On this day in….
….1215 — King John of England signed the Magna Carta by applying his royal seal. Although the document was basically a peace treaty between King John and his barons, it provided guarantees for protecting feudal rights and privileges, upholding church freedom, and maintaining laws throughout England. The Magna Carta, or Great Charter, is now seen as a cornerstone in the development of democracy in England, which then led to democracy throughout Europe, the rest of the Old World, and the New World, which is why the United States issued a postage stamp on June 15, 1965, recognizing its role in United States history and government.
The Magna Carta implied there were laws that even the king was required to observe, thereby precluding future claims to absolutism by English monarchs. Arguably the most important statement was made by Clause 39 which provided that “no free man shall be arrested or imprisoned or disseised [dispossessed] or outlawed or exiled or in any way victimised … except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” Now recognized as an early guarantee of trial by jury and of habeas corpus, it inspired England’s Petition of Right of 1628 and the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679.
….1849 — James K. Polk, eleventh President of the United States, died in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 53 and just three months after leaving office. His birthplace is unknown but believed to have been in a log cabin in what is now Pineville, North Carolina. He was a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and was both a lawyer and a planter.
Before becoming President of the United States, he served as Governor of Tennessee, Congressman from Tennessee and 17th Speaker of the House. His public service career stretched from 1825 to 1849.
During Polk’s presidency, he oversaw the opening of the United States Naval Academy and the Smithsonian Institution, groundbreaking for the Washington Monument, and the issuance of the first United States postage stamps States.
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I was so busy last week that I forgot that it was National Parks Week. All National Parks were offering free admission. I have found in the past that free admission also applies to National Monuments and National Forests, and I usually take advantage of the opportunity here to visit Cabrillo National Monument and to do more in Cleveland National Forest than just drive through on the freeway.
Since I missed it, I thought I’d visit some National Parks right here in my blog!
The first national park in the world was founded right here in the United States, in California even. Yellowstone National Park was established by Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Yellowstone is located mostly in Wyoming but extends into Montana and Idaho. Those three states did not exist in 1872; they were territories, which is why the Federal Government took control of Yellowstone as a National Park.
Some people in Arkansas might argue that the first National Park was established there since the Hot Springs Reservation was set asied on April 20, 1832, when President Andrew Jackson signed legislation protecting it. No legal authority was established and federal control of the area was not definitively established until 1877.
The world’s second National Park was established in Australia in 1879 as the Royal National Park. Other significant National Parks throughout the world:
Rocky Mountain National Park was created in 1885 as Canada’s first national park in 1885.
New Zealand’s Tongariro National Park came along in 1887.
Europe’s first National Parks were nine parks created in Sweden in 1909.
Africa’s first National Park was established in 1925 as Albert National Park, now named Virunga National Park).
France’s first National Park was Vanoise National Park in the Alps, created in 1963.
The largest National Park in the world is Northeast Greenland National Park with 240,000,000 acres, making it larger than 219 countries.
The largest National Park in the United States is Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska at 13,175,790 acres.
The smallest National Park in the United States is Hot Springs National Park at 5,550 acres. It also is the only National Park located in an urban area.
The newest National Park is Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, created in 2004.
The National Park Service was created in 1916 to administer the growing number of National Parks in the United States, now numbering 58.
The United States started recognizing National Parks on its postage stamps in 1934 with the release of a set of ten stamps, shown below. The Scott number shown with each stamp is an internationally recognized system for identifying stamps of the world.
Yosemite National Park
California — Created October 1, 1890
Scott #740, issued July 16, 1934
Since those ten stamps were issued in 1934, another ten stamps have been issued recognizing National Parks, most recently in 1990 when the Grand Canyon appeared on Scott #2512. The Grand Canyong is so well-known that the name of the National Park wasn’t even on the stamp.
What is currently known as the United States Postal Service was established by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775, while meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. That means that it is older than the United States itself! It also is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution:
Article I, Section 8, Clause 7, known as the Postal Clause or the Postal Power, provides that “The Congress shall have power … To establish Post Offices and post Roads.”
