Coming soon to a package near you: A glimpse of Big Bend National Park.
The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled a new Priority Mail stamp depicting a scene familiar to many Texans—the Rio Grande disappearing between the sheer cliff walls of Santa Elena Canyon. The stamp marks the first time the West Texas park has appeared on a U.S. postage stamp.
“This is wonderful recognition for Big Bend National Park and a beautiful image of the iconic mouth of Santa Elena Canyon, one of the most scenic parts of the national park,” Big Bend Superintendent Bob Krumenaker said. “It’s a nice capstone to the park’s 75th anniversary, too.”
Big Bend National Park celebrated its 75th birthday in 2019. The stamp will be released Jan. 18.
U.S. Postal Service Art Director Greg Breeding designed the stamp, and Chicago-based illustrator Dan Cosgrove did the artwork. Using photographs for reference, Cosgrove first sketched the scene, then created a digital version of the image. The process, from idea to stamp, took more than two years.
Each year, the public recommends subjects for stamps. The ideas must be mailed—no email, thank you—and they must meet certain criteria. The Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee narrows the submissions to about 30 options and forwards them to the postmaster general, who gets the final say on which ones are used.
“We get tens of thousands of ideas from the public,” said Roy Betts, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.
Although he has never visited Big Bend National Park, Cosgrove says working on the stamp made him want to go.
“First of all, it’s an amazing place and a great subject to get to do,” he said by phone from Chicago. “The tricky thing was trying to get the lighting right. We wanted it to look like you’re going through the canyon and the back wall is lit by the sun. I wanted to make it interesting, so I had to bring in a lot of colors. That was a challenge and really fun to do, to bring this drama to the picture.”
The stamp is one of about 25 stamps that Cosgrove has helped create for the U.S. Postal Service. He also created artwork for a stamp depicting Mount Rushmore and a Forever stamp honoring the USS Missouri.
“We affectionally refer to (postage stamps) as miniature works of art,” Betts said. “They tell America’s story historically and artistically. It’s an integral part of our national heritage.”