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Seattle restaurateur Ivar Haglund proposes a postage stamp honoring the clam in 1960.

HistoryLink.org Essay 2515 : Printer-Friendly Format

In 1960, Ivar Haglund (1905-1985), owner of the "Acres of Clams" restaurant, known as Seattle's "king of the waterfront,"  proposes a postage stamp honoring the clam. The occasion was the suggestion by  U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995) for a stamp commemorating the state of Maine's sardine. Ivar wired Washington Senators Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989) and Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson (1912-1983) to put forth the clam instead.  "The sardine has been swimming around witlessly being gobbled up by the smarter fish ever since the Mesozoic Age ... Clams keep their mouth shut ... and never stick their neck out when the enemy is around."

Ivar added that a clam stamp would bring in funds for a "guided mussel" program. His friend, writer and publicist Jim Faber, printed a few thousand official looking clam stamps, sending sheets of them along with a bag of clams air express to Magnuson's office. Like the 1947 UPI news photo of Ivar scooping syrup, the 1960 photograph of "Maggie" and "Scoop" entertaining Senator Smith with Ivar's gifts is so perfect that it looks like it was directed by a commercial set-up artist. The story also got a lot of play in the press far beyond Puget Sound. Senator Smith modified her proposal to a series of stamps honoring the entire U.S. fishing industry with the first issue featuring the Maine sardine.

The Clam Stamp prank got second life when Ivar was almost busted by the U.S. Postal authorities when he began selling the stamps in his gift shop. Ivar proposed to the Feds a ritual scuttling of the stamps in Elliott Bay to a brass band accompaniment of "Asleep in the Deep." They were not amused. They confiscated the stamps and the printing plates for destruction in a special U.S. Postal furnace. Ivar was forever after amused that the Post Office would have its own basement incinerator for cremating bad stamps.

Dave Stephens, Ivar: The Life and Times of Ivar Haglund (Seattle: Dunhill Publishing, 1986), 119-123; Paul Dorpat "King of the Waterfront," (tentative title, biography of Ivar Haglund in progress), in possession of Paul Dorpat, Seattle, 2000.

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Ivar's clam stamp, 1960
Courtesy Paul Dorpat

Senators Magnuson, Jackson, and Smith, keeping clam, 1960
Courtesy Paul Dorpat

Ivar's Acres of Clams, Seattle Waterfront, 1950s

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