Space Cover #151: Paul Calle's Mercury astronauts
In 1962, my father, artist Paul Calle was an illustrator in New York City and had begun to make a name for himself in the field of illustration.
Calle's interest in space art dates back to the late 1950's when he began using a scratchboard technique on covers and inside illustration's for such science fiction magazines as Galaxy and Amazing Stories. In the 1950's these magazines told of far away galaxies and space travel that at the time seemed light years away.
Nearly a century earlier, the writings of Jules Verne captivated the imagination as his Columbiad spaceship launched to the Moon. By the late 1950's this seemingly fantastic notion was becoming more of a possible reality than fantasy.
Several years earlier in October of 1958 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created "to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth's atmosphere". The reality of the Space Age had arrived.
On February 20, 1962 as John Glenn launched from Cape Canaveral aboard Friendship 7 to orbit Earth, philatelists around the world were not aware that they were soon to be thrilled to see a US postage stamp issued to mark NASA's Project Mercury. Issued only after Glenn's successful splashdown, the postage stamp went on sale throughout the country.
Right after the successful completion of the mission and Colonel Glenn's safe return to Earth postmasters around the country could finally open the sealed stamp packages that had been marked "Top Secret". This commemorative postage stamp features an image of the Mercury capsule circling the Earth with a blue sky filled with stars.
When the Project Mercury postage stamp was released it seemed like everyone wanted them and countless first day covers were produced. My father was certainly one of those people interested in the stamp and must have sent away for cancelled envelopes. Unfortunately since my father passed away in December of 2010 I am not able to ask him about some very interesting covers I discovered when going through some boxes that most likely had not been opened for decades.
My dad must have received from someone or purchased himself dozens of uncacheted first day covers, each cancelled Cape Canaveral FL FEB 20, 3 30 PM 1962. Sometime after John Glenn's mission and the issuance of the stamp he drew portraits of each of the Mercury Seven astronauts on these envelopes.
Unlike the original hand drawn First Day Cover drawings he did on covers for the 1969 C76 First Man on the Moon stamp he designed, these Mercury astronaut drawings were signed but not numbered so I do not know how many he created. Most likely knowing my dad he gave some away to family, friends, colleagues and perhaps the astronauts themselves.
I do know that each one is unique and I think really special!