American Philatelic
Click on the thumbnails below for a detailed discussion of each cover.
Note that standard envelope sizes are given, but measurements are exact and may vary slightly from the defined standard.




No White





Great Lakes Lace


Key Philatelic





White Ace





Adam K. Bert

CL Cachets


Coin 4 Cachets

House of Farnam

Cover Craft

Gamm Cachets

K. M. C. Venture

PCS Artcraft



T. Michael Weddle

T. Michael Weddle

Thomas L. Foust

Ham Cachets



Clarence E. Reid



Carol Gordon

Gill Craft




Fred Collins

Pugh Cachets



P. G. Rife

Karoline's Cachets

Jane Weddle

Van Natta


P. A. C.

M. Fox



Frank Pennington

R. Heflin

Judith Fogt

Tudor House


Don Mangus


Kribb's Kover











Wall Art

Kribb's Kover


Geri Peltin

Geri Peltin




Carolyn Gentry



1987 Lacemaking Stamps

"Because of all the difficulties in achieving the desired results for these stamps -- even though, frankly, the final product WAS impressive and stunning -- and because of the limited use of engraving in modern stamps, and the abrasiveness and presumed cost of the specially-created white ink finally developed, it is unlikely another extensive use of white intaglio will ever be attempted again in the future for USPS."
                                                             Private correspondence to L. Waters on August 9, 2010 from Joe Brockert,
                                                             Production Manager, Stamp Acquisition & Distribution, Stamp Services,
                                                             United States Post Office

The "Lacemaking" stamp set is the 8th  subject issued in the ‘Folk Art Series’.  Occasionally it is referred to as “Lacemaking in America”. Click here to see all the stamps in the Folk Art series. 163.98 million Lacemaking stamps were printed and distributed nationwide.

The Lacemaking stamp initiative was driven by Mary McPeek (1909-2007) who was sometimes referred to as “Mother Mary” by USPS officials. She was strongly backed by the Michigan-based Great Lakes Lace Group (GLLG). Mary, who was a lace teacher and author in Ann Arbor, spearheaded the intensive petition drive for the stamp, which started around 1977. She obtained the support of Wilbur J. Cohen (1913-1987), a member of the Postmaster General’s Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee and former US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Johnson. He came to be known as "Mr. Lace" by the Committee for his advocacy of this stamp. Michigan Senator Carl Levin (1934-), himself a stamp collector, and Michigan Congressman William D. Ford (1927-2004) were also strong supporters. Mary McPeek recalls the experience in an article originally appearing in Piecework, May/June 1995, p. 64ff.


The Committee made the decision to issue the stamp in 1984, after 7 years of lobbying effort. The Lacemaking stamp block design was unveiled on May 2, 1986, at the 10th anniversary convention of the Great Lakes Lace Group in the Hoyt Conference Center at the Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. A luncheon followed the ceremony (June 1986 issue of the GLLG Newsletter). This was an unusual gesture by the Post Office since production problems had delayed the release, and once solved, there were further delays due to other stamps now ahead of them in the printing queue. The actual release occurred on August 14, 1987. This excerpt from an article in the September 1987 issue of American Philatelist, pp 827-282, summarizes the earlier production issues with this stamp:

The bureau (of Printing and Engraving - BEP) produced the stamps on its "D" press by the offset/intaglio method. Two shades of offset blue ink were used, one for the lettering and the other, applied in two separate "coats," for the vignette portion of the stamps. Printing two layers of the same color ink, though two different screen patterns, resulted in an unusually rich and even tone, and produced a suitable foundation on which to print the lace designs. The white "lace" was printed over the blue background by the intaglio ("engraved") method.
The BEP and the USPS experimented with several other methods with less successful results. These included embossing un-inked portions of the paper to raise the "lace" from the background, and printing the stamps by gravure, with the lace formed from a white, "dropout" pattern.

One of the unsuccessful attempts is preserved in the Lacemaking stamp photoessay, which was often used directly in cachets (e.g., photoessay). The detail in this version is quite poor.

The GLLG Newsletter of August 1987 contained extensive coverage of the August 14, 1987 dedication ceremony held at the McKenny Union on the Easter Michigan University campus, including the speech of USPS Consumer Advocate Ann Robinson, who did the actual dedication. She also described some of the problems involved in trying to make printing plates from the original photographs of the laces, and the eventual decision to do steel engravings to preserve the fine detail. There is also a hilarious account of GLLC members attempting to affix 20,000 stamps to 5,000 envelopes two days before the ceremony.

It is to be noted that such an important event for lacemakers in the USA merited only a 1-1/2 page article by GLLC member Trenna Ruffner with the black and white USPS coarse resolution photo essay buried in the middle of the Bulletin of the International Old Lacers, vol VII, #5, May-June 1987. Perhaps this was related to the fact that the extremely important and productive GLLG was not an IOLI chartered group, and to my knowledge, still is not. They were not the only group resisting the pressure for the IOLI takeover at the time, and given the IOLI’s coverage of the Lacemaking stamp, perhaps you can start to get an inkling why there were problems. 

