Famous Americans Series

US #890 Samuel Morse
US #890
Samuel Morse

In 1938, the Post Office Department announced plans for a series of stamps recognizing 10 famous Americans and invited the public to submit recommendations. The response was so great that it was decided to increase the number from 10 to 35. This required an unexpected level of organization by the Post Office Department for this series.

Seven categories were decided upon – authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists, and inventors. Each category of five has the same set of denominations – 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, 5¢, and 10¢. Each rate had a valid use. The 1¢ stamp paid for a letter that was dropped off at a post office to someone who had a box at the same office. The 2¢ was for local delivery. The 3¢ paid the normal non-local mail rate, and the 5¢ and 10¢ were used in combination for heavier letters and special rates. The denominations also shared a consistent coloring scheme: 1¢ is bright blue green; 2¢ is rose carmine; 3¢ is bright red violet; 5¢ is ultramarine; and 10¢ is dark brown.

Each category has its subjects arranged with the oldest birth date going on the 1¢ stamp, down to the most recent birth date on the 10¢ stamp. Each category has its own dedicated symbol in the engraving – a scroll, quill pen and inkwell for authors; a winged horse (Pegasus) for poets; the “Lamp of Knowledge” for educators; laurel leaves and the pipes of the Roman god Pan for composers; and inventors had a cogwheel with uplifted wings and a lightning flash to symbolize power, flight, and electricity.

The artists and the scientists have multiple symbols. Artists have either a paint palette and brush (for painters), and the sculptors have a stonecutting hammer and chisel. Scientists had the classical symbol of their particular profession.

 American Authors

US #859 Washington Irving
US #859
Washington Irving

Washington Irving is the author featured on the first “Famous Americans” stamp, U.S. #859. Irving was most famous for writing “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle.” U.S. #859 was issued in Tarrytown, New York – the community closest to Irving’s story. Sleepy Hollow was not a town at the time – the story was set in Tarrytown. In 1996, the residents voted to change the name of North Tarrytown to Sleepy Hollow.

US #860 James Fenimore Cooper
US #860
James Fenimore Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper’s best-known works are the “Leatherstocking Tales.” They include “Last of the Mohicans,” “The Pathfinder,” and “The Deerslayer.” His pioneer hero Natty Bumppo romanticized the American frontier seen in Upstate New York. Cooper died in Cooperstown, New York, a community first established by his father, a U.S. Congressman.
US #861 Ralph Waldo Emerson
US #861
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Featured on U.S. #861, Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher whose essays made him the leading spokesman for the “American Transcendentalism” movement. The beliefs of the movement included a rejection of society in favor of the individual and – as Emerson put it – “an original relation to the Universe.” Some of his best-known works included “Self Reliance” and “Nature.”

US #862 Louisa May Alcott
US #862
Louisa May Alcott

U.S. #862 honors Louisa May Alcott, a novelist who gained financial success writing under the name “A.M. Barnard.” But she achieved literary immortality when she wrote “Little Women” under her own name. The tale of four sisters – Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy – has become one of the most beloved stories in American literature. Alcott based the character of “Jo” on herself.

US #863 Samuel L. Clemens
US #863
Samuel L. Clemens

Samuel Clemens’ name appears on U.S. #863, but he is far better known by his chosen name of “Mark Twain.” Twain gained fame as both an author and a humorist, and was renowned for his wit. His stories of life on the Mississippi River typically included sharp critiques on people’s behavior. After Twain died, he was called the “greatest humorist of his age,” but his literary influence was illustrated by William Faulkner’s praise as the “father of American literature.” The stamp was issued at Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain grew up and began his writing career.

American Poets

US #864 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
US #864
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote poems that often featured subjects of myths and legends. His “Song of Hiawatha,” “Evangeline,” and “Paul Revere’s Ride” made him one of America’s most respected poets.

US #865 John Greenleaf Whittier
US #865
John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier, featured on U.S. #865, was one of the “Fireside Poets” – a group of American poets who rivaled classic British poets in fame and success. Known as the “Quaker Poet” for his religious beliefs, Whittier was a passionate abolitionist. His work gives a detailed view of 19th century life.

US #866 James Russell Lowell
US #866
James Russell Lowell
ames Russell Lowell believed he should use his poetry for reform and critique.  Lowell set a high standard for himself when he said in 1849, “I am the first poet who has endeavored to express the American Idea, and I shall be popular by and by.”  Lowell was the editor of “The Atlantic Monthly,” a prominent literary magazine of national renown. He used both the magazine and his poetry to share his views on topics like slavery and the Mexican-American War.
US #867 Walt Whitman
US #867
Walt Whitman
Called the “Father of Free Verse,” Walt Whitman’s controversial style captured the imagination of his readers. Featured on U.S. #867, Whitman spent years constantly updating his best-known work – the masterpiece poetry collection called “Leaves of Grass.” His poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” gave voice to a nation’s grief following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  Whitman had an intense personality. Legends and stories of his wandering lifestyle were so compelling that nearly a century later they influenced the “Beat Generation” of American writers in the 1950s and 60s. Whitman’s forceful physical presence inspired his friend Bram Stoker to use him as a model for the character Dracula.
US #868 James Whitcomb Riley
US #868
James Whitcomb Riley

U.S. #868 commemorates James Whitcomb Riley, a poet best known for revealing the culture of America’s Midwest. Riley’s popularity during his lifetime was so great that newly elected President Benjamin Harrison suggested Riley be named “poet laureate” (nation’s official poet) – an honor that was not granted to any U.S. poet until the 1930s.

