The Case for a Jack Kerouac Centennial Postage Stamp
Jean Louis “Jack” Kerouac was born on March 12, 1922 in Lowell, Massachusetts. As the year of his Centennial approaches, it would be fitting for the United States Postal Service to honor his life, and his literary and cultural legacy, by issuing a postage stamp in his honor and bearing his name.
The full value of Kerouac’s work at both national and global levels has largely come to be appreciated and valued in the fifty-one years since his death on October 21, 1969. Like many persons with artistic and literary talents, Kerouac had his personal struggles. But the value and significance of his work in both the American, and global, literary and cultural pantheons is well established at this point.
Kerouac’s most widely recognized novel, On the Road, was named by the Modern Library a one of the 100 most significant works of American fiction in the 20th century, ranking of 55th. Time Magazine cited On the Road as one of the 100 best English language novels from 1923-2005.
In May of 2001 the original manuscript of On the Road was purchased by Mr. James Irsay, owner of the National Football League Indianapolis (Indiana) Colts, for 2.4 million dollars. Thanks to Mr. Irsay’s largesse, this manuscript has since been displayed at many locales around the United States, and in numerous other countries. These exhibitions have attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers, and have been accompanied with programs and academic seminars about the literary and cultural significance of this work.
The full value, however, of the writings of Jack Kerouac go well beyond his signature novel. During his lifetime he published eighteen novels and books of poetry. His post-humous writings have nearly equaled that number. They include letters, journals, previously unpublished novels, collections of poems/haikus, and interpretations of Buddhist philosophy. Much of his writings reflect his deep spirituality, which is a combination of the Roman Catholicism in which he was raised, and the Buddhism to which he became attracted later in his life.
Kerouac’s literary legacy has now become an integral part of the curricula for American Literature courses taught at American universities around the country. This is one more indication of how Kerouac is now a well-established figure in the American literary pantheon.
Jack Kerouac has also become increasingly recognized and appreciated in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. Five of his novels draw on his childhood through high school in Lowell. They capture well the life and times of Lowell from the late 1920s until the onset of World War II, with special emphasis on Lowell’s Franco-American communities.
In 1988 the Jack Kerouac Commemorative was dedicated in Lowell. It consists of an arrangement of marble structures featuring excerpts from his voluminous works. It is located in what has been named Kerouac Park.
Following the Dedication of the Commemorative, the organization that brought it into being—Lowell Celebrates Kerouac (LCK)—produces an annual Kerouac Festival each October. This is a four to five day series of events that draws attendees from around the United States and the world. The Festivals include tours of the neighborhoods Kerouac describes in his Lowell-based novels, a high school poetry competition, open mics, concerts, art displays, and other related events.
As the City of Lowell, as well as other locales around the United States, prepare to celebrate the Jack Kerouac Centennial in 2022, the issuance of a postage stamp in his honor would be a fitting addition to the wider observance of a truly outstanding American author.
Stephen D. Edington, Member of the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Committee.