1997 Tri-Motor – Classic American Aircraft
- Honors the Tri-Motor aircraft on semi-jumbo stamp
- The back of the stamp includes information about the aircraft pictured in the design
- Part of the Classic American Aircraft set, the 5th set in the Classic Collections stamp series
32¢, First Class Mail Rate
First Day of Issue:
July 19, 1997
First Day City:
Printed for Stamp Venturers at J.W. Fergusson and Sons, Richmond, Virginia
Panes of 20 (Horizontal, 4 across, 5 down)
10.2 (APS Rotary Perforator)
Large tagging block over all 20 stamps. The tagging block extends only to the outer edge of the vignette of the 16 stamps bordering the pane.
Why the stamp was issued:
To celebrate the iconic and important Tri-Motor aircraft.
About the stamp design:
Like the others in the set, this stamp pictures artwork (oil painting on Masonite) by William S. Phillips of Ashland, Oregon. Phillips made every design unique, so no two aircraft appear in the exact same position or in front of the same background . This was done to prevent the stamps from looking too similar and stagnant. Phillips used many reference books, photographs, and even model planes he built himself and had his wife hold at different angles to ensure his paintings were as accurate as possible.
USPS special consultant Walter Boyne (retired US Ari Force colonel and first director of the National Air and Space Museum, founder of Air and Space
magazine, and more) was chosen to develop a list of aircraft models to choose from. This is the list of criteria Boyne used to make his decisions:
“1) Importance to aviation history. Not all aircraft are equally important to aviation history, but all are of some enduring importance.
2) Contribution to technology. In a similar way, not all the selections contributed equally to technology, but most of them made significant contributions. In some cases, the contributions represented a first…. In other instances, the contribution was a combination of technological advances […] rather than a breakthrough in one particular area.
3) Public perception. In some instances, an aircraft, over time, by reasons of its performance, its appearance, or some other factor, would come to be recognized as the most memorable aircraft in its class.
4) Aesthetic appeal. Not all the aircraft selected could be called beautiful… Yet all have a tangible aesthetic appeal, and some are simply quite beautiful as sculptural art, at rest or in flight. A case could be made for some aircraft that they are so unaesthetic in appearance as to have a crude beauty…
5) A standard of excellence. Some of the aircraft were so dominant in their field that even if they lacked some of the above criteria – which they do not! – they would still have had to be selected.
6) A distinctive, evocative appearance. While this might be considered a subset of aesthetic appeal, it is different in that some aircraft simply call forth the era in which they appeared because of their distinctive appearance.
There are hundreds of other worthy contenders, and strong arguments might be made for them using the above criteria,” Boyne said, “But the selected aircraft have, on balance a unique combination of these qualities that make them truly, Classic American Aircraft.”
Special design details:
Phillips’s airplane paintings (generally oil on Masonite) are highly detailed and have been featured in many art books and limited-edition prints. Phillips was also an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and traveled to the Persian Gulf as a Navy combat artist in 1988 to paint US aircraft and ships.
Art director Phil Jordan said “I wanted someone who flew, and Bill, like myself, is a recreational pilot… He has an ability to paint aircraft so they look as if they actually are in the air. They have a wonderful feeling to them. A lot of aviation artists are able to paint every rivet, every blade of grass, every desert grain of sand, but when you add it all up it’s very static and hard-edged. Bill’s work is very fluid and loose.”
First Day City:
The Classic American Aircraft stamps were dedicated at a ceremony at the US Air and Trade Show at Dayton International Airport. Dayton was home to the Wright brothers, the men who flew the first heavier-than-air craft in 1903.
About the Classic Collections Series:
The Classic Collections series began in 1994 with the Legends of the West issue. The idea originated from Carl Burcham, manager of stamp and product marketing for USPS at the time. Each Classic Collections set consists of a pane of 20 different semi-jumbo stamps with descriptive selvage at the top (header) and informational text on the back of each stamp beneath the gum. The stamps are “broadly defined, Americana-themed subjects.”
The first four Classic Collections sets were accompanied by matching sets of picture postal cards showcasing the stamp designs. However, none were created for the Classic American Aircraft set.
History the stamp represents:
In the 21 years between World War I and II, airplane technology changed drastically. Larger, more powerful airplanes required stronger frames and wings. This led to one of the most significant advance – the switch to metal structures.
Throughout the 1920s, most manufacturers used both metal and spruce wood and continued to dress their aircraft in an outer skin of fabric. The first American company to build an all-metal airplane was the Stout Metal Airplane Company, which became a division of Ford Motor Company in 1925. The following year, the company produced a three-engined commercial monoplane powered by 200-horsepower Wright Whirlwind engines. With the installation of newer 300-hp Wright engines later that year, the 11-passenger 4-AT, or Ford Tri-Motor, was born.
Though ahead of its time, the “Tin Goose,” as it was called, was noisy, uncomfortable, and cold – passengers even had to endure being sprayed by mud when the plane landed. Nonetheless, with a maximum take-off weight of 10,130 pounds, a cruising speed of 107 mph, and a range of 570 miles, it was the best there was. In all, 200 Tri-Motors were built from 1926 to 1933. At the peak of production in 1929, the company turned out four planes a week, producing a total of 78 airplanes that year alone.