Tag: USA

#SaturdayStamps: Matthew Henson

Orphaned as a youth, Henson went to sea at the age of 12 as a cabin boy on the sailing ship Katie Hines. Later, while working in a store in Washington, D.C., he met Peary, who hired him in 1887 as a valet for his next expedition to Nicaragua (1888). Peary, impressed with Henson’s ability and resourcefulness, employed him as an attendant on his seven subsequent expeditions to the Arctic (1891–92; 1893–95; 1896; 1897; 1898–1902; 1905–06; 1908–09). In 1909 Peary and Henson, accompanied by four Inuit, became the first men to reach the North Pole, the rest of the crew having turned back earlier. Henson’s account of the journey, A Negro Explorer at the North Pole, appeared in 1912. The following year, by order of Pres. William Howard Taft, Henson was appointed a clerk in the U.S. Customs House in New York City, a post he held until his retirement in 1936. Henson received the Congressional medal awarded all members of the Peary expedition (1944).

 

Advertisements

#SaturdayStamps: Scott Joplin

Joplin spent his childhood in northeastern Texas, though the exact date and place of his birth are unknown. By 1880 his family had moved to Texarkana, where he studied piano with local teachers. Joplin traveled through the Midwest from the mid-1880s, performing at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Settling in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1895, he studied music at the George R. Smith College for Negroes and hoped for a career as a concert pianist and classical composer. His first published songs brought him fame, and in 1900 he moved to St. Louis to work more closely with the music publisher John Stark.

Joplin published his first extended work, a ballet suite using the rhythmic devices of ragtime, with his own choreographical directions, in 1902. His first opera, A Guest of Honor (1903), is no longer extant and may have been lost by the copyright office. Moving to New York City in 1907, Joplin wrote an instruction book, The School of Ragtime, outlining his complex bass patterns, sporadic syncopation, stop-time breaks, and harmonic ideas, which were widely imitated. Joplin’s contract with Stark ended in 1909, and, though he made piano rolls in his final years, most of Joplin’s efforts involved Treemonisha, which synthesized his musical ideas into a conventional, three-act opera. He also wrote the libretto, about a mythical black leader, and choreographed it. Treemonisha had only one semipublic performance during Joplin’s lifetime; he became obsessed with its success, suffered a nervous breakdown and collapse in 1911, and was institutionalized in 1916.

Joplin’s reputation as a composer rests on his classic rags for piano, including “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer,” published from 1899 through 1909, and his opera, Treemonisha, published at his own expense in 1911. Treemonisha was well received when produced by an Atlanta, Georgia, troupe on Broadway in 1972, and interest in Joplin and ragtime was stimulated in the 1970s by the use of his music in the Academy Award-winning score to the film The Sting.

#SaturdayStamps: A. Philip Randolph

A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), a respected and outspoken proponent of the rights of minority labor.  He was greatly feared by his opponents, not because of his temperament, but because of his power to create change.  He was named Vice-President of the AFL-CIO in 1957. Randolph was also the founder of both the March on Washington Movement and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which helped organize African-American labor. In 1963, he helped organize the famous march on Washington where the Rev. Martin Luther King delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech.

#SaturdayStamps: Carter G. Woodson

The Father of Black History Month, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, was born in1875 near New Canton, VA. He was the son of former slaves. In 1907, he obtained his BA degree from the University of Chicago. In 1912, he received his PhD from Harvard University.

In 1915, he and friends established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. A year later, the Journal of Negro History, began quarterly publication. In 1926, Woodson proposed and launched the annual February observance of “Negro History Week,” which became “Black History Month” in 1976. It is said that he chose February for the observance because February 12th was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and February 14th was the accepted birthday of Frederick Douglass.

Dr. Woodson was the founder of Associated Publishers, the founder and editor of the Negro History Bulletin, and the author of more than 30 books. His best known publication is The Mis-Education of the Negro, originally published in 1933 and still pertinent today.

He died in 1950, but Dr. Woodson’s scholarly legacy goes on.

#SaturdayStamps: Alfred “Chief” Anderson

 “Chief” Anderson was Chief Flight Instructor of the Tuskegee Airmen. He’s been called the Father of Black Aviation and has been compared to Charles Lindbergh.
Charles Alfred “Chief” Anderson (1907-1996) did not let the barriers of racial prejudice get in the way of his dream of flying. His diligence paid off when he became the first African American to earn a commercial pilot’s license.
As a child in Pennsylvania, Anderson watched airplanes soar across the sky and knew he wanted to be in the cockpit one day. After high school, he could not find anyone willing to rent him a plane or teach him to fly because of the color of his skin.
In 1929, Anderson bought his own plane and received a private pilot’s license. Three years later, he obtained his commercial license in spite of the inspector’s opposition to testing “a colored boy.” In the next two years, Anderson and a friend became the first black pilots to make a round-trip flight across the U.S. They also flew a goodwill tour of the Caribbean.
As World War II raged in Europe, America prepared for combat. In 1940, Anderson was hired to be Chief Flight Instructor at Tuskegee Institute’s new Civilian Pilot Training Program. By the time peace was restored, the “Chief” had trained nearly 1,000 African-American pilots, who became the famed Tuskegee Airmen.
Anderson blazed a path to the sky for others to follow and earned the title “Father of Black Aviation.”

