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Put a Stamp On History!


Let your students vote online for the subjects of some soon-to-be released stamps! And that's just part of the fun with the United States Postal Service's "Celebrate the Century" program, a program that comes complete with valuable cross-curriculum teaching tools to highlight the people, places, events, and trends of each decade of the 20th century. Check out this program and other stamp-related resources online. Let your students "put their stamp on history"! Included: News of free stamp-related teaching materials from the USPS!

Stamp Images

Editor's note: Get your students involved -- learn about the 1970s and vote online for the stamps that will represent that decade! Then take a look back in time. See this week's Education World LESSON PLANNING story, Celebrate the Century: Search the Web for U.S. History of the 1930s. Learn the history behind the stamps commemorating the 1930s that were issued last week by the United States Postal Service. Explore sites related to FDR, Superman, the Great Depression, the Empire State Building, and more!

Women's Rights, "Monday Night Football," Sesame Street, and disco are among the 30 subjects that are competing this month to appear on 15 new postage stamps commemorating the people, places, events, and trends of the 1970s. Students -- and adults too -- can vote all month for the stamps they would like to see represent this colorful and memorable decade.

The U.S. Postal Service, in cooperation with and Microsoft's Encarta Web Link, offers StampVote, a terrific online teaching tool. Students can learn all about the events of the 1970s by clicking and linking to Encarta articles about each event. For example, among the "People & Events" of the 1970s that students can read and learn about are the Women's Rights movement, Watergate (1972-74), and Earth Day (begun April 22, 1970). Students can learn about, then vote for their favorites in each category -- and they can vote online! The top two vote-getters in each category and the next five top vote-getters overall will be commemorated on the decade's stamp sheet.

Among the other topics related to the 1970s that students might explore are

  • Arts & Entertainment: Sesame Street, "Roots," and "All in the Family"
  • Sports: the Pittsburgh Steelers, Secretariat, and "Monday Night Football"
  • Science and Technology: jumbo jets, Pioneer 10, medical imaging, and VCRs
  • Lifestyle: the smiley face, jogging, disco, and Postmodern architecture.


The voting is part of the U.S. Postal Service's Celebrate the Century program, a commemorative stamp and education program. In addition to the [online] resources mentioned already, the Postal Service, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Education and ten leading education associations, has developed one of the largest-ever independent, cross-curricular programs -- a program designed to take hundreds of thousands of students on a field trip through the 20th century! That program includes all the material teachers need to actively involve students in the selection of stamps to represent each decade. The program is still available. ("They're going fast," USPS spokesperson Virginia Hintz told Education World.) You can receive the complete teaching kit by calling 1-800-450-INFO, or by writing to

Celebrate the Century
U.S. Postal Service
P.O. Box 44342
Washington, DC 20078-0026

Designed primarily for students in grades 3-6, the Celebrate the Century Education Series includes materials for in-school balloting as well as take-home projects to encourage family discussion. The program also includes links to subject-related Web sites and integrated computer activities.

The Postal Service is also working with international postal administrators on Stampin' the Future, a worldwide stamp design contest for children ages 8-12. Participants will be invited to submit stamp designs that express their visions of the future. Winning designs will appear on stamps -- to be issued in the year 2000 -- from each participating country.


The United States Postal Service offers many online stamp resources on their StampsOnline Web site. In addition to information about the Celebrate the Century program, your students will find a gallery of recent stamp releases, an index of current stamp issues (with information and downloadable images for each), a schedule of upcoming releases, and even a Glossary of Postal Terms! Here are just a few of the terms listed on the glossary's "A" page:

  • Accessories. The tools used by stamp collectors, such as tongs, hinges, etc.
  • Adhesive. A gummed stamp made to be attached to mail.
  • Aerophilately. Stamp collecting that focuses on stamps or postage relating to airmail.
  • Approvals. Stamps sent by a dealer to a collector for examination. Approvals must either be bought or returned to the dealer within a specified time.


Just for kids, the USPS offers a special Send a Message page. The page includes links to information about writing letters to the editor (complete with the postal addresses of major U.S. daily newspapers), and suggestions for ways students might share their ideas for helping the environment.

Speaking about the environment, students can read about a new recycling program that the USPS began last September. The program turns undeliverable mail into pencils! The pencils are used by postal workers, and they are distributed to schools to help encourage school children to recycle. The first run of 72,000 pencils used about 1,000 pounds of undeliverable mail.

At the Send a Message page, students can also design a stamp or (for younger students) color a stamp. The Web page also links to plenty of information about stamp collecting. Some fun games, including a version of the game "Concentration" using stamps, can be found on the 1st Class Fun page. (Games require the Shockwave plug-in.)

Students can link to other interesting and educational information through the USPS Web site. Among its most interesting features are its Unforgettable Letters. Link to presidential letters (from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, and more), letters from the front, and love letters.

Looking for a ZIP Code for a certain address? Or a city, state for a certain ZIP Code? The USPS site offers ZIP Code Lookup and Address Information too!


Looking to learn a little history? The USPS site includes a detailed History of the U.S. Postal Service. This page includes links to significant dates in postal history, and information about the post office from colonial time to the present and about the role of the post office in the development of the United States.

And if that's not enough to whet your post office history appetite, be sure to check out the National Postal Museum Web site, from the folks at the Smithsonian Institution. Here you'll find information about current exhibits. You can explore online exhibits to learn:

  • Why was Ben Franklin fired as joint postmaster of the colonies?
  • Why was Congress reluctant to agree to Rural Free Delivery Service?
  • How many pieces of mail does the USPS deliver each day?
  • When were the first United States postage stamps issued?

Best of all, the National Postal Museum offers loads of free materials for teachers. For information about any of those curriculum materials, see the National Postal Museum's Education Materials page.
[NOTE: Some materials are out of stock and being reprinted at this time; future Education World stories, highlighting the stamps of the 1940s through 1990s, will include updates on material availability.]

Related Resources


  • Stamp Collecting Site for Kids Kids can swap stamps via posted emails, learn about famous and rare stamps, take a fun quiz, and investigate links to other stamp-collecting sites for kids.
  • Philatelic World Tips and info for "junior philatelics," including info about rare stamps and useful tips for stamp collectors (e.g., How do I get free stamps?, Should I join a stamp club?, Which stamp album should I buy?). A page for setting up trades with other collectors is available, as well as a listing of the latest U.S. stamp issues.
  • Junior Philatelists On the Internet This site for beginning stamp collectors includes pages that offer tips and info about stamp collecting. Includes a swap page and a page of world-record stamps.
  • Stamps 4 Kids The site includes answers to questions: How do I start? What do I need? Can I make my own stamp album? Also, links to other stamp sites.

Related Sites


  • Dog Stamps From Around the World Click on the breed to go to a page of stamps from around the world with that breed on them.
  • Teaching the Holocaust An interdisciplinary and computerized program through the use of stamps, pictures, texts, and paintings by children of the Holocaust.
  • United Nations Postal Administration Special issue U.N. stamps are the focus of this page.
  • Stamp on Black History A look at stamps issued by the United States Postal Service to commemorate black men and women who have contributed to America's history. This resource includes an alphabetical list of stamps, "stamps by curriculum areas," a black history quiz and games, and much more.
  • U.S. Philatelic Museums and Libraries A list of research and resource centers in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1998 Education World