Appreciation of Printing: Stamps, an Inherited Love
Clara Maass is a fine example. She worked as an army nurse during the Spanish-American War, but gained notoriety when she became a human guinea pig in the study of the transmission of yellow fever in Cuba. She allowed herself to be bitten (twice!) by mosquitoes, which turned out to be the cause of the malaise, and died at the tender age of 25.
A stamp celebrating Maass' sacrifice, released in 1976, reads "She gave her life." Absent the stamp, her altruistic acts would have been known only to educators and hard-core history buffs. Anyone who collects U.S. stamps, on the other hand, has a baseline of knowledge about her—limited though it may be—and any other topics that have been celebrated with a stamp release.
Stamps ruled the collecting roost in the early half of the 20th century, going toe to toe with coin collecting. But the wheels began to fall off in the late 1970s, at the dawn of the video game and computer age. Fans of paper collectibles, ephemera and plain-old hobbyists also found a new target for their affection—sports cards and memorabilia. Children dropped their Liberty U.S. stamp albums and tore through their attics in search of a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card.
Still, the hobby has trudged on, enjoying worldwide appeal even despite its U.S. enthusiasts tending to be older and fewer in number. While the hobby has its pricey, high-end rarities, it's largely an inexpensive pursuit. And, despite the dwindling size of the mail stream and the practice of postal metering reducing the use of stamps (not to mention the simply terrible idea of switching over to self-adhesive label stock) the hobby moves forward and embraces technology.
Believe it or not, stamps and technology have a place in the same sentence.