Postage Stamp Bash / For Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash post stamp Virtual Stamp Club

When the Ogden Nash stamp is issued on August 19, it will be the first time the word "sex" has appeared on a U.S. stamp.

It will probably also be the first time a limerick has appeared on a U.S. stamp.

The stamp marks the centennial of the humorous poet's birth. It features a painting by Michael Deas based on an early 1950s photograph of Nash by Kay Bell Reynal. Deas has designed a number of other stamps in the Postal Service's Literary Arts, including Tennessee Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thornton Wilder, as well as all the Legends of Hollywood series.

U.S. Postal Service chief stamp developer Terry McCaffrey told CBSNews.com earlier this year he expects to get complaints about "sex," which is included in the six Nash poems in the background of the design: "The Turtle," "The Cow," "Crossing The Border," "The Kitten," "The Camel" and "Limerick One."

McCaffrey said he got dozens of letters complaining about the use of the word "breast" in one of the breast cancer stamps.

A ceremony launching the stamp will be held home at the home where Nash did most of his writing in Baltimore. Nash died in that city in 1971 at the age of 68.

Originally, the stamp event was scheduled for Rye, N.Y., a Long Island Sound suburb of New York City, where Nash was born on Aug. 19, 1902.

A gentle satirist, Nash poked fun at human foibles without cynicism. He wrote on many subjects, but all of his poems expressed his wry wit and demonstrated his playfulness with language. "I'm very fond of the English language. I tease it, and you tease only the things you love," Nash reportedly said. He invented words and used puns, creative misspellings, irregular line lengths and unexpected rhymes to make his verse humorous and memorable. Because of his unique style, many consider Ogden Nash to have been one of the most accomplished American writers of light verse in the 20th century.

Frederick Ogden Nash attended Harvard University for one year. After working in publishing for several years Nash decided in 1933 to devote himself full-time to writing.

He first found fame in the pages of "The New Yorker" when his poem "Invocation" appeared in the January 1930 issue. His first book of poetry, "Hard Lines," was a bestseller in 1931; some 20 other volumes of verse followed.

Nash also wrote for the stage, contributing the lyrics to several musical comedies including the Broadway hit "One Touch of Venus" (1943). He made frequent lecture tours and was a regular guest on radio and television programs. In 1950 the National Institute of Arts and Letters (now known as the American Academy of Arts and Letters) elected Nash to its select membership of 250 artists, writers and musicians. In recognition of his distinguished contributions to literature, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1965.

The Postal Service itself was the target of one of Nash's barbs.

In a letter to the editor of "The New York Times" in 1969, Nash complained about stamps that would not stick to envelopes. He lamented, "The Post Office should supply a roll of Scotch tape with every 100 stamps, but mine won't even sell me one. I'd like to go back to where I came from: 1902."

The Postal Service notes that this will be a 37-cent self-adhesive stamp, and promises it will stick to envelopes.

By Lloyd A. de Vries
  • Lloyd Vries

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