Thursday, January 6, 2022

Two Additional Library People on Postage Stamps

I’ve been collecting libraries and library people on postage stamps for more than 25 years.  I haven’t been as aggressive in my pursuit of these stamps in recent years so I was slow to realize the connection to libraries of two of the stamps in the United State Postal Service “Voices of the Harlem Renaissance” issue of 2020.  Both individuals on the stamps had strong connections to the New York Public Library (NYPL). The first person was Nella Larsen (1891-1964) who was honored as a novelist, but also was a librarian at the NYPL. She worked at three different branch libraries – the 135th Street Branch, the Seward Park Branch, and the Countee Cullen Branch.  She was the first black woman to graduate from the NYPL Library School.  Although not honored as a librarian, Larsen was the first (and only) person with professional librarian credentials to appear on a United States postage stamp.  Wikipedia has a comprehensive entry for Nella Larsen.  The “Little Known Black Librarian Facts” blog has an entry for Larsen with an excellent list of sources.  Bob Sink’s “NYPL Librarians” blog has an interesting post about Ernestine Rose’s role in the integration of branch library staffs including her connection to Larsen. 

Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (1874-1938) was the second person on a stamp with a library connection.  The USPS description of his contributions: “By tirelessly collecting books, documents, artwork, and other materials, Schomburg rescued black history from obscurity and preserved priceless cultural knowledge for future generations.”  His collection was acquired by the New York Public Library and was the foundation for what became the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Wikipedia has a nice entry for Schomburg. It is noteworthy that the previously mentioned Ernestine Rose also played a significant role in acquiring and building the Schomburg collection at NYPL. 

Library people especially librarians are rarely recognized on postage stamps for their contributions as library people. Those who are on postage stamps are usually recognized for some other contribution.  On my Library History Buff website which I no longer update because of obsolete software I have several sections devoted to the topic of library people on postage stamps.  They include “Library People on Postage Stamps – An Introduction”, “A Postage Stamp to Honor America’s Librarians”, “U.S. Library People on Postage Stamps”, and “World Library People on Postage Stamps”.

As a collector of libraries and library people on postage stamps I have benefited in my search for these stamps by my membership in the American Topical Association and the Graphics Philately Association.  The Graphics Philately Association publishes a comprehensive list of these and other graphics related postage stamps titled Winnegrad’s Printing on Stamps compiled by Bruce L. Johnson. The Graphics Philately Association also publishes a quarterly publication titled Philateli-Graphics which includes listing of new stamp issues of graphic interest which includes libraries.

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