The Lewis and Clark Expedition

August 31, 1803 – Lewis and Clark start their expedition to the west by leaving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The 3-cent commemorative stamp shown here was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1954.

Lewis_and_Clark_1954_Issue-3c

While you’re here at Revolving Door Philately, please take a moment to view my current auction lots on eBay and StampoRama, listed in the right-hand margin of this page under “Revolving Door Stamps”.

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First Yiddish Language Conference

August 30, 1908: The First Conference for the Yiddish Language opens in Czernowitz, Bukovina.

Bukovina (land of beech trees) was a sparsely populated crown land of the Aus­trian Hungarian Empire in the late 1700,’s and early 1800’s when the ruling Hapsburg family recruited German speaking people to settle its virgin forests. Lutherans from the Rhine-Palatinate and Württemberg in Germany and Catholics from the Bohemian Forest of Austria (now in the Czech Republic) migrated to Bukovina to farm and work in the glassworks. Although a minority in the multicultural country, they lived in ethnic German villages and communities preserving their language and customs.

Occurring at a time when more than a dozen other languages on three continents were also organizing their own “first” conferences (usually under non- or even antigovernmental auspices), the Czernowitz Conference was the brainchild of Nathan Birnbaum (1864–1937), an innovative, and peripatetic Jewish educator, essayist, philosopher, politician, and social organizer.

The Czernowitz agenda was a broad one and included the need for Yiddish schools and teachers; support for the Yiddish press, theater, and literature; reversing the growing tendency for young people to prefer Hebrew or their major coterritorial non-Jewish language to Yiddish; supporting the translation of canonical works from Hebrew and Aramaic into Yiddish; and the regularization of Yiddish orthography. One issue, however—as Pinski had anticipated in New York at the beginning of the year—was prominent: the status of Yiddish. The topic immediately came to the fore and practically monopolized the proceedings during the entire conference. The arguments waged in Czernowitz over whether Yiddish was “the” national language or only “a” national language of the Jewish people polarized and split the delegates irrevocably. The other items on the agenda that Birnbaum and Zhitlovski had hoped and diligently planned for gained little attention.

The philatelic example shown here is a postage stamp, ca. 1867-1874, from the Austrian Empire with a postmark from the town of Czernowitz.

bukowina-czernowitz-stamp-1867

Maurice Maeterlinck, 1862-1949

August 29, 1862 – Birthdate of Maurice Maeterlinck, Belgian poet and playwright, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1949)

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911 “in appreciation of his many-sided literary activities, and especially of his dramatic works, which are distinguished by a wealth of imagination and by a poetic fancy, which reveals, sometimes in the guise of a fairy tale, a deep inspiration, while in a mysterious way they appeal to the readers’ own feelings and stimulate their imaginations”. The main themes in his work are death and the meaning of life. His plays form an important part of the Symbolist movement.  Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal.

Maeterlinck’s plays inspired a large body of musical compositions.  Here is just a sampling based on his play Pelleas and Melisande:

1897: a suite for orchestra by William Wallace: Pelleas and Melisande

1898: an orchestral suite (sometimes described as incidental music) by Gabriel Fauré See: Pelléas et Mélisande (Fauré) (Op. 80)

1893-1902: an opera by Claude Debussy (L. 88, Paris), see Pelléas et Mélisande (opera)

1902-1903: a symphonic poem by Arnold Schoenberg (Op. 5)

1905: incidental music by Jean Sibelius (Op. 46), see Pelléas et Mélisande (Sibelius)

The postage stamp shown here was issued in 1952 by Bpost – the postal authority of Belgium.

maurice maeterlinck

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

August 27, 1770 – Birthdate of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, German philosopher and academic (d. 1831).

Hegel’s principal achievement is his development of a distinctive articulation of idealism sometimes termed “absolute idealism,”[5] in which the dualisms of, for instance, mind and nature and subject and object are overcome. His philosophy of spirit conceptually integrates psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy. His account of the master–slave dialectic has been highly influential, especially in 20th-century France.[6] Of special importance is his concept of spirit (Geist: sometimes also translated as “mind”) as the historical manifestation of the logical concept and the “sublation” (Aufhebung: integration without elimination or reduction) of seemingly contradictory or opposing factors; examples include the apparent opposition between nature and freedom and between immanence and transcendence.

The 40 Pfennig stamp shown here was issued on January 20, 1970 by the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) or what was East Germany.

g-w-f-hegel-stamp

The Jewish Community of Zawiercie, Poland

August 26, 1943: The Jewish community from Zawiercie, Poland, is destroyed at Auschwitz.

