Avid public radio fan, reader and writer Jennie Cronin is a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
Think back to last December. Or other Decembers. Maybe you received a holiday card sealed with a Christmas Seal from the American Lung Association. These stamps have been used as a fundraising element by the American Lung Association for over a hundred years. The tuberculosis epidemic of the late 19th and early 20th century, then the leading cause of death, gave rise to The New York Tuberculosis and Heath Association, and other local organizations which later united and expanded their mission as the American Lung Association.
New York Tuberculosis and Health Association amassed and distributed funds aimed at the prevention and treatment of this major disease. Popular because they were inexpensive and festive, the Christmas Stamp campaigns were effective in increasing awareness of the Association’s aims and accomplishments, and revolutionary because of the low cost of participation in the fundraiser. Rich and poor alike could contribute as they were able.
A stamp featuring a different design was issued every year to encourage yearly and repeated participation in the campaign by donors. These stamps are known as “Cinderella stamps” and despite resembling government issued stamps, hold no value and will not pay for postage. Due to their relatively limited production numbers, ephemeral nature, yearly issue and historical value, these stamps have become collector’s items.
In this segment, Marie W. Anderson, the New York Tuberculosis and Health Association’s Christmas Stamp Campaign Director, describes the 1931 stamp and the inspiration for its artwork, which featured a stagecoach and team of horses.
It is worth noting that Mrs. Anderson’s immense difficulty in locating serviceable antique stagecoaches, appropriate tack and properly trained matched teams of horses for in-person fundraising events comes not even 25 years after the introduction of mass produced automobiles.