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Stamp designer admits dealing with states was sticky

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 04, 2002

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Wyoming filed an objection with the Postal Service; Vermont got him to change the color of a ski outfit.

Artist Lonnie Busch has lived all but two of his 49 years in St. Louis. So yes, it was a challenge to capture the essence of America's 50 states in a series of postage stamps.

States, it turns out, can be a little fussy.

But after three years of research and design, Busch hopes his "Greetings from America" project shows off the nation's natural beauty, urban sophistication and colorful history.

"I want it to be an American experience," said Busch, a freelance commercial illustrator. "One of my goals was that when people looked at the whole sheet of 50, they saw all of the aspects of America."

The "Greetings From America" series went on sale Thursday at post offices.

The 34-cent stamps are not sold individually but as a pane of 50 for $17.

Modeled after old-fashioned "large letter" postcards, the series is designed to promote domestic travel.

On Missouri's stamp, the Arch gleams, a river flows and a dogwood blooms. The Illinois stamp celebrates the state's urban and rural tradition with images of the Chicago skyline and ears of corn.

But stamp-making, like any government endeavor, can irk the people it's designed to serve. Some states were peeved by Busch's portrayal.

Wyoming, for instance, was stomping mad that Montana's stamp stole its official symbol - a bucking bronco straddled by a cowboy. Wyoming Secretary of State Joe Meyer went so far as to file an objection with the inspector general of the Postal Service.

Residents in eastern North Carolina wondered why the Wright Brothers airplane and Cape Hatteras Lighthouse - images from the state's western side - earned spots on the stamp. Cincinnati had a similar gripe when Busch chose to portray Cleveland, aka the Mistake on the Lake, over Sin City. What a choice.

"I know. I know," said Busch. "But at the end, Ohio ended up being one of my favorites."

Perhaps the silliest charge came from Vermonters who objected to a female skier's pink snow suit. No one, they insisted, would wear pink on the slopes.

"Yes, there was aversion to pink," said Busch. "Well, OK, we're not going to go out of our way to make people unhappy. What we ended up going with worked very well."

Busch changed the color of the suit to blue and yellow but could not make wholesale alterations to other images.

"There is always controversy. It goes with the territory," said Busch. "But we (Busch and the Postal Service) were in 100 percent agreement that the images would be chosen for aesthetic reasons, not political reasons."

Busch has designed stamps for 15 years, including stamps that commemorated the Pan Am Games, Winter Olympics, basketball and the Smithsonian, as well as themes like love.

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