Friday, July 1, 2011

Postage Stamps

In commemoration of the American Revolution and the birth of our great country, I offer postage stamps by or based on the work of Indiana illustrators and Hoosier cartoonists. You'll find Revolutionary War heroes, presidents, a yellow kid, a rickety trolley car, and many other images here. Happy Birthday, America!

"Herkimer at Oriskany 1777 by Yohn," a 13-cent commemorative issued for the bicentennial of the American Revolution. The illustration from the stamp is from a painting by Indiana illustrator Frederick Coffay Yohn (1875-1933).
And a reproduction of the original, painted in about 1901. As a young artistic prodigy, Yohn painted pictures of historical scenes from the American and English Revolutions. His work was favorably compared to Howard Pyle's. According to Wikipedia, Yohn's original painting is at the Utica Public Library in Utica, New York.
George Rogers Clark at Vincennes, located in what is now Indiana, accepting the surrender of the British garrison in 1779. The event was a turning point of the war in the west, captured by Frederick C. Yohn in a painting for Youth's Companion in 1923 and adapted to a commemorative stamp in 1929, the sesquicentennial year of the surrender.
"Presidents of the United States," a sheet of commemoratives designed by Indiana illustrator Gene Jarvis (1921-1990) and Michael Halbert and issued by the Marshall Islands in 2005. 
A stamp design by Paul A. Wehr (1914-1973) for the sesquicentennial of Indiana statehood, 1966. In keeping with the patriotic theme, I can tell you that Wehr was born in Mount Vernon, Indiana. In another five years, Indiana will celebrate its bicentennial, and what a celebration it will be.
"American Illustrators," a sheet of stamps commemorating some of our greatest illustrators and issued in 2000. Although none of the stamps represents the work of a Hoosier, the decoration at the top is by Franklin Booth (1874-1948), an Indiana farmboy made good in the art world of New York.
"Comic Strip Classics" from 1995, the centennial year (or the year before the centennial year, depending on whom you ask) for newspaper comic strips in America (hence in the world--sorry, European theorists). I don't think the artwork is original, but I have never heard any comment on that possibility. In any case, Hoosier cartoonists represented on the sheet are three in number: First, Fontaine Fox (1884-1964), creator of Toonerville Folks. Although he was born in Louisville, Kentucky, Fox went to school at Indiana University and that's where a large collection of his art resides. Second, Harold Gray (1894-1968) and his Little Orphan Annie. Gray was born in Kankakee, Illinois, but grew up in Indiana and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in engineering. The title of his comic strip is from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley of Greenfield, Indiana. Third, Dale Messick (1906-2005), creator of Brenda Starr Reporter and native of South Bend. Dale was one of the first female cartoonists to find success in syndication. Her work is also on deposit at Indiana University. Other strips with an Indiana connection: The Yellow Kid, aka Hogan's Alley, drawn by George Luks after the creator of the strip, R.F. Outcault, had left--to draw another version of the strip. Assisting Luks on Hogan's Alley was Paul Plaschke (1880-1954), a German-born artist who lived in southern Indiana for many years. And another alley, Gasoline Alley, created by Frank King and carried on after King's death by Dick Moores (1909-1986), in his day one of the most widely admired of cartoonists.
The more recent "Sunday Funnies," with a column of stamps showing Garfield and Odie, creations of Jim Davis of Fairmount, Indiana.
Finally, detail from "The Art of Disney-Imagination" from  2008.  What's the Indiana connection? Bill Peet (1915-2002) of Grandview adapted the story for 101 Dalmatians from Dodie Smith's novel and helped develop the characters. Victor Haboush (1924-2009), who attended the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, was among the animators. Peet and fellow Hoosier Harry Reeves contributed to the story in Cinderella as well. And who else but Phil Harris (1904-1995) of Linton, Indiana, could provide the voice for Mowgli's beloved friend Baloo in The Jungle Book? 
Postscript: "Pioneers of American Industrial Design," a sheet of "Forever" stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service this year, 2011. Among the designers commemorated is Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960), a native of Pendleton, Indiana, who, before making his mark as an industrial designer, worked as an illustrator. That's his design for a camera, middle, far left.

Captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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