People, Places and Events on Stamps

John Philip Sousa

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The John Philip Sousa stamp was issued on May 3, 1940.

Famous American composer and bandmaster John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1854. Sousa, also known as the “March King,” ranks among the most famous American composers and conductors. At the age of six, he studied several musical instruments, including violin and trombone. His father Antonio Sousa, who was born in Spain, played trombone in the United States Marine Band. In 1867, Sousa’s father enlisted him in the Marines as an apprentice at age 13. Sousa was discharged from the Marines in 1875, but in 1880 he returned to lead the Marine Band. After two successful tours with the Marine Band in 1891 and 1892, promoter David Blakely convinced Sousa to resign and organize a civilian concert band. Sousa took his advice and formed his own band, which toured Europe several times and was the first American band to make a tour around the world. On December 25, 1896, he composed “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” the official march of the United States.