 

#SaturdayStamps: Clyde McPhatter

Clyde McPhatter possessed a unique vocal instrument, a lively high tenor that captured the promise and fervor of the teenage Fifties. McPhatter was one of the first singers to cross over from the church to the pop and R&B charts. He was a Baptist minister’s son who was born in North Carolina and spent his teen years up north, in New Jersey and New York. He made the crossing from sacred to secular at age 18, when he was invited to join singer Billy Ward’s vocal group, the Dominoes, after turning heads with his performance of Lonnie Johnson’s “Tomorrow Night” in an amateur show at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. McPhatter was initially billed as “Clyde Ward,” and it was claimed that he was Billy’s brother.

McPhatter’s radiant, gospel-trained tenor exploded onto the R&B scene in the early Fifties on “Do Something for Me,” “Have Mercy Baby,” “The Bells” and other of the Dominoes’ dozen R&B hits. On “Have Mercy Baby,” which topped the R&B charts for ten weeks in 1952, McPhatter worked himself to the brink of tears. By recasting gospel’s fervid emotionality—a style known as “sanctified” singing—in a rhythm & blues setting, he presaged what would come to be known as soul music.

Chafing under Ward’s discipline, McPhatter left the Dominoes in 1953 and was quickly offered a recording contract and star billing with his own group by Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records. Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters cut a string of hugely popular R&B hits, including “Such a Night,” “Money Honey” (the biggest R&B hit of 1953), “Honey Love” and a timeless doo-wop version of “White Christmas.”

A stint in the army cut short his tenure with the Drifters, but he resumed his career as a solo artist upon his discharge, enjoying another successful run at Atlantic during the latter half of the Fifties. (The Drifters continued without him, recruiting a succession of lead singers.) In 1958 McPhatter scored the biggest hit of his career, “A Lover’s Question,” a doo-wop/R&B classic that captured his voice at a peak of ripeness. He had a dozen more R&B and pop hits during the later Fifties at Atlantic, including such highlights as “Treasure of Love” (his first Number One as a solo artist) and the sublime “Without Love (There Is Nothing).” His last Atlantic hit, “You Went Back On Your Word,” came late in 1959, at which point his contract expired.

After a brief stint at MGM, which yielded a minor hit, “Let’s Try Again,” McPhatter moved to Mercury Records, where he spent the first half of the Sixties working with producer Clyde Otis. At Mercury he scored such hits as “Lover Please” and “Little Bitty Pretty One” and recorded some highly regarded albums, including the urbanely conceptual Songs of the Big City (1964). He also recorded five critically prized but commercially unsuccessful singles for the Amy label in the mid-Sixties. In 1966 a disillusioned McPhatter moved to England, where he was still revered. He returned to the States in 1970, marking the event with an album entitled Welcome Home (1970). Sadly, it turned out to be his last recording. McPhatter’s career had been in steady decline due to mounting personal problems, including a debilitating alcoholism, and he died in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 39.

 

#SaturdayStamps: Jan E. Matzeliger

Jan Ernst Matzeliger was an inventor of Surinamese and Dutch descent best known for patenting the shoe lasting machine, which made footwear more affordable.

Synopsis

Jan Matzeliger was born in Paramaribo (now Suriname) in 1852. Matzeliger settled in the United States in 1873 and trained as a shoemaker. In 1883, he patented a shoe lasting machine that increased the availability of shoes and decreased the price of footwear. He died of tuberculosis on August 24, 1889.

Early Life

Jan Ernst Matzeliger was born on September 15, 1852, in Paramaribo, Suriname—known at the time as Dutch Guiana. Matzeliger’s father was a Dutch engineer, and his mother was Surinamese. Showing mechanical aptitude at a young age, Matzeliger began working in machine shops supervised by his father at the age of 10. At 19, he left Suriname to see the world as a sailor on an East Indian merchant ship. In 1873, he settled in Philadelphia.

Invention of the Lasting Machine

After settling in the United States, Matzeliger worked for several years to learn English. As a dark-skinned man, his professional options were limited, and he struggled to make a living in Philadelphia. In 1877, Matzeliger moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, to seek work in the town’s rapidly growing shoe industry. He found a position as an apprentice in a shoe factory. Matzeliger learned the cordwaining trade, which involved crafting shoes almost entirely by hand.

Cordwainers made molds of customers’ feet, called “lasts,” with wood or stone. The shoes were then sized and shaped according to the molds. The process of shaping and attaching the body of the shoe to its sole was done entirely by hand with “hand lasters.” This was considered the most difficult and time-consuming stage of assembly. Since the final step in the process was mechanized, the lack of mechanization of the penultimate stage, the lasting, created a significant bottleneck.

Matzeliger set out to find a solution to the problems he discerned in the shoemaking process. He thought there had to be a way to develop an automatic method for lasting shoes. He began coming up with designs for machines that could do the job. After experimenting with several models, he applied for a patent on a “lasting machine.”

On March 20, 1883, Matzeliger received patent number 274,207 for his machine. The mechanism held a shoe on a last, pulled the leather down around the heel, set and drove in the nails, and then discharged the completed shoe. It had the capacity to produce 700 pairs of shoes a day—more than 10 times the amount typically produced by human hands.

Matzeliger’s lasting machine was an immediate success. In 1889, the Consolidated Lasting Machine Company was formed to manufacture the devices, with Matzelinger receiving a large amount of stock in the organization. After Matzeliger’s death, the United Shoe Machinery Company acquired his patent.

Death and Legacy

Matzeliger’s shoe lasting machine increased shoe production tremendously. The result was the employment of more unskilled workers and the proliferation of low-cost, high-quality footwear for people around the world. Unfortunately, Matzeliger was able to enjoy his success for only a short time. He contracted tuberculosis in 1886 and died on August 24, 1889, at the age of 37, in Lynn. In 1991, the United States government issued a “Black Heritage” postage stamp in Matzeliger’s honor.