Birth of Ogden Nash

2002 37¢ Literary Arts: Ogden Nash stamp
US #3659 – Nash was the 18th honoree in the Literary Arts Series.

Ogden Nash was born on August 19, 1902, in Rye, New York.  Having written over 500 poems during his life, Nash is considered America’s best-known humorous poet.

Nash Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover
US #3659 – Colorano Silk Cachet First Day Cover

Nash was descended from Abner Nash, a governor of North Carolina whose brother, Francis, was a Revolutionary War general and the namesake of Nashville, Tennessee.  Nash’s father ran an import-export business and moved the family often.

Nash Mystic First Day Cover
US #3659 – Mystic First Day Cover

From the time he was six years old, Nash loved to rhyme.  He also liked to make up his own words whenever he couldn’t find a word that rhymed.  Nash attended St. George’s School in Newport County, Rhode Island before going to Harvard University.  However, he had to drop out after a year when his father’s finances declined.

Nash Classic First Day Cover
US #3659 – Classic First Day Cover

Nash taught at St. George’s for a year before moving back to New York where he sold bonds.  He then got a job writing ads for streetcars for Barron Collier.  From there Nash found work as an editor at Doubleday.  Starting in 1930, he began publishing some of his poems in The New Yorker.  The paper’s editor quickly asked for more, saying, “They are about the most original stuff we have had lately.”

Nash married in 1931, and that same year he published his first collection of poems, Hard Lines, which sold out an amazing seven printings in its first year.  In 1933, Nash decided to write full time.

Nash Fleetwood plate Block First Day Cover
US #3659 – Fleetwood Plate Block First Day Cover

Moving to Baltimore in 1934, Nash worked at home, jotting words on little note pads scattered about the house.  He drew his inspiration from his own life and family.  Nash wrote light-hearted, whimsical, and sometimes nonsensical verses.  He often used an extremely large poetic license to create comical rhymes and puns.  Nash’s poems make people laugh, but they also contain some truths of human experience.  Nash’s verses about animals were some of the most popular and showed his playful use of words.

2000 Ty Cobb stamp
US #3408d – In “Line-up for Yesterday,” Nash honored baseball legends, including Cobb, writing “C is for Cobb, Who grew spikes and not corn, And made all the basemen Wish they weren’t born.”

During his lifetime, Nash wrote more than 500 poems and published 19 books of poetry.  He also wrote the lyrics for the 1943 musical comedy, One Touch of Venus, and the 1952 revue Two’s Company.  He was nationally known and appeared on comedy shows and lectured throughout the country.

2007 Florida Panther stamp
US #4137 – Nash was most well known for his animal rhymes, such as “If called by a panther / Don’t anther.”

Nash died on May 19, 1971, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from complications from Crohn’s disease.  In his obituary, The New York Times called Nash “the country’s best-known producer of humorous poetry.”

The Ogden Nash Stamp

The Ogden Nash stamp was issued on his 100th birthday at his Baltimore home.  Six of his poems appear in the background of the stamp:  “The Turtle,” “The Cow,” “Crossing the Border,” “The Kitten,” “Limerick One,” and “The Camel.”

Read some of Nash’s poems here.

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