But there is a definite mystery to this stamp set. The USA, outside of the long-defunct Ipswich industry, emigrant traditions, missionary-driven work on the Indian reservations, and homecraft efforts driven primarily by women’s magazines, does not have an important handmade lace tradition. One might ask why such a minor hobby spearheaded by a small group with non-existent lobbying support merited the honor of a stamp. The effort did not even attempt to gain the support of the much larger, more traditionally American crochet/knitting/tatting community, or combine forces with the machine lace industry. Charges soon erupted from people like Michael Laurence, editor of Linn’s Stamp News, that the stamp was issued primarily because the service wanted to try a new printing process that would allow the embossing of the fine lace designs on the blue background. He states that Post Office officials privately agreed that this was the case. 

So what was the real story? Not an entirely easy task given the length of time since 1987. I've consulted several specialists on the subject. As noted above, two different process were tried to print the stamp, both unsuccessful, and it is very possible in view of the failures that the whole attempt could have been abandoned. But in 1984 the Post office had installed a new machine, known as the USPS "D" press, (officially designated as press #902, and in use at the Washington Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 1984-1996). It was capable of producing stamps in a combination of up to six offset colors and three intaglio (engraved) colors in a single operation. This press was made by Goebel in Darmstadt, Germany, and cost $3.2 million. The D press was 'webfed', meaning it used a continuous roll of paper rather than individual sheets. You can see evidence of the path of the paper in the 'ink smear' pane in my collection.

The D press had numerous startup problems which were not really solved until 1986. This can be illustrated by looking at some individual products:

The first stamp attempted on the D press was Smokey Bear in 1984. It required very fine registration of the offset and intaglio colors, but was plagued by misregistration problems. The machine speed was also very slow. Only 92 million of the 115 million ordered were delivered, and the stamp was still on press as late as Feburary 1985, although it was formally released in August 1984.
The Frederic Bartholdi intaglio/offset stamp was issued in July 1985, and was a much less ambitious project than Smokey Bear. Notice that the inscriptions, the only place intaglio was used, are placed so that a misregistration wouldn't much matter.
The D press problems were finally solved for the Stamp Collecting booklet, issued May 22, 1986. This set is considered the finest print job by the BEP in many years.

By the time it was decided to use the D press for the Lacemaking stamp, at least one other stamp was scheduled on the machine which led to further production delays. This was the Girl Scouts stamp, which commerates the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts in the US. It was issued on March 12, 1987.

So far I have not been able to find other stamps that may also have been in the queue ahead of the Lacemaking issue.

Another important factor going for the lacemaking stamp was the new emphasis on merchandising of bright, colorful stamps, although many traditional stamp collectors decried such commercialization as debasing their field.  Nonetheless, when finally issued, the Lacemaking stamp was anticipated by the USPS to be extremely popular. The actual state of the craft of lacemaking in the US was not important. One measure of the truth of this prediction is the large number of cachet covers produced.  The whole stamp merchandizing concept by the USPS gained much momentum in those years, and brought many new collectors to the field, just as the older purists were largely dying out.

The Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee basically controlled the design process. GLLC submitted many lace samples to the Committee, and they preferred a triangular template about 5 inches long, such as might have been used on a handkerchief corner. The lacemakers chosen to work the final designs were selected by the Committee through an unknown process, but it does seem that artists already known to the committee were selected. The lacemakers worked closely with Libby Theil, assistant to the graphic artist of the Committee, who is generally credited with the lace stamp design, and the final designs are variations of original bobbinlace samples submitted to the committee. Actually, Thiel submitted an earlier design which was rejected because of potential printing complexity:

All of the stamps show flowers native to the United States, although this was apparently not intentional. Trenna Ruffner from Grosse Pointe MI did the Honiton/Duchess dogwood design stamp (United States 2354). Her design is often referred to as “Honiton”. Ruth Maxwell from Dearborn interpreted a squash blossom design in point ground technique (United States 2351), although this stamp is often referred to as “Bucks Point”.  Mary McPeek representing Ann Arbor used bobbinlace for the right-facing rose design, sometimes called ‘Applique Mixed Technique I’ (United States 2352). Lesli Saari from Cadillac used bobbinlace, needlelace and tatting to do the floral design sometimes called ‘Applique Mixed Technique II’ with the left-facing rose of basically the same design as the ‘Applique I’ piece (United States 2353). It seems that these last two artists based their final designs on same piece of lace that Libby Thiel had shown to the Committee. It is notable that although traditional techniques are used, the results are not strictly attributable to a specific European style, giving them an American flavor. The original pieces of lace were kept by the artists, and the Postal Museum in the Smithsonian accepted four other pieces of lace each made from elements of the original design. I have not been able to find the Smithsonian donations, which perhaps were never actually accomplished.

Mary Liming McPeek's obiturary can be found at:

first posted 1/18/2009


Title:          Linn's U.S. Stamp Yearbook, 1987
Author:      Fred Boughner
Date:         1988
Publisher:   Linn's Stamp News, PO Box 29, Sidney, Ohio 45365
Printer:      Amos Press, Inc.
Format:      hardcover, 9-3/8" x 6-1/9"
Pages:       255
Copyright:  1988 by Amos Press, INc. 

A summary of all US stamps printed in 1987. The Lacemaking stamp discussion goes from
page 75 to page 87 .