The world's first manned flight occurred in 1783 in a balloon over Paris, France. To honor the 200th anniversary of manned flight, many nations, including the United States, issued commemorative postage stamps of aerostats. The United States Postal Service issued this set of four 20-cent stamps in 1983.
The set consists of four designs, two vertical images and two horizontal. The vertical set features images of the Civil War observation balloon Intrepid and stratospheric balloon Explorer II. The horizontal set features a combined image of modern sport hot air balloons.
David Meltzer designed the stamps, which were printed using the photogravure process. The stamps were produced in plates of 160 stamps, in four sheets of forty each. Perforation is 11.
Washington, DC, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, hosted First Day of Issue ceremonies on March 31, 1983. Some first day covers bear postmarks for both cities for the date.
To issue the stamps with appropriate drama and grandeur, Malcolm Forbes, publisher of Forbes Magazine, tethered his hot air balloon, the Chateau de Balleroy, on the National Mall. The first set of stamps was cancelled in the tethered balloon and then sold by the postmaster general to Mr. Forbes, who piloted the balloon. Gusty winds blemished the morning's festivities. The balloon's flight was consequently brief, and newspapers described the postmaster as "smiling grimly" while the balloon tossed in the wind.