The U.S. Postal Service will issue its eye-catching Cherry Blossom Centennial stamps beginning Saturday to mark the 100th anniversary of the planting of Japanese cherry trees in Washington, D.C.
The stamps currently are featured prominently on post office promotional posters, and a clerk at the downtown post office in Fort Wayne said many people have asked when they can buy them.
“I think they will be quite popular,” agreed Nelson Hornick of Fort Wayne, a member of the local Anthony Wayne Stamp Society and a stamp collector. “A lot of people have been to Washington, D.C., and have seen that or heard about it,” he said of the cherry trees in bloom.
Two previous stamps showing Washington’s cherry trees — a 5-cent stamp in 1966 and a 6-cent stamp in 1969 — also were very popular, Hornick noted.
The new stamps show two scenes side-by-side, which create one larger panoramic image of blooming cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin area in the nation’s capital.
The stamp on the left has showy blooms arching over two girls dressed in brightly colored kimonos and a family, all on a stroll, with the Washington Monument in the background. The stamp on the right features tourists seeing the sights, with the Jefferson Memorial in the background.
The stamps are self-adhesive Forever stamps, meaning they will always be equal to the first-class mail 1-ounce rate, a postal service news release said. They will be priced at 45 cents each, or $9 for a sheet of 20 stamps.
The Postal Service plans to print 100 million of the stamps, so Hornick doubts they will sell out. The only stamp in recent history that sold out and had additional stamps printed was an image of Elvis Presley, he said.
The Postal Service provides this background on the centennial that inspired the stamps:
In early 1912, more than 3,000 Japanese cherry trees arrived in Washington, D.C., as a gift from the city of Tokyo to the city of Washington. The gift honored the friendship between the United States and Japan.
During a small ceremony at the Tidal Basin on March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen “Nellie” Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees.
Taft envisioned the area, now known as Potomac Park, being filled with Japanese cherry trees that would explode in white and pink flowers every spring. The vision became one of her great legacies as First Lady.
Col. Spencer Cosby of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supervised the planting of the remaining trees. After the work was completed, he wrote to Mayor Ozaki of Tokyo, saying:
“The trees completely surround the Tidal Basin and, when in bloom in the spring, will make a magnificent display. ... In a few years, this will undoubtedly be one of the famous sights of Washington, and a constant reminder to our citizens of the kindly feeling of your city and country.”
Long one of Washington’s most-admired landmarks, the trees have become a source of pleasure and pride for residents and have attracted millions of tourists, the postal service said.
However, the floral beauty lasts only briefly. That is why many Japanese view cherry trees as “poignant symbols of life’s transience — making every blossom an invitation to celebrate being alive.”