Postage Stamp Celebrates 200th Birth Anniversary of Poet Walt Whitman

29 Aug 2019  Thu

On 12th September, the USPS will be releasing a postage stamp to celebrate the 200th birth anniversary of the great American poet Walt Whitman. The non-denominated stamp is a part of the Literary Arts commemorative series. A text on the stamp reads “THREE OUNCE” which means that it can be used for first-class domestic mail weighing less than or equal to 3 ounces. Another text reads “LITERARY ARTS 32ND IN A SERIES.” A first-day ceremony will be organised at the poet’s Birthplace, 246 Old Walt Whitman Road, Huntington Station, N.Y.

The stamp is designed by USPS art director Greg Breeding while the artwork is illustrated by Sam Weber. An 1869 vertical photo of a 50-year-old Whitman by a photographer named George Frank Edgar Pearsall from Brooklyn was used as a reference to create the horizontal portrait for the stamp. It also depicts a branch of lilac flowers along with a hermit. These elements represent a verse called "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d", that was written by Whiteman for President Abraham Lincoln soon after Lincoln was killed on 14th April 1865. The stamps were printed in panes of 20. Two pictorial First-Day cancels (1 colour, 1 black and white) depicting Whitman’s signature have been released. The coloured version depicts a lilac branch that’s shown on the stamp design.

Born on 31st May 1819, in West Hills, N.Y. Whiteman had to quit school when he was 11 years old to support his family financially. He became a journalist and newspaper editor in Brooklyn and wrote poems. His first work was a collection of 12 poems called Leaves of Grass that was self-published in 1855. He kept adding more poems to this collection throughout his life. Whitman worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior after the Civil War. He wrote a collection of poems called Drum-Taps on War in 1865.

Whitman never followed the European style but instead used free verse and colloquial expressions. He was influenced by biblical verses, opera, and the essays and poetry of Ralph Waldo Emerson. His writing was different from the rest and touched upon various aspects of 19th-century America organically. Some of his most popular works include ‘Song of Myself’ which talks about democracy, and liberty; Crossing Brooklyn Ferry etc.

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Image Courtesy: The USPS

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