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Today in History - July 1

U.S. Post Office Issues First Stamps

On July 1, 1847, the United States Post Office issued its first general issue postage stamp External, a five-cent stamp honoring Benjamin Franklin, the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress, and a ten-cent stamp honoring George Washington. The first U.S. postal cards were issued in 1873, the first commemorative stamps in 1893, and the first airmail stamps in 1918.
Miss Manning, Smithsonian Stamp Dept. Portraits of Miss Manning VI., Theodor Horydczak, photographer, circa 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
President receives wild life stamps. Washington, D.C. February 24. President Roosevelt today added further to his stamp collection when he was presented with a block of wild live stamps in commemoration of the While Life Restoration Week. In the photograph, L to R: President Roosevelt; Fred F. Jordan, Directory of Wild Life Restoration Week; and Minor Hudson, U.S. Junior Chamber of Commerce. Harris & Ewing, photographer, [1938] February 24. Harris & Ewing Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
Stamp collecting became a popular hobby, practiced by a wide variety of people from school children to Presidents. Franklin Roosevelt was famous for his stamp collecting, a hobby he began at age eight. He told people he liked stamps for their link with geography and history. In 1946, his collection contained more than a million stamps. As President, he often received stamps from White House visitors.
[Sheet of five cent Kennedy commemorative postage stamps] Loewy, Raymond, 1893-1986, artist. 1964. Prints & Photographs Division
[United States two cents postage stamp with head-and-shoulders portrait of James A. McNeill Whistler] 1940. Prints & Photographs Division
While many postage stamps commemorate people, they also feature places, and events. The image featured on the Homestead Act stamp was derived from a photograph of the John Bakken sod house External in Milton, North Dakota. Bakken was born to Norwegian immigrants in 1871 in Benson, Minnesota.
The Homestead Act, 1862-1962, 4 cents, U.S. postage External, 1962. Life on the Northern Plains: Images from the NDSU Institute for Regional Studies External
Washington D.C. 400-subject two-way postage stamp perforating machine at the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Washington, D.C., Arthur Rothstein, photographer, 1938. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives . Prints & Photographs Division

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The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863. Emboldened by his victory at Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had decided to invade the North. In September of the previous year, he had ventured north into Maryland where, at Antietam, the bloodiest day of the war occurred. Although the battle was a draw, Lee’s invasion was turned back, but the next summer he made another foray northward.

…he can still remember the peaches on the trees across the field, and the corn being knee high, and how hot it was the day they fought.

William Munroe Graves,” Mart, Texas, Miss Effie Cowan, interviewer, circa 1936-1940. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940. Manuscript Division

Gen. Robert E. Lee, Officer of the Confederate Army, Julian Vannerson, photographer, 1863. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division
Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, Officer of the Federal Army, Brady National Photographic Art Gallery, between 1860 and 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division
Brig. Gen. John Buford (Maj. Gen. from July 1, 1863), Officer of the Federal Army (detail), Brady National Photographic Art Gallery, between 1860 and 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division
Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet, Officer of the Confederate Army (detail), Brady National Photographic Art Gallery, between 1860 and 1865. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division
On June 30, General John Buford of the Union’s Army of the Potomac and his cavalry had taken possession of Seminary Ridge west of Gettysburg. Union General George Reynolds arrived with the First Corps on July 1 to assist Buford. Reynolds opened the battle but was struck by a bullet and killed before noon. His death set the tone for the day. Both armies suffered devastating losses on the first day of the battle, but Union losses proved much greater. While the first day of the battle was counted as a Confederate victory, the tide turned on July 2 and the battle came to be viewed as the turning point of the Civil War.

So it ends, this lesser battle of the first day, Starkly disputed and piecemeal won and lost By corps-commanders who carried no magic plans Stowed in their sleeves, but fought and held as they could. It is past. The board is staked for the greater game Which is to follow…

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran, 1928), 294.

Gettysburg Camp, July 1-2-3, 1913 (detail). Panoramic Photographs. Prints & Photographs Division. This photo shows the fifty-year reunion of the soldiers who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg.
William Munroe Graves recalls the stories his fellow veterans told at the seventy-five-year reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg:

Maj.- Gen. O.R. Gillette who was in Davis Brigade, Heaths Division, the Army of Northern Virginia… told of how… the Army of Northern Virginia rolled northward… to strike at Harrisburg and Philadelphia to find shoes for the rebel soldiers bare feet, and food to fill the knapsacks which were almost empty of parched corn rations. He remembered how Lee’s war-tired men came out of the valley of the Shenandoah to meet Meade’s army of the Potomac as it reached out along the roads that centered like the spokes of a wheel at Gettysburg, and how they met and fought and forgot they ever needed shoes…

William Munroe Graves,” Mart, Texas, Miss Effie Cowan, interviewer, circa 1936-1940. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940, Manuscript Division

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The Rough Riders Storm San Juan Hill

On July 1, 1898, Theodore Roosevelt and his volunteer cavalry, the Rough Riders, stormed Kettle Hill, then joined in the capture of the San Juan Hill complex. Thus they helped to secure a U.S. victory in the Battle of Santiago, the decisive battle of the short-lived Spanish-American War. Two days after the battle, the Spanish fleet fled the harbor at Santiago, effectively surrendering control of Cuba. The first U.S. Marines had landed on the island on June 10.
Colonel Roosevelt and his Rough Riders at the Top of the Hill, Battle of San Juan (detail). William Dinwiddie, photographer, 1898. Chronological List of Presidents, First Ladies, and Vice Presidents of the United States. Prints & Photographs Division
A flamboyant personality with a taste for adventure and an appetite for competition, Roosevelt argued vociferously for war against Spain while serving as President McKinley’s assistant secretary of the navy. When McKinley declared war in 1898, Roosevelt resigned his position, organized a volunteer cavalry unit, and took it to Cuba where he could be in the thick of action. The Rough Riders generated widespread publicity and made a national hero of the future president. Most soldiers found their experiences in the Spanish-American War considerably less glamorous than the widely-depicted exploits of the Rough Riders. In American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940, a veteran recalls his very different experiences in the war:

We spent most of our time in Chickamauga Park [in Georgia]…and it was nothing but a…fever swamp. They lost more men there than they did in Cuba, a hell of a lot more. They died like flies at Chickamauga. Just because it was a battle site and a park they made it into a military camp and it killed off their own troops by the thousand. All the fighting we did was in rough-and-tumble street brawls with the southerners, still fighting the Civil War. We had some tough battles with them all along the line. They still hated Yankees, especially Yanks in uniform.

Five Years More“. Barre, Vermont, Roaldus Richmond, interviewer, September 14, 1940. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1940. Manuscript Division

Boys of the 71st N.Y. at Montauk Point, After Returning from Cuba. circa 1898-1899. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

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