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A sweet tradition continues

A new Love postage stamp from the U.S. Postal Service was released Jan. 14 at one of the sweetest places in the country: the New England Confectionery Co. (NECCO) in Revere. The new candy hearts stamp is adorned with two colorful heart-shaped candies delivering a short but sweet message: "I LOVE YOU."

To help celebrate issuance of the 2004 Love stamp, NECCO, makers of Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, is manufacturing the I LOVE YOU candy hearts, like the ones featured on the stamp, to be included in boxes with perennial favorites such as "Be Mine," "Marry Me," "Cutie Pie" and others.

The concept of the Sweethearts Conversation Heart dates to the 1800s, when printed sayings on colored paper were placed in "cockles," small, crisp candies in the shape of a scalloped shell. In 1866, Daniel Chase, brother of Oliver Chase, who founded NECCO in 1847, invented the process that printed the sayings directly on the candy. The Sweetheart recipe remains the same since the candy's inception.

To meet demand for its Sweethearts, NECCO produces approximately 8-billion hearts a year at three manufacturing facilities in the United States. The entire production _ roughly 100,000 pounds a day _ sells out in just six weeks.

For the 2004 Love stamp design, artist Michael Osborne of San Francisco, Calif., illustrated two hearts _ one yellow, in the foreground, and one pink, slightly behind it _ and in red added the letter "I" and a heart symbol to the yellow candy and the word "YOU" on the pink candy, to spell out "I love you."

The first Love stamp was issued by the Postal Service in 1973 in a denomination of 8 cents and with an iconic design by pop artist Robert Indiana. Since that time, Love stamps have featured a range of subjects, including flowers, animals, cherubs and love letters as well as abstract designs.

Paul Robeson honored

Paul Robeson, the celebrated crusader for social justice at home and abroad, has been honored with a 37-cent commemorative stamp that continues the Black Heritage Series.

Robeson was a talented presence as an end and a linebacker in football, twice earning All-American honors. As a powerful baritone, he was hailed at the world's premier opera houses.

But he paid dearly for speaking out against racism while segregation was tolerated. For years, many in his own country ostracized him.

Robeson (1898-1976) was born in Princeton, N.J., the son of a runaway slave preacher and an abolitionist Philadelphia Quaker mother. He earned a four-year academic scholarship to Rutgers University, where he was valedictorian of his class.

But he encountered racism on the gridiron in 1916 when he was forced to sit out an important game at the insistence of the visiting Washington & Lee team, which refused to play against a black man.

Robeson entered Columbia Law School and paid his way by playing professional football on weekends, earning a reported $500 per game. He secured a position with a New York law firm after graduation, but quit when a stenographer refused to take a memo from him. He then pursued his early love of the arts and public speaking.

In the 1920s and '30s, Robeson found small roles as an actor and moved up to leading roles, including a role in The Emperor Jones in 1933.

He also parlayed his rich baritone into an enduring operatic career, performing before segregated audiences at home but hailed openly in Europe.

Robeson returned to the United States in 1963 and lived his final years quietly in Philadelphia.

A slight Robeson suffered during his gridiron days was corrected in 1995 when he was posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Stamp information is available at www.USPS.com.

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