US Postal Service Gives Racing Legend Big Stamp of Approval
Willits, CA, May 11, 2009 — With a life-sized bronze statue of racehorse legend Seabiscuit poised behind him, Willits, CA Postmaster Dale Briggs today affixed a special 1st Day of Sale pictorial postmark on the new Seabiscuit stamped envelope (44 cents) and officially released it for purchase nationwide.
The ceremony took place at the horse’s home and final resting place at Ridgewood Ranch in Willits. A local nonprofit group, the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, is working to preserve and protect the historic buildings and natural resources of the surviving 5,000 acres of the ranch, which has been identified as one of America’s most endangered historic places.
The stamp commemorates Seabiscuit’s legendary win in 1938 at the Pimlico racetrack in Maryland against Triple Crown winner and seemingly invincible War Admiral, who also is featured. The match race drew 40,000 spectators and was broadcast by radio to 40 million more across the country, including President Franklin Roosevelt who delayed a press conference so that he could take it in. Considered a West Coast underdog, Seabiscuit won by four lengths, setting an incredible track record
and inspiring America with his awe-inspiring win against all odds.
“In the decade of anguish known as the Great Depression, rags-to-riches Seabiscuit was a hero and source of hope and inspiration to millions of Americans,” stated Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit-An American Legend. “This new U.S. postage stamp depicting the moment that won him a lasting home in our cultural memory is a beautiful and fitting tribute to this great American icon.”
Each year, the US Postal Service receives some 50,000 suggestions for stamp subjects. Of those, only about 100 survive a rigorous three-year vetting process, making the Seabiscuit stamped envelope one of only a select few to be chosen.
The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee recommended the stamp as a tribute to the legendary small, dull brown racehorse. Artist John Mattos created the design, which depicts a scene from the famous 1938 race. Advisory Committee members Joan Mondale, the former 2nd Lady of the U.S., and Donna de Varona, Olympic swimming gold medalist and the first female network TV sportscaster in history, were on hand to celebrate the ceremonial stamping of the envelopes.
“Seabiscuit surely embodied the grace, beauty, spirit and fire, which Laura Hillenbrand captured in her triumphant story of his life, along with the lives of the people surrounding him who helped him achieve greatness,” said Mrs. Mondale.
Walter Mondale, former Vice President of the United States and U.S. Ambassador to Japan, and his wife mailed handwritten notes in the stamped envelopes to the manager of the Pimlico postal substation,
which operates during Preakness Week each year, and Howard “Gelo” Hall of Baltimore, who witnessed the match race as a 10-year-old and became a fixture at Pimlico in the decades after.
The Mondales were joined by Winifred Groux, USPS San Francisco District Manager, Margie Handley of the Howard Hospital Foundation, and a San Francisco Bay Area woman, Connie Wiley, who once met and petted Seabiscuit in the winner’s circle after one of his many successful runs. Handley and Wiley placed a garland over the statue of Seabiscuit as veteran racetrack bugler Peter Estabrook sounded a final Call to Post.
“With escalating unemployment and the financial sector in disarray, we find ourselves facing some of the same conditions that were present during the Great Depression,” said Groux, the US Postal Service’s San Francisco District Manager. “By unveiling the Seabiscuit stamp today, we are reminded that with perseverance and steadfast resolve, the world’s economy will come from behind and stride to a brilliant finish.”
Maggie Van Ostrand of Pine Mountain, California and Chuck Lustick of Sacramento were recognized for leading a nationwide grassroots effort to get a Seabiscuit stamp issued. John Pinches, chair of the Mendocino County, CA Board of Supervisors, read a board resolution in honor of the occasion, and a statement was entered into the Congressional Record by U.S. Representative Mike Thompson.
Nestled in the oak and redwood-studded ranchlands and mountains of northern California, Ridgewood Ranch was where Seabiscuit was nursed back to health after a serious injury. Seabiscuit’s recuperation set the stage for an electrifying blaze-of-glory career finish at Santa Anita Park that captivated Depression-era America.
Each year, hundreds of visitors stream to northern California to see the beautiful landscapes and buildings that constitute Seabiscuit’s legacy. Many of the historic buildings remaining from the Howard and Seabiscuit era urgently need repair, and preservation efforts must be completed soon to preserve and protect Seabiscuit’s legacy for future generations of Americans.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for high –resolution images of the stamped envelope. Contact the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation for event photos.
*** The nonprofit Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation works to protect and preserve the historic buildings and natural resources of the surviving 5,000 acres of the Howard ranch, which has been identified as one of America’s most endangered historic places. Today the home of the legendary
racehorse inspires hope with its therapeutic horseback riding program for developmentally challenged children as well as adults. For further information, contact the Seabiscuit Heritage Foundation, 16200 Highway 101, Willits, CA 95490, Tel.: 707.459.5992 or visit