The tugboat is crucial to operations in a harbor and along a coast and some riverways. When introduced by the New York Dock Company in 1825, the tugboat’s potential was immediately apparent. Without tugboats, ships were at the mercy of the wind and tide whenever they came into or left port, and delicate mooring maneuvers were performed with chains, ropes, pulleys, and hooks. With tugboats, the processes of entering and departing port were secure.
The 15-cent Tugboat stamp debuted on July 12, 1988, aboard the Queen Mary at Long Beach, California, where it is permanently docked as a hotel and tourist attraction. There were 134,926 covers cancelled on the first day.
The Tugboat stamp was issued to pay the 15-cent postcard rate that began on April 3, 1988, and continued until February 2, 1991. It was printed on the B press in coils of five hundred and 3,000 stamps by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The first stamps printed with plates 1 and 2 were block tagged. The 15-cent Tugboat was reprinted in 1990, again on the B press using plate 2 but this time with overall tagging.
Richard Schlect of Arlington, Virginia, designed the stamp. Gary Chaconas engraved the vignette, Dennis Brown engraved the lettering. Both worked for the Bureau of Engraving and Printings.