Book cover for 'Stamping American Memory'


With digitalculturebooks, the University of Michigan Press publishes innovative work in new media studies and digital humanities. We began in 2006 as a partnership between MLibrary and the Press, taking advantage of the skills and expertise of staff throughout Michigan Publishing. Our primary goal is to be an incubator for new publishing models in the humanities and social sciences.

Stamping American Memory

Collectors, Citizens, and the Post
Sheila A. Brennan
Awarded the University of Michigan Press / Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) publication prize for Notable Work in the Digital Humanities


Winner of the University of Michigan Press / Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC) Prize for Notable Work in the Digital Humanities

In the age of digital communications, it can be difficult to imagine a time when the meaning and imagery of stamps was politically volatile. While millions of Americans collected stamps from the 1880s to the 1940s, Stamping American Memory is the first scholarly examination of stamp collecting culture and how stamps enabled citizens to engage their federal government in conversations about national life in early-twentieth-century America. By examining the civic conversations that emerged around stamp subjects and imagery, this work brings to light the role that these underexamined historical artifacts have played in carrying political messages.

Sheila A. Brennan crafts a fresh synthesis that explores how the US postal service shaped Americans’ concepts of national belonging, citizenship, and race through its commemorative stamp program. Designed to be saved as souvenirs, commemoratives circulated widely and stood as miniature memorials to carefully selected snapshots from the American past that also served the political needs of small interest groups. Stamping American Memory brings together the histories of the US postal service and the federal government, collecting, and philately through the lenses of material culture and memory to make a significant contribution to our understanding of this period in American history.
Sheila A. Brennan is a digital public historian living in Arlington, VA.
Cover: Pilgrim Tercentenary, two cents, 1920 (left) and National Recovery Act issue, 1933 (right). Courtesy Smithsonian National Postal Museum Collection.

Praise / Awards

  • “Brennan’s central insight is that stamps, though diminutive, are loaded with outsized cultural meaning. Stamping American Memory reminds us that from stamp collecting’s earliest days, . . . its hobbyists and consumerist enthusiasm helped shape American identity in surprising and enduring ways.”
    Journal of American History

  • “Stamping American Memory . . . is the first [study] to carefully reconstruct the emergence of the practice of stamp collecting in the U.S. . . . It should therefore be appealing to both scholars of late 19th- and early 20th-century U.S. cultural history and to stamp collectors, seeking to expand their knowledge about the larger context in which stamps were produced.”
    Reviews in History
  • “. . . addresses a neglected aspect of American cultural history that will appeal not only to academic scholars across disciplines and fields but also the general public, including the dedicated community of philatelists.”
    —Julie Thompson Klein, Author of Interdisciplining Digital Humanities

Product Details

  • 236 pages.
  • 35 Illustrations.
Available worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03876-3

Add to Cart
  • $24.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90084-8

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