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Famous Americans

Introduction

 
 
The 'Famous Americans' stamps date from late-1939 and 1940. The design of the stamps is elegant and uncomplicated. There are two frame styles: one round and the other rectangular, as seen below. Some of the frames have an emblem associated with the field of activity of the famous person. See the pan pipes bottom right on the 1c green.
   
   
There are seven categories: Author, Poet, Educationist, Scientist, Composer, Artist and Inventor. Within each category there are five famous Americans. Face value and colours are constant and follow the established U.P.U colours: 1c green, 2c red, 3c purple, 5c blue and 10c brown.

 

Group 1 - Famous Authors
 
1c green - Washington Irving (1783-1859)
 
 
 
 
The main writer of the burlesque 'Knikerbocker Group' in New York, in 1820 he published The Sketch Book, containing essays on the city of New York. From 1826 to 1832 he was attached to the American legations in Madrid and London, during which time he wrote a biography of Columbus. Back in the United States, his writing continued to be exploratory and varied, with works on the fur trade and the history of Mexico. He is probably remembered by most people for his creation Rip Van Winkle.

 

 

2c red - James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851)
 
 
 
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Born in Burlington, New Jersey, son of a Quaker and member of Congress, after being expelled from Yale in 1803, he joined the Navy, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant. In 1811, he married Susan Lancey who, according to the Oxford Companion (210) dared him to write a novel. He took up the challenge and the result came in the form of 32 novels, the most famous of which is perhaps The Last of the Mohicans (1826). In a later work Gleanings in Europe, Cooper showed that he could be a trenchant critic to boot.

43
'Cycling'
3c purple - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
41
'Discovery'
 
 
Poet and essayist, Emerson graduated from Harvard in 1821. He became a pastor in Boston in 1829 but shortly after quit the Church over his controversial views. In 1836 he wrote Nature, in which Emerson stated the importance of the individual. His great idea was to free the human spirit from fixed doctrines and historical creeds. Other works followed: The Conduct of Life (1860), Society and Solitude (1870) and Letters and Social Aims in 1876. In the words of Chamber's: "For him nature was a sphinx, covered with hieroglyphics, for which the spirit of man is to find the key." (479)
The Patients' Tale (2nd March, 1999)
 
39
5c blue - Louisa May Alcott (1832-88)
'Nursing Care'
37
'Development of IVF'
(Sculpture of Test-Tube Baby)
She is best known as the author of the childrens' classic Little Women. Born in Germantown, Philadelphia, during the Civil War she was a nurse on the Union side. Less well-known are later works: Good Wives (1869), An Old Fashioned Girl (1870), Little Men (1871) and Jo's Boys 1886).
 
The Settlers' Tale (6th April, 1999)
 
10c brown - Samuel L. Clemens (1835-1910)
'Pilgrim Fathers'
Settlers & Red Indian
33
'Migration to UK'
 
Most of us know him by the pseudonym of Mark Twain. He was born in Florida, Missouri. From 1847 to 1855 he worked as a printer and later, from 1857 to 1861 as a Mississippi river-pilot. This occupation gave him the idea for his pen-name, 'mark twain' meaning 'by the mark of two fathoms' (Chambers, 1482). In 1867, he visited France, Italy and Palestine, the upshot being Innocents Abroad (1869). His two great masterpieces were Tom Sawyer (1876) and Huckleberry Finn (1884).
 
