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Mighty Mississippi

First Day of Issue Date: May 23, 2022

First Day of Issue Location: Memphis, TN

About This Stamp

The Mississippi River is at the core of the nation’s heritage and is variously referred to as America’s backbone, its heart, and its soul. This issuance honors the Mighty Mississippi with a portfolio of ten exquisite photographic stamps, each representing a state along the course of the river. With five rows of two stamps each, the pane's arrangement corresponds to the states’ north-south and west-east sequence.

Minnesota’s stamp shows the Mississippi’s source waters of Lake Itasca (photograph by Dana Holm); Wisconsin is represented by an autumn view of the Great River Road (photo by Jay Olson-Goude).

The Iowa stamp shows the steamboat American Queen near the city of Bettendorf (photo by David Sebben); in Illinois, a sailboat passes limestone bluffs adorned with fall foliage (photo by Walter Blackledge).

Missouri is represented by the St. Louis skyline at sundown, punctuated by the Gateway Arch (photo by Evan Spiler); Kentucky is seen in the city of Wickliffe, just downriver from where the Ohio River spills in (photo by Larry Braun).

An Arkansas levee curves parallel to a river meander near forest and farmland (photo by Mississippi River Parkway Commission); in Tennessee, a towboat pushes an immense tow of cargo barges upriver toward Memphis (photo by M. J. Scanlon).

The New Orleans skyline and the twin-span Crescent City Connection bridges represent Louisiana (photo by Sean Pavone); and in the state of Mississippi, within the wilds of a delta bayou, cypress trees seem to drip with Spanish moss (photo by Ron Levine).

The pane's verso features a map of the central United States detailing the river’s course and major tributaries.

By the end of an epic three-month, 2,300-mile journey, the Mississippi River’s source waters — an unassuming trickle from Minnesota’s remote Lake Itasca — have been joined by streams pouring in from much of the nation. The river's waters that pour into the Gulf of Mexico come from a drainage basin of 1.2 million square miles, about 40 percent of the land in the contiguous 48 states.

With relentless progress, diverse influences, and determined wildness, the Mississippi River perfectly epitomizes the nation it shapes and serves.

Art director Ethel Kessler designed the pane using existing photographs.

The Mighty Mississippi stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail® one-ounce price.

Stamp Art Director, Stamp Designer

Ethel Kessler

Ethel Kessler is an award-winning designer and art director who has worked with corporations, museums, public and private institutions, professional service organizations, and now, the United States Postal Service.  

After earning a B.F.A. in visual communications from the Maryland Institute College of Art, Kessler worked as a graphic designer and project manager for the exhibits division of the United States Information Agency. Her work was distributed internationally on subjects such as Immigration, Entrepreneurship, Renovation of American Cities, and the Bicentennial of 1976. She was also responsible for exhibits in Morocco, Botswana, and El Salvador. 

In 1981, she established Kessler Design, Inc., for which she is creative director and designer. Clients have included the Clinton Government reorganization, the Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic Television, the National Park Service, and the American Institute of Architects.

She has been an art director for the U.S. Postal Service’s stamp development program for more than 25 years. As an art director for USPS, Kessler has been responsible for creating more than 500 stamp designs, including the Breast Cancer Research stamp illustrated by Whitney Sherman. Issued in 1998, the stamp is still on sale and has raised more $98 million for breast cancer research. Other Kessler projects include the popular and highly regarded Nature of America 120 stamp series, a collaboration with nationally acclaimed nature illustrator John Dawson, the 12-year Lunar New Year series with Kam Mak, the American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes 10 stamps issued in 2003, a 2016 pane of stamps celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and the 2023 stamp honoring Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And many, many others. 

Stamp Artists

Walter Blackledge

Larry Braun

Dana Holm

Ron Levine

Don McLaughlin

Mississippi River Parkway Commission

Jay Olson-Goude

Sean Pavone

M.J. Scanlon

David Sebben

Jeffrey Smith

Evan Spiler

Tom Wolf

First Day of Issue Ceremony

First Day of Issue Date: May 23, 2022
First Day of Issue Location: Memphis, TN

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