Works from the National Gallery of Art

First "Traditional" Christmas Stamp

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"Gabriel Weather Vane," c. 1939, by Lucille Gloria Chabot, watercolor on paper,
Index of American Design, National Gallery of Art
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1965 Christmas stamp issued November 2nd in Silver Bell, AZ (Scott 1276)

An "Uncontroversial" Design?

Controversy over the release of a stamp commemorating a religious holiday was pronounced among stamp enthusiasts. Some were enthusiastic, while others rejected the idea of a government agency associating itself with a particular religion, and there were those who vehemently opposed the lack of explicitly religious content in the Christmas stamps, viewing them as too commercial.

One Christmas stamp collector wrote about his motivation for collecting the topic: “What does it mean when a country issues a Christmas stamp? That they believe in Santa Claus? That the postmaster had a vision of angels and perhaps sugar plums dancing in his head? That they are religious? None. What is the message? I like to believe it’s an effort and an admission and a hope that one day peace and good will, the root of the Christmas idea, will prevail (Korcz 1971).”

The first “traditional” Christmas stamp featured folk art: an image based on a watercolor painting of an 1840 church weathervane. To appease detractors, the stamp was designed to be both religious and non-controversial because its subject, the angel Gabriel, is mentioned in the holy texts of several religions. Yet, the stamp still attracted attention and controversy because there was some confusion over whether the image depicted was a male or a female (Brady 1965).

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"Gabriel Weather Vane (Technique)," 1935/1942, by Lucille Gloria Chabot, watercolor on paper,
Index of American Design, National Gallery of Art