The Story of the American Flag Through Stamps

The Flag and Exploration

5-cent Trans-Mississippi John Charles Fremont on the Rocky Mountains stamp
The 5-cent Trans-Mississippi stamp was issued June 17, 1898.

Just as soldiers fought for ideals embodied by the American flag, so too did explorers. Founded on a treatise of exploration, the United States fostered an era of discovery spanning from the time the Pilgrims first set foot at Plymouth Rock to astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon.

A major age of exploration for America took place in the 19th century when an expansionist movement influenced many policies. The expansionists, espousing a theory now referred to as “Manifest Destiny,” supported the idea that the North American continent from the north, south, east, and west, belonged to the United States; therefore, America had the right—the destiny—as well as the duty to expand.

Perhaps one of the most famous explorers during the time of the expansionist movement was John C. Frémont. Frémont was a staunch supporter of the movement. He truly believed that it was the destiny of the United States to discover and control America and that it was his destiny to continue the movement along. The 5-cent stamp featured above, issued in 1898, depicts the third of Frémont’s four expeditions through the western territories, as he traversed over the Rocky Mountains to map out the source of the Arkansas River.