American Educators

US #869 Horace Mann
US #869
Horace Mann

U.S. #869 features Horace Mann, whose interest in education began with a position as secretary on the Massachusetts Board of Education in 1837. Mann visited every school in the state and wrote annual reports detailing the progress in public education. He also developed Massachusetts’ “normal school” system (schools to train teachers). Mann’s work at revamping Massachusetts’s education influenced reform in other states, as well. He served as the first president of Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

US #870 Mark Hopkins
US #870
Mark Hopkins

Mark Hopkins, shown on U.S. #870, was president of Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, for 36 years. His influence was so great that U.S. President James Garfield once called a university “Mark Hopkins on one end of a log and a student on the other.” As a theologian, he was a professor of Moral Philosophy and Rhetoric, and his essays “Evidences of Christianity” became an influential textbook in the 19th century.

US #871 Charles W. Eliot
US #871
Charles W. Eliot
Charles Eliot’s tenure at Harvard University saw it transformed into a premiere research institution. Eliot spent two years in Europe studying all aspects of education systems there. He was particularly impressed with the use of research at universities by German businesses.  In 1869, Eliot published an article in “The Atlantic Monthly” called “The New Education.” He wrote, “We are fighting a wilderness, physical and moral. For this fight we must be well trained and armed.” That same year Eliot became the youngest president of Harvard, at age 35. He served as president for 40 years, reforming the university and empowering Harvard’s rise to the forefront of American institutions.
US #872 Frances Elizabeth Willard
US #872
Frances Elizabeth Willard
Frances Willard became president of the Evanston College for Ladies in 1871. Two years later, it merged with Northwestern University and Willard was named Dean of Women for the Women’s College.  Willard’s greatest impact was in the suffrage and temperance movements. She was a strong advocate of a woman’s right to vote – basing it on a concept of “Home Protection,” in which women could use voting to obtain protections against the effects of liquor. Willard was the first woman honored in the U.S. Capitol’s Statutory Hall – where statues of America’s greatest leaders are displayed.
US #873 Booker T. Washington
US #873
Booker T. Washington
U.S. #873 commemorates Booker T. Washington, the first president of the Tuskegee Institute. It was the first time an African American was pictured on a U.S. postage stamp. Washington was born a slave, and after the Civil War he worked his way through the Hampton Institute and Wayland Seminary. In 1881, at age 25, he was named the president of the newly created Tuskegee Institute.  Washington was a skilled orator and became a spokesman for blacks in America. Along with Julius Rosenwald, part owner of Sears Roebuck, Washington helped develop over 5,000 small community schools to educate black students throughout the South. Washington and Rosenwald provided organization and matched funds raised by the communities.

American Scientists

US #874 John James Audubon
US #874
John James Audubon

John Audubon is America’s most well-known wildlife artist. Featured on U.S. #874, his “Birds of America” was the product of 14 years of observations in nature and remains an inspiration for naturalists.

US #875 Crawford W. Long
US #875
Crawford W. Long

Dr. Crawford Long is showcased on U.S. #875. In 1842, Long became the first person to use ether on a patient in surgery in Jefferson, Georgia. He published the effects of ether as an anesthetic/pain-killer in the “Southern Medical and Surgical Journal,” helping influence its widespread use among other doctors.

US #876 Luther Burbank
US #876
Luther Burbank
U.S. #876 commemorates plant breeder Luther Burbank. For over 50 years, Burbank raised hundreds of thousands of plants, resulting in over 113 new varieties of fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants.
US #877 Dr. Walter Reed
US #877
Dr. Walter Reed

U.S. #877 honors Dr. Walter Reed, a U.S. Army physician who established that yellow fever, a deadly infectious disease, was transmitted by mosquitoes. Reed’s breakthrough helped wipe out the disease in Cuba, and enabled work to resume on the Panama Canal. Reed died in 1902 of a burst appendix – a year after his life-saving discovery.

US #878 Jane Addams
US #878
Jane Addams

Addams was a social reformer who was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 and commemorated on U.S. #878 in 1940. She was most remembered as the founder of Hull House, which offered social, educational, and cultural opportunities to the large immigrant population of Chicago.

