Thursday, July 28, 2016

Old stamps and changing thoughts on refugees and petroleum

One the heels of Tuesday's post about The Key to World Peace stamp, here are two more stamps of historical interest (with regard to both past and current events) that I came across while browsing through small-denomination stamps to use for my Postcrossing efforts.

U.S. #1149, the 4-cent "World Refugee Year," was issued on April 7, 1960, according to the Mystic Stamp Company. Here's its history and context:
"The United States joined many other nations in issuing stamps to symbolize their participation in the United Nations’ World Refugee Year. The U.N. proclaimed International Refugee Year from July 1, 1959, until June 30, 1960.

"The stamps were issued to bring attention to the hardships of millions of people who were still displaced over a decade after the end of World War II. The stamp design shows a family heading from darkness toward a bright doorway, symbolizing escape from oppression into a new life.

"In 1958 – 13 years after World War II ended – there were still displaced people living in refugee camps. An idea started in the United Kingdom and was rapidly picked up by the United Nations and many other nations – individual countries helping refugees. Through the efforts of the participating nations, tens of thousands of people returned home."
This was just one of many stamps that were issued across the world in conjunction with World Refugee Year. You can see an impressive collection of them on Catawiki.

Flash forward 56 years and it was reported last month that the number of refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people around the world has topped 65 million. That's one out of every 113 people on earth.

More than half of those 65 million are children.

But instead of compassion and rallying to a cause, we get sad blather like this.

So much for refugee families being able to head from darkness toward a bright doorway, huh?

* * *

Up next, the lowdown on U.S. #1134, the 4-cent "Petroleum Industry Centennial," is that it was issued in 1959, in Titusville, Pennsylvania, the home of our nation's first oil well. According to the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, there was much fanfare around the issuing of this stamp:
"On August 27, 1959, U.S. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield, the keynote speaker at 'Oil Centennial Day' in Titusville, Pennsylvania, dedicated a four cent commemorative postage stamp. At the time, gasoline cost 30 cents per gallon – and the accomplishments of the petroleum industry were cause for national celebration. At the Drake Well Memorial Park in Titusville, popular NBC 'Today' show host Dave Garroway broadcasted live as thousands of guests crowded the grounds. ... According to the Titusville Herald, more centennial speeches followed the ceremony, and more than 400 guests attended a luncheon at the Titusville High School cafeteria. That evening, a 50-minute fireworks displayed capped several days of celebrating the petroleum industry – and the man who struck oil exactly 100 year earlier, forever changing America."
Flash forward to 2009, however, and the United States Postal Service wasn't nearly as receptive to the idea of celebrating the petroleum industry's 150th anniversary, according to the same article:
"[D]espite the best efforts of the Oil 150 Steering Committee of Oil City, Pennsylvania, and many others, the U.S. Postal Service Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee rejected creating a stamp to recognize the 150th anniversary of the petroleum industry in America. Oil 150 co-chair Rep. John E. Peterson (R-Pa.) noted that the stamp committee rejected the requests based upon 'unfavorable public impressions of the modern oil industry.'"
I'm guessing that also rules out any upcoming U.S. stamps celebrating the wonders of fracking or mountaintop removal mining.

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