date of the stamp issue. However, exquisite cachet artwork such as these are significant nonetheless in collector circles.

Today, Carl Barks is considered one of the top Disney artists of all time. His Disney cartoon art has successfully crossed the line from being considered simply “pop culture” images to having achieved the status of fine art.

 

Thank you to Ed Bergen!

Now, please take a look at the Carl Barks Fan Club.

Werner Weiss

 

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Updated December 2, 2011.

Photos at the post office in Marceline: 2010 by Werner Weiss.
First-day covers and other documents from the collection of Edward Bergen.