Monday, February 15, 2010

USA Prexies

Stamp design in the years between 1933-45 was greatly influenced by the 'hands-on' interest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1937,in response to public demand for a new series to replace those last issued in the 1922-25s, Roosevelt asked the postmaster general to run a contest that would allow the general public to submit their own designs for a new Presidential series of stamps depicting all deceased U. S. presidents. Some 1122 designs were submitted for the 1c. George Washington issue.
Elaine Rawlinson of New York City won the contest and collected the $500 prize.

Young NY designer Elaine Rawlinson wins design competition and makes philatelic history
Rawlinson was a 27 year old artist at the time. She had never expressed any interest in postage stamps, and this caused some consternation with collectors when it was learned that her design had been chosen over hundreds of submissions produced by vetran stamp collectors.
Eliane Rawlinson, no doubt pleased with her success, mailed herself Fist Day Covers
Congratulations poured in from all over the country, as the 'cinderella' story of Elaine's success became known.

Covers to Elaine rawlinson bearing the stamp series she designed

Caught by surprise by her success, Elaine had to rush out and get photographs to send to the press.

Elaine Rawlinson working in her New York studio.
The Painting & Sculpture Division, Washington DC, issued its formal notification of its awards for the Presidential Series in September 1937. Perhaps understandably, having beaten off 1122 designers, many professional, Elaine could not resist a little sketch of herself as an angel, complete with winning medals. No doubt her satisfaction was no less complete when she deposited the $500.00 winning cheque in her bank in November that year
Treassury Departments official notice awarding Elaine Rawlinson First Prize $500
Rawlinson's design was based on the Hudon bust of Washington and was considered very streamlined for the time. It contained no fancy ornamentation of any kind, just the bust of Washington and the dates of his tenure in office.
Is tempting to speculate whether Miss Rawlinson might have been subjectively influenced by philatelic events from accross the Atlantic, where a new King Edward VIII deffinitive series had just been issued. The romance between Edward and the American divorcee Mrs Simpson was certainly making headlines on both sides of the Atlantic - and the circumstances surrounding the KE VIII stamps were no less newsworthy.
1937 New designs - Edward VIII and Washington

Elaine in her Manhattan apartment with another example of her artwork in the background.