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50 years ago

I find it interesting to take a look back at the commemorative stamps issued in 1956. What do we choose to remember, and how do we remember it?

For example, 1956 was the 100th anniversary of the the birth of Booker T. Washington, a great leader in education and civil rights, founder of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He was first honored on a U.S. postage stamp in the Famous Americans series of 1940, with a head and shoulders portrait.

But in 1956, the centennial celebration, how was Booker T. Washington honored?

This stamp, issued April 5th, 1956 was designed by Charles R. Chickering, artist at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. When I first saw this stamp, my reaction was immediate. Where is the portrait? 1956 was the centennial of the birth of the man, not the anniversary of a log cabin. I found this odd.

The other person honored in 1956 was Benjamin Franklin, on the 250th anniversary of his birth. This design in bright carmine (also by Chickering) was based on the painting “Franklin Taking Electricity from the Sky” by Benjamin West and was issued on January 17th, 1956.

2006 is the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth, and a set of 4 stamps is due to be issued April 4th. You can see the planned designs here.

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