Fairs and expositions lost their prominent place in American culture as the second decade of the twentieth century began. Never again would fairs and expositions so thoroughly dominate the American imagination–or the nation’s stamp program. New patterns emerged for commemorative stamps during the late 1920s and early 1930s.
More commemorative stamps were issued, but the trend was toward issuing fewer stamps for each event commemorated. Some of those events might today be considered obscure, or perhaps even inappropriate for commemoration, but stamps were sometimes issued in response to political pressures.
The 1920 Pilgrim Tercentenary Issue was the first to represent this change. The three stamps of the issue celebrated the 300th Anniversary of the 1620 settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and paid tribute to America’s origin as a haven of religious freedom and representative democracy.
The 1-cent stamp illustrated the ship Mayflower that carried the Protestant Separatists to the New World. Though headed for the Virginia Charter Colony, after a difficult sixty-six-day voyage the ship landed at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter, the weary Pilgrims established their Massachusetts Colony at Plymouth, as depicted on the 2-cent stamp. The 5-cent stamp celebrated the Compact (agreement) that was signed aboard the Mayflower on November 21, 1620. The document—the colony's constitution—was the first plan for an American style of democratic governance.
So well known was the story of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth that the stamps did not include the country of origin. These were the only stamps ever issued without the words “United States” or the U.S. initials.