The first United States postage stamp, Scott #1, featured Benjamin Franklin:
Benjamin Franklin has been on more United States postage stamps than all but one person. Five cents paid the rate for a ½-ounce letter sent under three hundred miles.
Franklin had been Postmaster General for the City of Philadelphia since 1737. In 1753, the British Government appointed Franklin the Joint Deputy Postmaster for the Colonies. Under his direction he extended mail delivery outside the Colonies, initiated night travel for postal riders to speed mail delivery, and created a dead letter office for undeliverable mail. By 1757 Franklin had surveyed the post roads and reorganized postal operations to provide smoother communication among the Colonies, a task that was crucial to the American Revolution.
At the same meeting of the Second Continental Congress in 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first United States Postmaster General. He served in that capacity until November 7, 1776, when he left to serve as United States Ambassador to France.
The Post Office continued to evolve. On February 20, 1792, President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act which established the Post Office Department. Eighty years later, the Post Office Act of 1872 elevated the Post Office Department to a Government Cabinet. Almost one hundred years after that, on August 12, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act that replaced the Post Office Department with an independent United States Postal Service, effective July 1, 1971.
Scott #1 was authorized by Congress and approved on March 3, 1847. Stamps were issued on July 1 in New York City, July 2 in Boston, July 7 in Philadelphia, and July 11 in Washington, DC. The earliest known use of Scott #1 is on an envelope dated July 7, 1847, and mailed from New York City to Liverpool, England.
Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson, a banknote engraving firm, prepared the design for Scott #1. Originally President Andrew Jackson, recently deceased, was supposed to be on the stamp. Franklin’s portrait, based on artwork by James B. Longacre, was deemed more acceptable as a unifying icon for a nation divided over slavery because of his role in securing independence for the country seventy years earlier.
Ultimately 3,564,000 stamps were issued but few survive today.
Generally postage stamps are valid for postage in perpetuity, but this stamp was declared invalid for postage effective July 1, 1851. However, there are known uses of Scott #1 for postage as late as 1860.
The same design is used on Scott #1a, 1b, and 1c, all color variations, and
Scott #3, issued in 1875.
Welcome to my newest series! Not new to me, just new to my WordPress friends. This series combines two of my lifelong interests, philately and history.
My interest in philately (collecting stamps) began as a Cub Scout in Brigham City, Utah. I was eight or nine, whatever the earliest age is to be a Cub Scout. Every time I joined a Cub Scout Den, though, the Den would promptly collapse and fold. It took six or seven times, but eventually I learned. Never completed Scouting. I did stay with philately, so I do thank the Scouts for that!
My interest in history also began at an early age. My high school senior English teacher, Mrs. Edith Head (but not that Edith Head!) nurtured it along while we were studying Gilgamesh, Shakespeare, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, e.e. cummings, etc.
Philately makes a great family event because it encompasses so many things of interest to so many people. You can collect all postage stamps of a country, or you can specialize, collecting just stamps that show animals, or birds, or dogs, or architecture, or music, or film and television, or people. You can even specialize to the extent that you collect just one person, say Benjamin Franklin. He’s on postage stamps of many countries throughout the world and was the first Postmaster General of the United States Post Office, established on July 26, 1775, by the Second Continental Congress. In other words, the United States Post Office is older than the United States itself!
Postage stamps of the world are catalogued and referenced using the Scott catalog, and I’ll include those catalog numbers with the stamps. That way, if you or someone in your family (like a young Cub Scout!) want to get a start in philately, all your Scout (boy or girl) needs to do is reference the Scott catalog number.
In my Halls of History series, we’ll look at the postage stamps of the United States and use them to study history in its many forms — its events, people, projects, buildings, creations, art, music, and more. I hope you enjoy it.
Coming up next, I’ll look at the first postage stamp of the United States, issued in 1847.
Gather round, enjoy yourself and philately, and perhaps learn something new. I do every day.