From the Holocaust Archives of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel. On the eve of the Second World War there were 7,000 Jews in Zawiercie – about a quarter of its residents. They made their living primarily from trade, crafts,the clothing industry and the metal industry. Printing houses owned by Jews played a central role in the cultural life in the city. The city had labor unions which were composed of small traders and artisans, as well as two banks, a charitable fund companies and charities. Between the World Wars in Zawiercie there were various Zionist parties and Agudat Israel. The city had a traditional “cheder” (religious primary school),a Talmud Torah, and a school and kindergarten which were part of the “Tarbut” Network. In 1926, A. Bornstein who was head of the Jewish community was also appointed mayor of the town.

The stamp pictured here was issued by the city of Zawiercie in 1915, thus it is considered a local issue (versus a stamp that would be available throughout the nation of Poland for carrying mail).  Local issues were used for outgoing mail originating from the city post offices where they were printed.  This stamp is currently on the auction block with Harmer-Schau Auction Galleries with a starting bid of 200 Euros.

zawiercie poland

Happy Birthday to you Leonard Bernstein!

August 25, 1918 – Birthdate of Leonard Bernstein, American pianist, composer, and conductor (d. 1990).

Volumes could be written about this man and his influence on modern music.  And many have been, including “Leonard Bernstein” by Humphrey Burton, “Leonard Bernstein:  American Original” by Burton Bernstein and Barbara Haws, “Leonard Bernstein:  An American Musician”, from the Jewish Lives series written by Allen Shawn, and many more.

Bernstein is probably best known for his composition of the music for “West Side Story” the modern-day Romeo and Juliet musical.

The stamp shown here was issued by the U.S. Postal Service on July 10, 2001 in the city of New York.  It is Scott Catalog No. 3521.

usps_bernstein

Famous Stamp Collectors – a departure from the usual

Over the weekend, a friend sent me this image of Yul Brynner working on his stamp collection and I was like, “What?  You mean the guy that played Pharoah in Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments”  Yeah, that one.  Cool!

Here is Yul, off-stage, off-set, enjoying a relaxing moment with his collection of solely United Nations stamps, said to be collected in a total of 35 volumes and containing some of the rarest issues available.

Yul Brynner Stamp Collector

So, I thought it would be fun to “expose” a few other very cool famous people who were stamp collectors as well:

Jascha Heifetz, concert violinist

Jascha Heifetz Stamp Collector

Simon Wiesenthal, Nazi-hunter

Simon Wiesenthal Stamp Collector

and, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

FDR Stamp Collector

But here’s the one that really took me by surprise – John Lennon of Beatles fame.  Yup.  As a boy, he collected stamps and his stamp albums were exhibited in 2006 at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.  Here’s John shown on a rare sheetlet issued by Palau Post, the postal authority of the Republic of Palau:

john lennon - Palau

We philatelists aren’t so nerdy as you thought we were, eh?

King Boris III of Bulgaria – False Savior of the Jews

August 24, 1943: King Boris III of Bulgaria was summoned to Berlin, where Hitler personally subjected him to a harsh browbeating on his vacillation when it came to deporting Jews to the death camps.

Recent historiography created by the modern-day Bulgarian government has portrayed Tsar Boris III as a savior of the Jews during World War II.  This is a false assertion.  Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany throughout the war.  The true hero who saved the 48,000 Bulgarian Jews from certain death in Treblinka was Dimitur Peshev, a high-ranking Bulgarian government official who had ties to the Kiustendil Bulgarian Jewish community – most notably my grandfather Yaakov Baruch – who persuaded him to see that there were orders for deportation being carried out without his knowledge.  Peshev halted these orders at the 11th hour as Jews throughout Bulgaria were awaiting deportation in train stations after having spent days in makeshift quarters with no food, beds or bathroom facilities.

The true history of Peshev’s heroism is described in Gabriele Nissim’s book “The Man Who Stopped Hitler”, translated from the Italian into English by my father Israel Borouchoff.

Postage stamp portraying Tsar Boris III of Bulgaria:

TsarBorisIII

Tsar Boris III and Hitler meeting in Berlin, Germany:

KingBoris-Hitler

Royal Albert Bridge Opens in Chelsea, London

August 23, 1873 – The Royal Albert Bridge, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, opens in Chelsea, London.

The magnificent Royal Albert Bridge, designed and built to carry the Cornwall Railway at a height of 100 feet across the waters of the River Tamar at Saltash, must surely be recognized as one of Brunel’s most outstanding works. Its unique design and handsome proportions, set in an idyllic location between the hills of Devon and Cornwall, give an aura of grace and majesty all of its own. As the “Gateway to Cornwall” it forms a fitting and lasting memorial to this great Victorian engineer.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a true genius of the Industrial Age, whose vision and daring produced some of the greatest engineering wonders of Victorian Britain. To mark the 200th anniversary of Brunel’s birth, the Royal Mail worked with eminent Brunel historians to select six examples from his incredible portfolio of work, which were issued on February 23, 2006 in a miniature sheet format.  Pictured here is the stamp commemorating the Royal Albert Bridge.

Royal Albert Bridge