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Matson ship floats its way onto stamp

By Andrew Gomes

LAST UPDATED: 2:50 a.m. HST, Jul 27, 2011

The Matson Navigation Co. containership R.J. Pfeiffer will be sailing around the world — not on the high seas, but on U.S. mail.

An illustration of the ship passing Diamond Head is featured in a new series of four postage stamps to be issued Thursday saluting the nation's commercial maritime industry, referred to as the U.S. Merchant Marine.

The Pfeiffer was built in 1992 and named after a former chairman of Matson and its Honolulu-based parent company, Alexander & Baldwin Inc.

An iconic photo of the ship served as a model for an illustration created by Dennis Lyall of Norwalk, Conn.

Lyall, who worked under the art direction of Phil Jordan of Falls Church, Va., created all four stamps.

The three other types of ships featured in the stamp series are the clipper ship, the auxiliary steamship and the Liberty ship.

Clipper ships, powered by square-rigged sails, were built from the 1840s through the 1850s to carry passengers and supplies.

Auxiliary steamships emerged in the mid-nineteenth century to compete in trans-Atlantic mail and passenger service and often were driven by steam-powered sidewheels supplemented by sailing rigs.

Liberty ships were commercial cargo vessels built to support war efforts and were developed in great quantities in the years surrounding World War II.

Container ships, designed to carry thousands of 20- or 40-foot metal cargo containers, were pioneered in the 1950s by Malcom McLean, a trucking operator from North Carolina.

"Without the container ship the global economy as we know it would be impossible," read a statement announcing the stamp series.

Matt Cox, Matson's president, said the company is honored to have one of its ships featured in the series. "As one of the leading U.S.-flag carriers in our industry that had an important role in pioneering containerization in the Pacific, Matson is very proud to be part of this tribute," he said in a statement.

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