Duke Ellington
  Issue: April 29, 1986
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This dramatic, stamp-image portrayal of beloved American composer and bandleader Duke Ellington was designed by Texas-born artist James Sharpe, and its April 1986 release not only represented the first U.S. Postal Service issue of a jazz-themed image, but the introduction of its design also served as only the second U.S. stamp-image to feature an African-American from the field of musical arts. The first such design had previously been issued some seventeen years earlier (in 1969), as part of the Postal Service's "American Folklore Series," and featured composer W.C. Handy.

The earliest issuance of a postage-stamp to feature a noted, African-American figure, from any field of endeavor, was a 1940 design honoring distinguished educator Booker T. Washington. Between the years of 1940 and 1986, in addition to the W.C. Handy design, some seventeen, additional issues would commemorate such leading African-Americans as inventor and scientist George Washington Carver (1948), poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1975), and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Ralph Bunche (1980).

Sharp's dramatic use of light and shadow, as well as the focused gaze of a formally dressed Ellington, brings the viewer into a seemingly serious moment of live performance, and imbues the image with a clear sense of poetic romanticism. The design's heroic aesthetic is also especially fitting for an artist of Ellington's stature. As a celebrated American painter and illustrator, James Sharpe was previously awarded a distinguished portraiture commission for U.S. President Gerald Ford, currently on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, and his work has been featured in such leading, U.S. publications as "Time Magazine."
 
 
  Leonard Bernstein
Flappers/Charleston
John Coltrane
Duke Ellington
Gatsby Style
George/Ira Gershwin
Ferde Grofé
Langston Hughes
Jazz Flourishes
Charles Mingus
Thelonious Monk
Alfred Newman


  Gatsby Style
  Issue: May 28, 1998
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As the second stamp-image of the exhibition to be derived from a previously existing illustration, this 1998 issue, entitled "The Gatsby Style," drew its inspiration from a 1924 fashion advertisement and was designed by the popular stamp artist Carl Herrman. Depicting the sophistication and glamour of America's infamous roaring-twenties lifestyle, the building pictured in the background; the elegant fashion of the assembled characters; and even their combined focus on the richly appointed automobile, seemingly just out of reach, are all reminiscent of themes often referred to in author F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, 1925 novel "The Great Gatsby."

As one of fifteen stamp designs depicting the spirit and freedom of 1920s America, as well as remembering such profound events as the passage of a woman's right to vote, the enforcement of prohibition, and the stock market crash of 1929, "Gatsby Style" is a part of the Postal Service's landmark "Celebrate the Century" stamp-image and educational program. Over the course of two years, the Postal Service celebrated the millennium by issuing stamp designs commemorating some of the most memorable people, places, and events from each decade of the twentieth-century. Before the "Celebrate the Century" program issued its final series in the year 2000, the Postal Service would also work with the U.S. Department of Education to coordinate one of the largest-ever, cross-curricular educational programs in U.S. history, focusing exclusively on the rich cultural heritage depicted throughout the stamp-images of each decade.
 

  George/Ira Gershwin
  Issue: September 21, 1999
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Issued as one of six stamp-images for the 1999 "Broadway Songwriter's Issue" of the Postal Service's "Legends of American Music Series," the accompanying design by art director Howard Paine, illustrator Drew Struzan, and typographer Tom Mann, depicts renowned songwriting partners George and Ira Gershwin in an enduring and intimate portrait of these two musical icons.

From their creation of the 1931, Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Of Thee I Sing," to their earlier collaboration on the groundbreaking "Rhapsody In Blue," as well as on numerous other pieces throughout their careers, the Gershwin brothers have composed some of the most beloved music and lyrics in American history.

At the September 1999 ceremony dedicating the "Broadway Songwriter's Issue," featuring not only George and Ira Gershwin but also Alan Jay Lerner, Frederick Loewe, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Meredith Willson, and Frank Loesser, Postal Service Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Deborah Willhite stated "the nine men represented on these stamps created exceptional songs and lyrics which blended American music with quintessentially American themes. It is appropriate that we honor them on U.S. postage stamps. Stamps capture our American history and culture in a unique way. These songwriters are a rich part of that history and culture."
 
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