1964 Fine Arts stamp
US #1259 – CSAC was created to bring more modern artistry to US stamps.

On April 30, 1957, the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee opened its first meeting.  The committee receives tens of thousands of stamp proposals every year and passes on their recommendations to the US postmaster general who makes the final decision.

1943 Nations United stamp
US #907 was based on a design submitted by the Committee of Volunteer Artists in 1942.

As early as the 1930s, some began suggesting that the US Post Office have an advisory committee to improve stamp designs.  At the time, other nations were issuing colorful stamps with modern, graphic designs.  In 1941, New York advertising art director Paul Berdanier created a Committee of Volunteer Artists to help improve stamp art.  In 1942, the committee held an informal competition to design two new stamps.  Leon Helguera’s sketch was selected for the Nations United for Victory stamp and Paul Manship’s plaster cast was chosen for the Four Freedoms stamp, though both designs were changed significantly by the Post Office.

There was little progress in the years to come, with most stamps designed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  Among the critics of the stamps of this period was George Linn, founder of Linn’s Stamp News, who remarked that “poor taste for design and color has been shown by the ‘deciders’ govern such things in the capital.”

2017 Andrew Wyeth stamp sheet
US #5212 – Wyeth served on the committee from 1966 to 1967.

After Dwight Eisenhower was elected, his postmaster general, Arthur E. Summerfield, sought to improve the quality of stamp designs and take some of the pressure off the government.  He worked out an arrangement with the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Academy of Design to create a committee of artists that could offer insight on stamp designs.  However, no formal meeting was ever held, and the artists were only briefly consulted a couple times.

2008 James A. Michener stamp
US #3427A – Michener served on the committee from 1979 to 1986.

Then in 1957, Summerfield’s special assistant for public information, L. Rohe Walter, stepped in.  He realized that a more popular stamp program could improve public relations and pushed for the creation of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC).  It was officially established on March 21, 1957.  According to an announcement a few days later, “The Stamp Advisory Committee shall advise the Post Office Department on any matters pertaining to the subject matter, design, production and issuance of postage stamps.”

2019 George H.W. Bush stamp
US #5393 – CSAC approves issuing presidential memorial stamps after their death.

CSAC held its first meeting on April 30, 1957.  The seven-member committee included three stamp collectors, three artists and a person from the US Information Agency.  While the committee struggled to convince the Post Office to expand color printing, they were credited with improving stamp designs and were later awarded the Post Office Department’s Benjamin Franklin Service Award.

In the years since, CSAC has expanded to include anywhere from 10 to 15 members at a time.  The committee generally meets four times per year to discuss possible stamp subjects.  They receive an average of 40,000 stamp suggestions every year and consider every single one of them, even if just briefly.  If they approve a subject, it is then passed on to the postmaster general who makes the final decision.  CSAC also works closely with artists to develop the final stamp designs.

1997 Air Force stamp
US #3167 – CSAC supports the issue of stamps honoring the major military branches and academies on 50 year anniversaries.  They don’t generally approve of stamps honoring individual units because there are so many across all the branches.

Anyone who wishes to submit a topic for consideration must submit it in writing, at least three years before it would be issued, to allow ample time for research and approval.  CSAC doesn’t accept proposals in person, by telephone, or email.  They also set strict criteria for subjects to be considered.  The subjects must be American or American-related.  Historical events and statehood anniversaries will be considered for commemoration in multiples of 50 years.  Subjects should have widespread national appeal and honor “positive contributions to American life, history, culture and environment.”  The committee strives to include stamps that reflect all areas of American culture including individuals, history, culture, sports, science, and technology.

Find out more about CSAC here.

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  1. “[James A.] Michener served on the committee from 1979 to 1896.” Umm, I think you mean 1979 to 1986.

  2. Without commenting on any individual stamp (designs and subject matter are, after all, subjective and matters of taste), I would like to express my appreciation to all the patriotic Americans who have served on CSAC over the years. They have rendered a significant service to their country.

    There is, however, one question that has puzzled and concerned me for many years. Can anyone help me understand why the presidential Adams family has been so inexplicably unrecognized postally. Certainly, it cannot be argued that their contribution to our country’s history has been insufficiently important. Would there have been an independence movement in the 1770s without the work of Samuel and John Adams? The latter was our first ambassador (or minister) to Great Britain, our first vice president and second president. John Quincy Adams led in forging the Treaty of Ghent, created the Monroe Doctrine, served as our 6th president, and then defended the Amistad slaves before the Supreme Court. Finally, he arguably became the greatest member of the House of Representatives in all US history. His son, Charles Francis Adams, Lincoln’s minister to the court of St. James, was a powerful force in preventing the entry of Great Britain into the Civil War on the Confederate side.

    So, why have they been postally denied individual recognition? The two presidents have been included in sets honoring all the deceased presidents or in a group setting, but never alone. To my knowledge, the others have never been postally recognized at all.

    I truly believe this matter should be addressed and rectified at some point by CSAC.

    Neal Monroe Adams

    1. Mr. Adams, I have often wondered the same thing. John Adams, although not well liked, was the real force behind the Declaration of Independence and despite using the Sedation Act, had great influence in the beginnings of our country. And his love for Abigale and family was legendary. Was it just a coincidence that he and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day – July 4th? Maybe he will get long overdue stamp recognition in the upcoming centennial celebration. Out of curiosity Mr. Adams, are you a distant member of this patriotic family?

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