Coming To A Letter Near You
The U.S. Postal Service announced the company's newest stamps commemorating the rich heritage of American motorcycles, with the first-day issue to coincide with the kickoff of the 66th Sturgis Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, on August 7, 2006. An estimated 85 million classic "American Motorcycle" commemorative stamps were released that day.
For some, the story started a little earlier. The Crawford Automotive & Aviation Museum had made arrangements with Penny Nickerson, director of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, to bring her a 1918 Cleveland motorcycle, which is one of the motorcycles depicted in the new stamp collection, to the Crawford museum. Huey Schwebs, master builder and the current owner of the Cleveland Motorcycle Manufacturing Company, was asked to bring one of his modern-day Cleveland's for this local unveiling of the new Cleveland stamp. The U.S. Postal Service presented Huey and Penny with an enlarged version of the Cleveland stamp. Seeing the old Cleveland motorcycle nose to nose with the new one was a Kodak moment.
The U.S. Postal Service receives suggestions from about 50,000 people every year. Only 20-25 subjects make the cut to be featured on a U.S. stamp. There are 12 major criterias now guiding the subject selection that the U.S. Postal Service follows. The first one is that "It is a general policy the U.S. postage stamps and stationery primarily will feature American or American-related subjects." Subjects are submitted three years in advance of the proposed issue date to allow sufficient time for consideration and for design and production of the new stamp.
Once the American Motorcycles' stamps concept got the go-ahead, U.S. Postal Service representatives met with the Smithsonian Institution's curator of the Division of Transportation to determine which cycles to depict. The new stamp collection features Penny Nickerson's 1918 Cleveland, Larry Spielfogel's 1940 Indian, George Tsunis's 1965 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, and a '70s-era chopper, which was computer generated by the stamp artist. The 1918 Cleveland proved to be a visually appealing example of an early model. The Indian's enclosed fender established it as a classic. Harley-Davidson personified America's love affair with a big cross-country cruiser. But no motorcycle collection would be complete without a chopper.
It was then decided that the best location for the first-day issue distribution of the new stamp collection would be the 66th annual Sturgis Rally. Sturgis was the only location in the nation where the American Motorcycles' stamps were available on Monday, August 7, 2006. In preparation for the unveiling, the Sturgis postal service had their delivery trucks flamed and painted with custom motorcycles.
Opening-day ceremonies in Sturgis were well attended by local and national dignitaries and bikers. This important event brought to Sturgis, Secretary of the Interior Kirk Kempthorne, South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota, and many others. Sturgis Mayor Mark Ziegler for the dedication of the new stamps noted, "These motorcycles are iconic classics that represent the sense of freedom that is America." U.S. Postal Service Executive Director of Stamp Services David Failor added, "We're proud to recognize the role of motorcycles in American culture."
With the presence of all these local and national dignitaries, along with press from all over the world in one place, the Native Americans representing many of the Indian nations and their supporters were on hand, flanked by state troopers in silent protest. Their protest had nothing to do with the stamps, but focused on the encroachment of the expanding Sturgis Rally campgrounds and bars onto their sacred grounds of Bear Butte. Mr. Miller's comments took on new meaning of "American freedom" with their presence.
Since 1775, the United States Postal Service has connected friends, families, neighbors, and businesses by mail. The "American Motorcycle" stamps are now available to cruise among the nation's 37,000 post offices to aid that endeavor.