Sunday, March 4, 2012


I am a stamp collector, which explains my choice of illustration for my post on Warren G. Harding. I find American stamps particularly interesting because they commemorate events, individuals, organizations, and places. There is some work for cultural historians to study and interpret which of these have been memorialized in a stamp and which have not. There is also a question of timing that should be examined as well. I find it especially intriguing that during the 1930s and 1940s stamps served the political interests of the president. Franklin D. Roosevelt was an enthusiastic stamp collector; it was one of his few outlets for recreation. Stamps were issued to support NRA, public works projects, and American involvement in World War 2, to name a few. There are few other examples of stamps promoting current political objectives. Imagine a stamp supporting the War on Terror, the invasion of Iraq, or tax cuts. As fun as it is to grapple with the question of why some events and individuals have been commemorated, it is equally fun to see who and what has been neglected or excluded. Here are some of my ideas for stamps of hitherto neglected topics: William James: There have been numerous famous and great American series but none have featured the thinker behind Pragmatism, America's most original contribution to philosophy. For the record there is a John Dewey stamp. Gifford Pinchot: I have no idea how Pinchot has been overlooked. There are stamps commemorating environmentalist like John Muir and Rachel Carson for example, but none for the man who made conservation a national policy. Passenger Pigeon: We have stamps for the buffalo. How about one for a species of hundreds of millions that went extinct? The last passenger pigeon, Martha, died in 1914. Thomas Hart Benton: There are a few stamps for artists (Frederic Remington and Andy Warhol, for example), but none for the greatest regionalist painter. Blair House and Camp David: Numerous buildings and memorials have appeared on stamps, but not these two locations important to the presidency. Blair House has served as an annex to the White House and as a guest home for VIPs. Camp David, of course, is not just a presidential retreat. Several presidents have used the site to host important meetings and summits. Civil Rights: While there have been several stamps on the topic, I think there should be a set covering events from the Montgomery Bus Boycott through to the signing of the Civil Rights Act. It was a hard fought battle to obtain equal and just treatment and I think it is an essential civics lesson that should not be forgotten. Amerigo Vespucci: Several stamps cover explorers, but none for the man who gave our continent its name. The Bartrams: There are some stamps to naturalists and explorers (John J. Audubon and John Fremont, to name but two), but none for the father and son team who cataloged and chronicled much of America's nature in the 18th century. Feel free to post any ideas for missing stamp topics that come to mind!

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