Tuesday, March 05, 2002

RADEL: Post office thinks Ohio is Cleveland


By Cliff Radel, cradel@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati has been canceled by the post office.

        In the upcoming series of 50 “Greetings from America” postage stamps, Cleveland gets to put out the welcome mat for Ohio.

        Not Dayton or Columbus.

        Not Akron or Cincinnati.

        But Cleveland.

        The cash-short colossus to the north shows up on the 34-cent stamp in the series designed to tout tourism in all 50 states.

        The stamp — coming to a post office near you April 4 — resembles an old-fashioned postcard from the 1930s. The words “Greetings from OHIO” float above a modern image of downtown Cleveland dominated by two skyscrapers, Terminal Tower and the BP Tower.

        The scene prominently features a bridge of meager historical significance and a river that once caught on fire.

        The bridge — the multiarched Veterans Memorial Bridge — is on the National Register of Historic Places. But, this 85-year-old ode to steel and concrete is nowhere near as old, pretty or historically important as Cincinnati's John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.

        Our 135-year-old landmark bridge — on the National Register a year before the Cleveland structure — is the prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge.

        The Cleveland bridge spans the Cuyahoga River. That stream was once so polluted it went up in flames.

        This then is what the United States Postal Service picked for a sheet of stamps that, according to the post office's spring catalog, “depicts the landmarks and recreational activities that make each state special to visit.”

        What was the post office thinking? To find out, I called Richard Sheaff, art director for the “Greetings” stamps.

        Speaking from his home in Scottsdale, Ariz., he noted that the stamp was not approved by the governor or Ohio's tourism division.

        “There was zero political consideration,” he said. “It was all just a matter of artistic merit.”

        And not because Cleveland's skyline is instantly recognizable.

        “Ohio is one of the ones that they were trying to figure out what kind of icon could be used,” said Don Smeraldi, the Washington-based spokesman for the “Greetings” stamps.

        Ohio does have an image problem in the icon department. The state has no Grand Canyon, no Statue of Liberty.

        The Buckeye State's image problem extends beyond stamps, statues and geography. Before the closing ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, three American medal winners stood by a TV microphone clutcher.

        She looked into the camera and blabbed at length about two of the athletes' hometowns. Just about every detail was mentioned, except the towns' latitude and longitude. One athlete came from New York state, the other from California.

        Then the TV announcer turned to the third athlete. This is how she described her hometown:

        “She's from Ohio.”

        That's it.

        No city. No township. No county. Just Ohio.

        Now, on stamps, Ohio is Cleveland.

        If this image were just on a stamp, I might let it slide.

        But the “Greetings from OHIO” stamp will be enlarged and sold via the Internet. Online shoppers will find it on coffee mugs, tote bags, coasters, key chains and refrigerator magnets.

        All of these items, I'm sure, will be big sellers. In Cleveland.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail cradel@enquirer.com.


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