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Jan 6, 2012
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
First-day-of-issue Centennial Stamp
Opening event for 47 Stars exhibition

New Mexico History Museum

Join New Mexico dignitaries and the U.S. Postal Service for a ceremony and first-day-of-issue sale of the Centennial stamp, designed by artist Doug West. Doors open at 10 am, with sales in the History Museum lobby until noon. The event begins at 10:30 am in the auditorium. Also that day, the museum kicks off a yearlong celebration of statehood with 47 Stars, an expansion of its existing permanent exhibition that includes the officially unofficial 47-star flag.

With its Centennial stamp, the U.S. Postal Service honors the 100 years that have passed since January 6, 1912, when New Mexico became the 47th state in the union. Today, New Mexico is the fifth-largest state in the U.S., known for its rich history, vibrant cultures, and stunning geographic diversity.

A resident of New Mexico for more than 35 years, artist Doug West is best known for his southwestern landscapes and skies. Art director Richard Sheaff selected one of West’s existing oil paintings for the stamp art.

New Mexico Statehood is being issued as a Forever® stamp. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

The four-cent stamp issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of New Mexico statehood was designed by Robert J. Jones and featured Ship Rock, a towering rock formation in northwestern New Mexico.

The History Museum is celebrating the Centennial with a variety of installations expanding on its existing display of the state at statehood. Included among them is the display of its officially unofficial 47-star flag.

On April 4, 1818, Congress enacted the Flag Act of 1818, setting forth a rule that no new stars could be added to the flag until the Fourth of July immediately following a state’s admission to the union. Thanks to that once-a-year-and-only-once-a-year mandate, New Mexicans hoping to share their pride at becoming the 47th state were essentially forced into committing their first illegal acts as U.S. citizens.

Just 39 days after New Mexico became a state on January 6, 1912, Arizona stepped up to the statehood plate on February 14, 1912. By virtue of coming in second, Arizona would receive its just due on July 4, when the official flag of the United States was to switch from 46 to 48 stars.

But New Mexicans wanted a flag of their own – one that would flutter from the flagpoles of official buildings and showcase 47 stars, not 46 and certainly not 48. Eager U.S. flag manufacturers were only too happy to help. Thus was born the unofficial 47-star flag.

“Conservation concerns have kept us from bringing our 47-star flags out of collections for public view,” said Dr. Frances Levine, director of the History Museum. “But the Centennial was too good of an opportunity to pass up. By letting visitors see these artifacts in specially designed display cases, we hope they’ll become engaged in the amazing story of New Mexico’s struggle for statehood.”

The 47 Stars installation will nestle within the museum’s core exhibition, Telling New Mexico: Stories from Then and Now. The museum's front window will feature a cutout of 1912 parade car, based on a historic photo, that visitors can pose themselves into for souvenir photographs.

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