American Composers

US #879 Stephen Collins Foster
US #879
Stephen Collins Foster
Stephen Foster’s songs were so popular they led to his nickname of the “father of American music.” Foster is the subject of U.S. #879 and wrote his songs in the mid-1800s, before dying at age 37. Despite his popularity, Foster died poor, with just 38 cents in his pocket. Foster is famous for folk songs such as “Oh! Susanna!,” “The Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “My Old Kentucky Home,” now the state song of Kentucky.
US #880 John Philip Sousa
US #880
John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa, featured on U.S. #880, was the Director of the U.S. Marine Corps Band. He was famous for his marches, including “Semper Fidelis (or the “Marine’s Hymn), “Stars and Stripes Forever,” and “The Washington Post March.” Sousa’s music style led to him gaining the nickname, the “March King.”

US #881 Victor Herbert
US #881
Victor Herbert

The subject of U.S. #881, Victor Herbert became famous for composing operettas (short, light-hearted operas). His most famous work was “Babes in Toyland,” which included characters from Mother Goose nursery rhymes in a Christmas-themed operetta. It also drew influence from the classic ballet, “The Nutcracker Suite.”

US #882 Edward Alexander MacDowell
US #882
Edward Alexander MacDowell

Edward MacDowell, the subject of U.S. #882, was a famous U.S. composer known mainly for his piano pieces and for helping establish an independent American school. The MacDowell Colony was a long-held dream of Edward and his wife Marian – a place where artists could share ideas and inspiration. It was established in 1907, one year before his death.

US #883 Ethelbert Nevin
US #883
Ethelbert Nevin

This issue commemorates Ethelbert Nevin, a famous composer of light songs and piano pieces. He studied in New York, Boston, and Berlin and wrote “Rosary” and “Mighty ‘lak a Rose.”

American Artists

US #884 Gilbert Stuart
US #884
Gilbert Stuart

Featured on U.S. #884, Gilbert Stuart was just 19 years old when he traveled to England to study art in 1775. He had already proven himself to be a promising portrait painter, and the American Revolution threatened to disrupt his progress. Stuart became a successful artist and one of the best-known painters in Europe.

US #885 James A. McNeill Whistler
US #885
James A. McNeill Whistler

James Whistler, shown on U.S. #885, was a popular U.S. painter who turned to art after dropping out of religious studies and West Point Army Academy. His painting “Whistler’s Mother” is one of the most recognizable paintings in U.S. culture.

US #886 Augustus Saint-Gaudens
US #886
Augustus Saint-Gaudens

U.S. #886 features Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the son of a shoemaker who went on to become a renowned sculptor. His life-size works decorate many American cities. He’s still regarded as America’s greatest sculptor. Saint-Gaudens also designed coins for the U.S. Mint. He and his brother Louis established the “Cornish Art Colony,” a retreat for artists in Cornish, New Hampshire.

US #887 Daniel Chester French
US #887
Daniel Chester French

The 5¢ Famous Artists stamp features Daniel Chester French, whose best-known work is the 30-foot-high statue of Abraham Lincoln, seated in the Lincoln Memorial. French also created the famous “Minute Man” statue in Concord, Massachusetts.

US #888 Frederic Remington
US #888
Frederic Remington

Frederic Remington, shown on U.S. # 888, was an American painter and sculptor famous for his portrayals of the Wild West. Remington often accompanied soldiers and witnessed a number of skirmishes and battles – including Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. His statuettes usually featured cowboys, Indians, and soldiers on the Western plains.

American Inventors

US #889 Eli Whitney
US #889
Eli Whitney

Eli Whitney’s cotton gin helped shape the 19th century economy of the American South. He also developed the concept of “interchangeable parts,” which allowed for mass production, instead of making them one at a time. First used to mass-produce muskets for the U.S. Army, Whitney’s principles are often credited as the basis for the American system of manufacturing.

US #890 Samuel Morse
US #890
Samuel Morse

Samuel Morse, shown on U.S. #890, was a U.S. artist and inventor. He was the first president of the National Academy of Design, but is most remembered for inventing the telegraph.

US #891 Cyrus McCormick
US #891
Cyrus McCormick
Cyrus McCormick was an American inventor who finalized plans for a horse-drawn reaper that cut and gathered crops. McCormick’s father had worked on the concept for 28 years before passing the project to his son. The machine revolutionized farming techniques.  McCormick was elected to the French Academy of Sciences, which named him “as having done more for the cause of agriculture than any other living man.” His company eventually became International Harvester.
US #893 Elias Howe
US #892
Elias Howe

Elias Howe perfected the concept of the sewing machine and was the first man to successfully patent it in the U.S. Shown on U.S. #892, Howe successfully defended his patent rights from Isaac Singer, earning large royalties from Singer’s successful copy.

US #893 Alexander Graham Bell
US #893
Alexander Graham Bell

Alexander Graham Bell was a U.S. inventor and physicist featured on U.S. #893. He was the founder of the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, inspired by his mother’s deafness. Bell is best known for his invention of the telephone. His first words over a telephone were to his assistant in the next room, saying, “Mr. Watson, come here – I want to see you.”

1 responses to "Famous Americans Series"

1 thought on “Famous Americans Series”

  1. How can I thank you enough, just wish Canadian money was better situated so that I could buy more stamps. Your today in History series is tops. My collections of US stamps has become more realistic now that I can meet some of the issues stories.

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