The Workers' Tale (4th May, 1999)
 
Group 2 - Famous Poets
 
 
 
1c green - Henry W. Longfellow (1807-82)
'Cloth Industry'
(Salt Mills, Saltire)
29
'Finance'
 
Classmate of Nathaniel Hawthorn and linguist par excellence, he travelled to Europe on more than one occasion and, as a result, wrote Outre Mer (1835) and Hyperion (1839). He was Professor of Modern Languages and Literature for many years. His first book of poetry was Voices in the Night (1839). His most popular work was Hiawatha (1855), based on the legends of the Redskins, using a metre borrowed from the Finnish epic Kalevala (Chambers, 911). The Entertainers' Tale (1st June, 1999)
 
27
2c red - John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92)
'Sport'
(Bobby Moore with World Cup, 1966)
 
26
25
(Charlie Chaplin)
Born Haverhill, Massachussetts, Whittier was a Quaker. From 1847 to 1859, he was editor of the anti-slavery Washington National Era. He was a pioneer of regionalism, depicting New England life, his finest work being Snowbound (1866). Deeply religious, his works were known in households all across the country.
 
 
 
3c purple - James Russell Lowell (1819-91)
The Citizens' TJuly, 1999)
23
 
'lth'
(Water Tap)
 
Born Cambridge, Massachussetts. He graduated from Harvard in 1838 and followed a career as a magazine editor. His first work was Legends of New England (1831). Like Whittier he was a vigorous proponent of emancipation. In 1843, along with Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lowell edited The Pioneer. Like Longfellow, he was a linguist and in later life he took up diplomatic positions in Spain and Britain.
 
'Human Rights'
(MAGNA CARTA)
5c blue - Walt Whitman (1819-91) J
 
 
The Scientists' Tale (3rd August, 1999)
19
Born West Hills, Long Island, the son of a free-thinking carpenter. After working in teaching for a spell, he took up the editorship of the Brooklyn Eagle. He found his poetic voice and fame with Leaves of Grass (1855), which grew to occupy well-nigh 500 pages. During the Civil War, he worked as a nurse. His later years were dogged by ill-health, but, a respected figure, he was supported in his difficulties by a number of patrons. Whitman was a Titan of American verse.
'Darwin's theory of evolution'
 
(Galapagos Finch, Fossilized Skeleton)
10c brown - James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
 
 
'Newton'
(ed Light)
(Saturn)
 
Born Greenfield, Indiana, he wrote 'homely dialect poems' for the Indianapolis Journal between 1877 and 1885 (Chambers, 1243). He was well-known for his poems about children, including 'Little Orfant Annie'.
The Farmers' Tale (7th September, 1999)
 
 
Group 3 - Famous Educationalists
 
 
15
1c green - Horace Mann (1796-1859)
'Mechanical Farming'
(Horse-drawn Seed Drill'
13
'Satellite Agriculture'
(Aerial view of combine harvester)
Born Franklin, Massachussets, known as the 'father of American education'. He was a civic figure of note, entering the state legislature in 1837. He saw the importance of providing education for all and established the first normal ('state' - my insertion) school in the U.S.A. He was a member of the House of Representatives from 1848 to 1853 and was president of Antioch College, Ohio from 1852 to 1859 (Chambers, 963).
 
 
The Soldiers' Tale (5th October, 1999)
2c red - Mark Hopkins (1802-1887)
11
 
'Civil War'
)
(Cavalier & Horse)
 
9
Born Stockbridge, Massachusetts initially he trained in medicine. He was president of Williams Congregational College, Williamstown and lifelong professor of philosophy (1830-1887). He published many, sermons and religious works and was made a member of the Hall of Fame. President Garfield is reported as saying: "Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings, apparatus and libraries without him." (Oxford Companion, 385).
'Peace-keeping'
(Soldiers & Boy)
 
3c purple - Charles W. Eliot (1834-1926)
 
The Christians' Tale (2nd November, 1999)
7
 
Born Boston. Graduated from Harvard in 1853, he moved to Europe where he studied chemistry, returning in 1865 to take up the post of Professor of Analytical Chemistray at the newly-founded Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1869 he moved to Harvard, where he was immensely influential in transforming the college into the world-ranking university that it is now. He was the creator of Harvard Classics, a gigantic 50-volume selection of world literature.
5
 
'Christmas'
5c blue - Frances E. Willard (1839-1898) n
 
 
The A r (7th December, 1999)
3
 
Born Churchville, New York. She studied at the North Western Female College, Evanston, Illinois and became professor of aesthetics there. She is best known for her dedication to the temperance movement. She helped form the Women's Christian Temperance Union (1874). Latterly, she became editor of the Chicago Daily Post.
 
