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American Composers

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2-cent John Philip Sousa single

The fifth group of the Famous Americans Issue honors five famous American composers — Stephens Collins Foster, John Philip Sousa, Victor Herbert, Edward A. MacDowell, and Ethelbert Nevin. Each composed music now familiar across America. A spray of laurel leaves and the pan flute serve as this group's unifying design element. The Post Office Department issued the group between May 3 and June 10, 1940.

Since many special-interest groups pressured the Post Office Department for the distinction of having their cities as locations for First Day of Issue ceremonies, selection could be difficult. A change, for example, moved the first day of sale for the 5-cent MacDowell stamp to Peterborough, New Hampshire, from New York City. This was a distinct honor to MacDowell's widow, Marian, who was residing there at the time.

Steven J. Rod

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1-cent Stephen Foster single

The 1-cent Famous American Composers stamp issued May 3, 1940, honors Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864). Foster ranks among the most beloved American song writers of the nineteenth century. Although a native of Pittsburgh, Foster wrote mainly of the South. He looked to the minstrel genre as an outlet for his music and sought to refine and humanize minstrelsy. His songs depict black and white, rich and poor as sharing the same set of ideals and desires. Among his best known songs are "Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair," "Old Folks at Home," "Oh! Susanna," "Massa's in de Cold Ground," "Old Black Joe," and "Beautiful Dreamer." Foster died impoverished in 1864.

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2-cent John Philip Sousa single

John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) is pictured on the 2-cent Famous American Composers stamp issued May 3, 1940. "The March King". as Sousa was known, was director of the US Marine Corps Band from 1880 to 1892, and subsequently formed and conducted his own civilian band. He wrote more than 100 marches, including "Semper Fidelis" (the official Marine Corps march), "The Washington Post March","El Capitan" and the most popular "The Stars and Stripes Forever".

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3-cent Victor Herbert single

The 3-cent Famous American Composers stamp issued May 13, 1940, features Victor Herbert (1859-1924). A prolific composer whose works cover a broad range of genres, Herbert is best known for his operettas, including "The Red Mill," "Babes in Toyland," and "Naughty Marietta." Reflecting an increasing appreciation of Herbert's compositions, cellist Yo-Yo Ma recently featured his Cello Concerto #2 on a recording with the New York Philharmonic.

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5-cent ultramarine Edward MacDowell single

Edward A. MacDowell (1860-1908) is featured on the 5-cent Famous American Composers stamp issued May 13, 1940. A popular composer and pianist, MacDowell's early compositions included well-received piano concertos. Later works include "Woodland Sketches" with the song "To a Wild Rose," and "Indian Suite." MacDowell served as chairman of the Music Department at Columbia University.

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10-cent dark brown Ethelbert Nevin single

The 10-cent Famous American Composers stamp issued June 10, 1940, features Ethelbert Nevin (1862-1901). Nevin composed mainly for the piano. Better known works are "Mighty Lak' a Rose" and "Narcissus" from "Water Scenes."

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American Composers | National Postal Museum


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