Monday, February 15, 2010

Lincoln and A Nation of Readers

John Hotchner, a nationally prominent philatelist and columnist for Linn's Stamp News, recently attacked the historical integrity of one my favorite postage stamps of all time. It is the 1984 "A Nation of Readers" stamp which depicts Abraham Lincoln appearing to be reading a book to his son Tad. The image on the stamp is based on an actual photograph. In reality Lincoln and his son are viewing an album of photographs. Hotchner who just completed a term on the Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee of the United States Postal Service indicates that if he had been involved, the stamp would have never been issued. Basically, his argument is that the stamp implies a lie and therefore is historically inaccurate. Although this bothers me somewhat, it doesn't diminish my appreciation for the stamp or the message it communicates. The stamp was created to support the efforts of the Library of Congress' Center for the Book to help build a nation of readers. In addition to its use by the Library of Congress, the "A Nation of Readers" slogan was also used as the National Library Week slogan in 1985. The image of Lincoln and his son was selected to communicate the slogan and it does so very well. There is also, of course, the beauty of the stamp itself. It was designed by Bradbury Thompson, one of America's greatest graphic artists. Thompson also designed the 1982 "America's Libraries" stamp and the 1982 "Library of Congress" stamp. As part of my interest in postal librariana I have collected and exhibited illustrated envelopes and other items related to the "A Nation of Readers" stamp. In my explanations about the stamp I have, of course, accurately pointed out that Lincoln and his son are viewing an album and not reading a book. More information about the stamp and the Library of Congress connection is located HERE.

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