 
1
10c brown - Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
'New Worlds'
(Sir Howard Hodgkin)
 
 
The New Millennium 'Definitive' (6th January, 2000)
Born Cambridge, Massachusetts, he was a black American educationist, who became a teacher, writer and speaker on negro issues. In 1881 he was appointed principal of the Tuskegee Institute for coloured persons, in Alabama. In 1901, he wrote Up From Slavery. "The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house." (Oxford Companion, 837).
Machin, 1st Class olive-brown
 
Group 4 - Famous Scientists
 
 
 
1c green - John James Audubon (1785-1851)
 
1st Series - 'Above & Beyond' (18th January, 2000)
 
1
2
 
''National Space Centre'
Born Haiti, studied Paris, settled in the United States on his father's farm in Philadelphia. He is famous for sketching nature, especially birds which he developed from an early age. His first big project was to prepare a volume of coloured plates showing every known species of bird known in America. The Birds of America was published in Britain (1827-38). In spite of the reservations of some scientists, Audubon's work represents a remarkable example of a rapprochement between art and science
4
 
'Seabird Centre, North Berwick'
2c red - Crawford W. Long (1815-1878)
 
 
 
2nd SerieLight' ( 1st February, 2000)
 
6
Took a medical degree at Pennsylvania in 1839 and practised medicine in Jefferson, Georgia. Although W.T.G Morton is credited with the discovery of the general anaesthetic ether, in fact Long, three years earlier, had performed a number of operations using it. (Oxford Companion,484). Chambers does not have 'Morton' but 'William Thomas Green' (911).
'Rheilfford Eryri, Wales'
(Garratt Steam Locomotive No. 143)
 
3c purple - Luther Burbank (1849-1926)
'Lighting Croydon's Skyline'
Multicoloured Lights)
 
 
3rd Series - 'Water and Coast' (7th March, 2000)
 
Born Lancaster, Massachusetts, he was a horticulturalist. He developed the Burbank potato, moving in 1875 to Santa Monica, California where he continued to experiment, this time breeding new fruits and flowers. He is remembered by the extensive How Plants Are Trained to Work for Man (1921). Oxford Companion has 'Santa Rosa' for Santa Monica' (120)
'Pondline Centre, Merseydide'
Frog's Legs & Lilies
5c blue - Walter Reed (1851-1902)
'Portsmouth Harbour'
(Reflections in Water)
 
 

Born in Betroi, Virginia. Took his medical degree at Virginia in 1869 and became army surgeon in 1875. By 1893, he was Professor of Bacteriology in the Army Medical College, Washington. "Investigations carried out by him in 1900 proved that transmission of yellow fever was by mosquitoes, and his researches led to the eventual eradication of this disease from Cuba." (Chambers, 1225) There is food for thought in the fact that a fine volume like this harbours this myth. The fact is that a Cuban by the name of Carlos Finlay made this discovery and the Americans were not slow to take credit for it when they occupied Cuba (1899-1902).

 
 
14
10c brown - Jane Addams (1860-1935)L
eaf-cutter Ants)
 
16
'Project SUZY, Teesside'
(Hydroponic Leaves)
Born Cedarville, Illinois, she was a social worker. She graduated from Rockford College in 1881. In 1889, along with Helene Gates, she opened the earliest 'social settlements', projects aimed at improving life in the slums. She was also instrumental in the promotion of child labour laws, adult education for the foreign-born and major welfare initiatives. In 1931 she shared with Nicholas Murray Butler the Nobel Peace Prize. (See Oxford Companion, 11)
 
 
 

5th SerieGroup 5 - Famous Composers ft' (2nd May, 2000)

 
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1c green - Stephen Copllins Foster (1826-64)
'Tate Modern, London'
(Bankside Galleries)
 
22
 
Born Pennsylvania, Foster had a great interest in the Negro traditions and gained his knowledge from camp meetings and minstrel shows, for which he wrote his songs, many of which have entered American 'folk' music. His was a troubled spirit and he died young in a Bowery Lodging house, a victim of alcohol abuse. Among his compositions were 'Beautiful Dreamer' and 'Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair'.
 
