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50th Anniversary Talking Pictures

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13-cent 50th Anniversary Talking Pictures single

The 13-cent Talking Pictures stamp (Scott 1727), which commemorates the 50th anniversary of talking pictures, was first available on October 6, 1977. Walter Einsel designed the image of a movie projector and phonograph.

The multicolored stamp was printed on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Giori press as sheets of two hundred subjects, tagged, perforated 11, and distributed as panes of fifty (five across and ten down). Mr. Zip, “MAIL EARLY IN THE DAY,” and a plate number in each corner are printed in the selvage.

Until the late 1920's, motion pictures were soundless except for the musical accompaniment provided by theatre owners in the form of live musicians. While they were hugely popular, 'movies' remained a secondary form of entertainment, largely due to their lack of sound.

All of this changed in 1926 when Warner Brothers, in conjunction with Western Electric, introduced a new sound-on-disc system. Sound effects and music were recorded on a wax record that would later be synchronized with the film projector. To exhibit this new technology, Warner Brothers released 'Don Juan', the first motion picture to have a pre-recorded score and synchronized sound effects. Although 'Don Juan' was a box-office hit, many movie studios still refused to embrace the technology. However, the premiere of 'The Jazz Singer' in October 1927 changed all that.

'The Jazz Singer' triggered the talking-picture revolution. Based on Alfred Cohn's story 'The Day of Atonement' and Samson Raphaelson's popular Broadway play of the same name, the film starred Al Jolson. Though not the first film to use sound, 'The Jazz Singer' was the first to use spoken dialogue as part of the dramatic action. The combination of Jolson, America's most popular singer, and the new medium of sound helped generate a profit of $3.5 million for Warner Brothers. A year after its release, Hollywood recognized the historical significance of 'The Jazz Singer' by honoring the film with a special Academy Award.


  • Scott 2005 Specialized Catalogue of U.S. Stamps and Covers
  • xroads.virginia.edu/~UG00/3on1/movies/talkies.html (accessed May 16, 2006)

Doug D'Avino

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