12 Most Controversial Stamps in American History

Source: Courtesy of USPS

Considering how significantly the use of regular mail service has decreased in the last years, it’s hard to imagine that a square-inch stamp once inspired hostility. But it did. Many stamps have stirred strong emotions — from patriotic passions to anger over political correctness.

The history of the postage stamp goes back to 1800s. Before then people used ink and hand-stamps made from cork or wood to prove the mail or package has been paid for.

In 1837, Rowland Hill, an English teacher and social reformer, who campaigned for postal reforms, suggested that senders start using a postage stamp costing a penny per half an ounce. It took three years of debates until the stamp was made official.

Despite an ailing postal service, stamps are not obsolete. That small piece of paper is a piece of history representing how the mail systems have changed over the years. Many people are so fascinated with stamps, they have become collectors (President Franklin D. Roosevelt was one).

Even non-collectors are often interested in learning about a stamp’s history. An example is the popular roadside attraction in Boys Town, Nebraska, known as the world’s largest ball of stamps. It’s a sphere containing more than 4.6 million canceled stamps, and it measures 32 inches in diameter and weighs over 600 pounds.


To identify 20 of the most controversial stamps in U.S. history, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed dozens of announcements about stamps released by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and news articles about their significance written in publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, as well as smaller, local news outlets.