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Block of four.
Since the founding of the republic, the United States has looked to the commercial maritime industry for much of its growth and security. This stamp issuance pays tribute to the U.S. Merchant Marine, the modern name for the maritime fleet that has played this vital role. The four-stamp design on this pane features types of vessels that have formed an important part of this history: clipper ships, auxiliary steamships, Liberty ships, and container ships.
Since colonial times, America’s merchant ships have plied the oceans and other navigable waters conveying goods and passengers. During wartime, they have also helped deliver troops and war materials. This role was formalized shortly before World War II, when legislation empowered the "U.S. Merchant Marine" to serve as a naval auxiliary unit. During World War II, the U.S. Merchant Marine bore the brunt of delivering military supplies overseas to U.S. forces and allies. Today, it continues to help meet the nation’s security needs while also transporting commodities that sustain the American economy.
Clipper ships, ushered in by the California Gold Rush of 1849 and noted for their streamlined shape and majestic cloud of square-rigged sails, set numerous speed records for their time.
Auxiliary steamships—steam-powered ships with back-up sailing rigs— were the ocean liners of their day, competing in the 1850s with clipper and other sailing ships for transatlantic mail and passenger service.
During World War II, the United States built more than 2,700 Liberty ships, plain but sturdy cargo vessels that sustained the Allied forces with a steady supply of food and war material.
Container ships, pioneered in the 1950s, are the lifeblood of today’s global economy, carrying nearly all the world’s manufactured goods across the oceans and exemplifying the modern merchant marine.