 
 
2c red - John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)
 
 
 
 
Born Washington D.C., Sousa was first a conductor of theatre orchestras and in the Marines and later became an internationally famous composer of marches. Chambers (1374) credit him with more than a 100 marches and, what is perhaps less well-known, ten comic operas. According to the Oxford Companion (736), he was musical director for the U.S army in the Spanish-American-Cuban war of 1895-98 and the First World War.
 
 
 
3c purple - Victor Herbert (1859-1924)
 
 
 
 
 
Born in Ireland, Herbert played in the orchestra of Johann Strauss before caming to the United States in 1886. From 1898 to 1904 he was conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and in 1914 he founded the American Society of Composers. He composed a number of operettas, the best known being Babes in Toyland (1903), Mlle. Modiste (1905) and Naughty Marietta (1910).
 
 
 
5c blue - Edward E. MacDowell (1861-1908)
 
 
 
 
 
Born New York, he pursued studies in Europe and in 1881 was appointed head teacher of piano at Darmstadt conservatory. Liszt invited him to play his First Piano Concerto in Zurich in 1882. Between 1896 and 1904 he was head of Music at Columbia University, but was forced to resign after suffering a nervous breakdown. He is credited with being the first American composer to attract attention abroad.
 
 
 
10c brown - Ethelbert Nevin (1862-1901)
 
 
 
24
 
'On the Meridian Line Project'
Born Vineacre, on the banks of the Ohio River, in Edgeworth, Pennsylvania, he attended Western University, now known as the University of Pittsburgh, in 1878, and later studied the piano for two years at Boston, under Benjamin Johnson Lang. He spent 1884, 1885, and 1886 in Berlin, studying under Karl Klindworth. In 1892 he went to Paris, where he taught singing, and he coached many American and French artists for the operatic stage. His best-remembered compositions are the piano piece 'Narcissus' from Water Scenes and the songs 'The Rosary' and 'Mighty Lak' a Rose'.
 
 
 
Group 6 - Famous Artists
7th Series - 'Stone and Soul' (4th July, 2000)
 
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1c green - Gilbert Charles Stuart (1755-1828)
'Trans Pennine Trail, Derbyshire'
(Horses' Hooves)
 
28
 
'Groundworks'
Born North Kinstown, Rhode Island, he travelled to Edinburgh in 1772. Returning to the United States, he dedicated himself to portrait-painting. Between 1775 and 1780 he was back on the other side of the Atlantic in London, where he studied under Benjamin West. He painted portraits of Washington, Jefferson, Madison and John Adams. A high living individual, he was no stranger to debt and his last few years were a battle for survival.
 
 
 
2c red - James A. MacNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
 
MacNeill Whistler
30
'Edeoject, St. Austell'
(Sunflower)
 
Born Lowell, Massachusetts, he received his first art training in St. Petersburg where is father was supervising the building of a Russian Railroad (Oxford Companion, 853). In 1849, he returned to the United States and entered military academy. This was short-lived for he was soon dismissed after failing an exam. In 1885, he went to Paris and met the Impressionists. A controversial figure, his work was often regarded with suspicion or even contempt by the literary and artistic establishment. He wrote The Gentle Art of Making Enemies (1890) and was the model for Elstir in Marcel Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu.
'Forest for Scotland'
(Forest, Doire Dach)
 
3c purple - Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907)
 
9th Series - 'Mind and Matter' (5th September, 2000)
 
