On April 22, 1932, the U.S. Post Office Department issued a single 2-cent red stamp to celebrate Arbor Day. The stamp's issue date coincided with the 100th anniversary of J. Morton Sterling's birth. A native of Detroit and immigrant to Nebraska, Sterling encouraged other immigrants to plant trees on Nebraska's 'barren' plains. He saw trees as beautiful and useful, essential to breaking the eroding winds that swept the state. On January 4, 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday to be called 'Arbor Day' to Nebraska’s State Board of Agriculture. The date was set for April 10, 1872. It has been estimated that more than a million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. Governor Robert W. Furnas soon proclaimed Arbor Day a legal holiday in Nebraska. April 22, Morton's birthday, was selected as the date for its permanent observance.
The stamp generated considerable controversy since the design, showing a boy and a girl planting a tree, was taken from a photograph posed by the children of the Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in apparent violation of the rule that living persons may not be represented on postage stamps. In the end, it was judged that since the children were not being honored by the stamp, the design was acceptable.
Gordon T. Trotter