US Stamps

Original art altered for U.S. 1984 Nation of Readers stamp

Aug 11, 2023, 8 PM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

One of my favorite stamps is the United States 20¢ Nation of Readers commemorative (Scott 2106) issued Oct. 12, 1984, shown in Figure 1.

The central design shows Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad poring over a book. Coincidentally, 1984 also marked the 175th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth (1809-65).

The cachetmaker ArtCraft had already used this design for the 1962 5¢ Lincoln stamped envelope (Scott U544) first day, as shown in Figure 2.

The 1984 stamp and the ArtCraft cachet were adapted from a photograph taken by well-known Civil War photographer Matthew Brady in his Washington, D.C., studio on Feb. 9, 1865.

The photo is seen in Figure 3, reproduced as a painting or colorized photo, on a postcard sent in 1911.

In addition to Lincoln and Tad, the scene shows Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, and their son Robert Todd Lincoln in a military uniform.

Mary and Robert were excised from the image used on the stamp, and other minor artistic liberties were taken by designer Bradbury Thompson when he adapted the photo for the stamp. These can be seen when comparing the postcard with the stamp.

But there is a change that is not so obvious. It is generally accepted by historians that Lincoln and his son were looking at ...

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