By John M. Hotchner
Many United States presidents have been honored numerous times on postage stamps, but how about people who weren’t presidents?
This question came up recently when Linn’s reader John Himes visited the post office.
Himes described the circumstances in a letter: “One of my postal clerks here in Cypress, Calif., asked me the other day if Elvis is the first celebrity to be pictured twice on a U.S. stamp?
“By ‘celebrity’, I’m guessing he means musicians, actors and others who have gained fame through entertainment.
“He did say that historical figures (presidents, founding fathers, politicians, etc.) don’t count, because he knows they have appeared many, many times on issues throughout the years. And by ‘pictured’ I think he means that the stamps should be face different — perforation varieties, etc. don’t count.”
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Himes told the postal clerk that Elvis Presley was not the first, identifying Lucille Ball, Judy Garland and Alfred Hitchcock as other double honorees.
But that, it turns out, is only the beginning. In a quick search through the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers, I identified more than 50 other instances of nonpresidents who have been honored/pictured more than once.
Not including those already mentioned, the list includes:
Susan B. Anthony, Louis Armstrong, John Audubon, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Clara Barton, Lon Chaney, Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Henry Clay, Samuel Clemens, Roberto Clemente, Buffalo Bill Cody, Christopher Columbus, Gary Cooper, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Albert Einstein, David Farragut, Benjamin Franklin.
Lou Gehrig, George Gershwin, Alexander Hamilton, Sam Houston, “Stonewall” Jackson, John Paul Jones, Bobby Jones, Chief Joseph, Martin Luther King, Marquis de Lafayette, Robert E. Lee, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Marshall, Jesse Owens, Oliver Hazard Perry, Edgar Allan Poe, Jackie Robinson, Will Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt.
Babe Ruth, Winfield Scott, William T. Sherman, Sun Yat-sen, Jim Thorpe, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Martha Washington, John Wayne, Daniel Webster, and the Wright Brothers.
There might be others.
From my years on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (1998-2010), one of the inescapable conclusions was that there are a large number of Americans who have made exceptional contributions to this nation who will never be recognized on a postage stamp.
Why? Because there is not enough room in the yearly program, especially so when better-known names are portrayed multiple times.