34
'Norfolk and Norwich Project'
(Gathering Water Lilies)
Born Dublin, son of a French shoemaker, he was taken to the United States as a baby. Like many of his compatriots in the literary and artistic worlds, he travelled to Europe early in his career, studying sculpture in Paris and Rome. His speciality lay in statues and he was commissioned to sculpt a number of famous people, such as 'Sherman' on horseback and 'Lincoln' seated.
36
'Scottish Cultural Resources'
(Tartan Wool Holder)
5c blue - Daniel Chester French ( (1850-1931)
 
 
38
'Hampden Park, Glasgow'
(Football)
Born Exeter, New Hampshire, he studied sculpture in New York and in 1873-74 he produced The Minute Man for the town of Concorde, Massachusetts. Between 1886 and 188 he studied in Florence and Paris. In 1893 he produced the 60-ft high Statue of The Republic for the World Fair in Chicago. (Chambers, 548)
40
'Centre for Life, Newcastle'
(Hen's Egg Magnified)
10c brown - Frederic Remington (1861-1909)
 
 
11th Series - 'Spirit and Faith' (7th November, 2000)
42
'Church Floodlighting Trust'
A painter, sculptor and illustrator, after graduating from Yale, he took up in the West as a cowboy, scout and sheep rancher and painted horses, soldiers and Indians. He also illustrated episodes in the Spanish-American-Cuban War of 1895-98. The Oxford Companion (680) credits him with 2,700 paintings and sketches. His multi-faceted talents even stretched to books such as Pony Tracks (1895).
'York Millennium Mystery Plays'
(Chapter House Ceiling, York Minster)
 
Group 7 - Famous Inventors
 
12th Series - 'Sound and Vision' (5th December, 2000)
 
1c green - Eli Whitney (1865-1925)
'Year of the Artist'
(Eye)
 
48
'TS2K Creative Enterprise Centres'
(Figure within Latticework)
Born Massachusetts, he graduated from Yale and soon after produced a model of his cotton gin (1793). This device, which separated short staple cotton from its seed, revolutionised the cotton industry. His machine was purloined and Whitney had many problems with patenting his invention. A man of genius, Whitney also invented a system of interchangeable parts for his muskets.
 
2c red - Samuel Morse (1791-1872)
 
New Millennium - Facepaintings (16th January, 2001)
 
O.
'Listen to Children'
(Tiger)
Born Charlestown, Massachusetts. Like many other talented people of the period, he graduated from Yale and, also in the fashion of many at the time, he went to Europe, to England, to study painting. He moved into the fields of chemistry and electricity and in 1837 he came up with the idea of magnetic telegraph, but struggled to get financial backing to develop his idea, that is until 1843 when he was given a grant to build a telegraph line from Washington and Baltimore. His work has given us the well-known Morse Code.
 
 
 
3c purple - Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-84)
 
 
 
 
Born Rockbridge, Virginia. His father had long tried to develop a mechanical reaper, but abandoned this in 1831. Cyrus took up the challenge and succeeded. Not for the first time we find the issue of patents kicking in. McCormick did not patent his machine until 1834, but by then Obed Hussey had patented his reaper. In spite of this early issue, McCormick's business thrived and his company became the International Harvester Company in 1902.
E.
 
5c blue - Elias Howe (1819-67)
 
 
 
 
 
Born Spencer, Massachusetts, he worked as a mechanic in Lowell and Boston, where he paptented the first sewing machine in 1846. The whole area of patenting appears to have been fraught with difficulty and his patent was infringed in 1847. Threatened with complete collapse, he fought a seven-year long litigation, eventually emerging successful in 1854.
'Ensure Children's Freedom'
 
 
10c brown - Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)
 
 
 
 
 
Born Edinburgh. In 1870 he went to the United States and became professor of vocal physiology at Boston (1973). In 1875, he produced the first intelligible telephonic transmission and, a year later, he patented the telephone. There followed what seems to have been the inevitable battle over patents. His inventiveness stretched to photophone and graphophone and, ultimately, to the tetrahedral kite.
 
 
THE END

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This page was last modified on 6th August 2017.