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Warren County’s Mathew B. Brady’s Work Featured in Postage Stamp Souvenir Sheet

By Joseph W. Zarzynski

Friday, August 2, 2013

Mathew B. Brady (c. 1822-1896), famed American photographer, once reported he “was born in Warren County in the woods around Lake George.” Brady or his assistants photographed American presidents, European royalty, members of Congress, and soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865).

Earlier this summer, July 1-3, marked the 150th anniversary of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle—Gettysburg. On May 23 of this year, the U.S. Postal Service released a special commemorative souvenir sheet of two stamps recognizing two historic events of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg and the Battle of Vicksburg.

The postage stamps commemorate two Union victories in the summer of 1863 that collectively were the turning point in the Civil War, a horrific conflict that took the lives of 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers, sailors, and marines.

The Vicksburg stamp is a reproduction of an 1863 lithograph by Currier & Ives that shows Admiral Porter’s Union fleet running the Confederate blockade on the Mississippi River at Vicksburg. The Gettysburg stamp is a reproduction of an 1887 illustration by Swedish-born artist Thure de Thulstrup that depicts Northern and Southern forces fighting at Gettysburg.

The background image that was used for a special souvenir sheet for the two stamps is from a photograph by Mathew B. Brady that he shot at Gettysburg. It shows three Confederate soldiers who reportedly posed for the photographer.

Brady’s photographic talents have already been featured on other U.S. postage stamps. In 1866, an American stamp showing President Abraham Lincoln, our country’s 16th president, was released. The stamp’s engraving was based on a photograph of Lincoln taken a few years earlier by Brady. That same image has been used in other stamps of Lincoln.

Two other Lake George-area luminaries have also been featured on American postage stamps.

In 1996, acclaimed artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who spent part of her adult life painting at Lake George, was celebrated with an American postage stamp. The stamp showed her 1927 painting “Red Poppy” and was issued 10 years after her 1986 death.

Earlier this year, another O’Keeffe postage stamp was issued by the postal service, an image of her southwest painting—“Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930.”

Modernist photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who also lived at Lake George, had one of his well-known photographs on a 2002 postage stamp. The stamp is a photograph (“Hands and Thimble”) of the alluring hands of Georgia O’Keeffe, whom Stieglitz married in 1924. At the bottom of the stamp are the words, Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946).

In 2009, the U.S. Postal Service released a stamp depicting an 1860 Brady photograph of Abraham Lincoln overlaid onto a painting of Lincoln debating Stephen A. Douglas in their 1858 Senate campaign in Illinois.

However, there is no American commemorative postage stamp that specifically honors Brady’s illustrious career.

Over half-a-century ago, in The Warrensburgh News on June 1, 1961, Robert Hall, the father of Lake George Mirror editor/publisher Anthony F. Hall, wrote a column entitled “A Stamp to Honor Warren County Son.” Robert Hall supported U.S. Congressman Carleton King (R, Saratoga) and his appeal to the postmaster general to recognize Brady in a stamp. Unfortunately, King’s 1961 request was not enacted.

In the meantime, Mathew B. Brady, reportedly born in nearby Johnsburg, has nonetheless been acknowledged in the recently released Civil War 1863 postal souvenir sheet. Possibly one day this renowned American photographer and “Warren County Son” will have his likeness immortalized on an American postage stamp.

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