A Look at the 1958 Mackinac 3¢

27 June 2021

The 1958 3¢ Mackinac Bridge postage stamp was issued by the United States to commemorate the opening of the “longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere” (a phenomenal feat of structural engineering whose record still stands today) in the state of Michigan. Without it, the northernmost part of Michigan would be inaccessible by conventional motor vehicles unless a ferry carrying vehicles was used to cross. 

The story behind this 3c stamp is that the Mackinac Bridge (known by some as the “Mighty Mac”) and it’s construction is a remarkable point in Michigan history, yet the postage stamp that honors the opening of this bridge seems to be unremarkable to some. Granted, the amount of 3c stamps printed is in the tens of millions.

Seeing as the history of the bridge itself is discussed at length on other websites, I wanted to focus more on the design and why I think it’s interesting for something I’d consider a commonplace stamp. It’s got an almost turquoise color to it overall- despite having many individual shades of blue, computer software is telling me a common hex color code featured on the stamp is #006184, which I learned actually has a name: “Faux Sea Blue”

1958 Mackinac Bridge 3 ¢ stamp, with the bridge itself highlighted

In the center of the stamp the prominent and obvious feature is the large suspension bridge itself, with this particular scene showing the bridge in the foreground and what appears to be the bridge going on further in the distance. There is a barge-like vessel traveling under the bridge with billowing smoke, clouds under the bridge over the horizon, and one larger cloud underneath the large “3¢” at the top right of the stamp, indicating the price. The written portion of the stamp clearly states, “UNITED STATES POSTAGE” and “THE MACKINAC BRIDGE CONNECTING THE PENINSULAS OF MICHIGAN” printed proudly at the top and bottom of the stamp, respectively. 

From far away, the sharp, vertical off-white lines of the bridge contrast very well against the shades of blue that compose the sky. The way the bridge is displayed in the foreground, getting more and more distant as the bridge goes on, highlights two things in my opinion: (1) the design attempts (and I think succeeds) in showing just how long and impressive this bridge is, and (2) it’s larger than life presence shows just how important this bridge was in terms of the building and engineering process, the nearly hundred million dollar cost, and the fact it’s completion gave Michigan the title of having “longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere”.

First Day Cover of the Mackinac Bridge 3 ¢ Stamp, 63 years old this week (as of publication)

Living some 800+ miles away from the bridge, I’ve never seen or crossed the bridge myself and I might not have known about its importance to Michigan without finding this 3¢ stamp and looking into it further. This is just one example of the importance philately and stamp collecting has- beyond the obvious purpose of using it as postage, the stamp itself acts as a catalyst for education, learning about geography, landmarks, history and more. One day when I get out to Michigan and cross the “Mighty Mac” myself, I’ll be sure to have the 3¢ stamp with me.