Edison’s Phonograph – 1877

November 29, 1877 – Thomas Edison demonstrates his phonograph for the first time.

While other inventors had produced devices that could record sounds, Edison’s phonograph was the first to be able to reproduce the recorded sound. His phonograph originally recorded sound onto a tinfoil sheet phonograph cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds. Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory made several improvements in the 1880s, including the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved from side to side in a “zig zag” pattern across the record.

In the 1890s, Emile Berliner initiated the transition from phonograph cylinders to flat discs with a spiral groove running from the periphery to near the center. Other improvements were made throughout the years, including modifications to the turntable and its drive system, the stylus or needle, and the sound and equalization systems.

The disc phonograph record was the dominant audio recording format throughout most of the 20th century. From the mid-1980s, phonograph use declined sharply because of the rise of the compact disc and other digital recording formats. While no longer mass-market items, modest numbers of phonographs and phonograph records continue to be produced in the second decade of the 21st century.

In 1977, the Indian Postal Service issued a stamp (shown here) commemorating the 100th anniversary of the invention of the phonograph.

india phonograph 100th anniversary postage stamp - 1977







Anton Rubinstein, 1829 – 1894

November 28, 1829 – Birthdate of Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein, a Russian pianist, composer and conductor, and the founder of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. As a pianist, Rubinstein ranks amongst the greatest 19th-century keyboard virtuosos. Rubinstein was also a prolific composer throughout much of his life, writing many musical compositions including five piano concertos, six symphonies, and twenty operas, the best known of which is The Demon (1871).

Rubinstein was quite a widely performed composer in his lifetime, but following his death, his works were largely ignored. Some have suggested that this was due to the anti-Semitism prevalent at that time in Germany, the musical hub of Europe.

Here is an image of a stamp featuring a portrait of Rubinstein, designed by Russian artist Vasili Vasilievich Zavialov (1906-1972), printed by photogravure, and issued by Russia (USSR) on December 30, 1954 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Anton Rubinstein - USSR

Anders Celsius, 1701 – 1744

November 27, 1701 – Birthdate of Anders Celsius, Swedish astronomer, physicist, and mathematician.

Celsius was a professor of astronomy at Uppsala University from 1730 to 1744, but traveled from 1732 to 1735 visiting notable observatories in Germany, Italy and France. He founded the Uppsala Astronomical Observatory in 1741, and in 1742 proposed the Celsius temperature scale which bears his name.

Celsius was the first to perform and publish careful experiments aiming at the definition of an international temperature scale on scientific grounds. In his Swedish paper “Observations of two persistent degrees on a thermometer” he reports on experiments to check that the freezing point is independent of latitude (and of atmospheric pressure). He determined the dependence of the boiling of water with atmospheric pressure which was accurate even by modern day standards. He further gave a rule for the determination of the boiling point if the barometric pressure deviates from a certain standard pressure.  He proposed the Celsius temperature scale in a paper to the Royal Society of Sciences in Uppsala, the oldest Swedish scientific society, founded in 1710. His thermometer was calibrated with a value of 100° for the freezing point of water and 0° for the boiling point. In 1745, a year after Celsius’ death, the scale was reversed by Carl Linnaeus to facilitate more practical measurement.  Celsius originally called his scale centigrade derived from the Latin for “hundred steps”. For years it was simply referred to as the Swedish thermometer.

In 1982 PostNord, the Swedish postal service, issued a stamp honoring Anders Celsius.

anders celsius

Adam Mickiewicz, 1798 – 1855

November 26, 1855: Adam Mickiewicz, a noted Polish poet and ardent nationalist died today in Constantinople while working with his friend Armand Levy, to organize a Jewish legion, the Hussars of Israel, comprising Russian and Palestinian Jews.  The legion was supposed to join in the fight against the Russians during the Crimean War.  Polish nationalists believed that a Russian defeat would help undermine the authority of the Czar and help lead to the liberation of Poland.  [Mickiewicz was not Jewish and an explanation as to why he was organizing Jews for this fight is a puzzlement which requires deeper investigation.]

In 1947, Poczta Polska, the Polish postal service, issued this 20 zloty stamp honoring Mickiewicz.

Adam Mickiewicz - Poland 1947

Andrew Carnegie, 1835 – 1919

November 25, 1835 – Birthdate of Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American businessman and philanthropist.

Carnegie was an industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century. He built a leadership role as a philanthropist for the United States and the British Empire. During the last 18 years of his life, he gave away to charities, foundations, and universities about $350 million – almost 90 percent of his fortune. His 1889 article proclaiming “The Gospel of Wealth” called on the rich to use their wealth to improve society, and it stimulated a wave of philanthropy.

Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, and immigrated to the United States with his very poor parents in 1848. Carnegie started work as a telegrapher and by the 1860s had investments in railroads, railroad sleeping cars, bridges and oil derricks. He accumulated further wealth as a bond salesman raising money for American enterprise in Europe. He built Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold to J.P. Morgan in 1901 for $480 million (in 2011, $309 billion), creating the U.S. Steel Corporation. Carnegie devoted the remainder of his life to large-scale philanthropy, with special emphasis on local libraries, world peace, education and scientific research. With the fortune he made from business, he built the famous performing arts venue Carnegie Hall and he founded the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Carnegie Institution for Science, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, Carnegie Hero Fund, Carnegie Mellon University and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, among others.

Carnegie died on August 11, 1919, in Lenox, Massachusetts.  He had already given away $350,695,653 (approximately $4.75 billion, adjusted to 2015 figures) of his wealth. After his death, his last $30,000,000 was given to foundations, charities, and to pensioners.  He was buried at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in North Tarrytown, New York, only a few yards away from union organizer Samuel Gompers, another important figure of industry in the Gilded Age.

On November 25, 1960, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Carnegie (Scott Catalog No. 1171).

andrew carnegie - usa




Baruch Spinoza, 1632 – 1677

November 24, 1632: Birthdate of Baruch Spinoza (known also as Benedict De Spinoza). The life and philosophy of Spinoza are too complex for this brief daily blurb and you are urged to read more about him on your own. In brief, Spinoza was born in Amsterdam to Sephardic Jews who had fled from the Inquisition in Portugal, Spinoza received a rigorous Jewish education including the study of such “modern” commentators as Maimonides and Ibn Ezra.   However his inquiring mind led him to learn Latin and to study with so-called free-thinkers.  He became a disciple of Descartes and his rationalist philosophic approach to life.  Spinoza was a pantheist believing that God was within nature and not above nature with His own divine will.  To paraphrase Telushkin, Spinoza did not believe that God created nature, but that God is Nature.  In 1656, while still in his twenties, Spinoza was excommunicated (in Hebrew “kerem”) for denying the immortality of the soul and God’s authorship of the Torah.  On this latter point, Spinoza was a forerunner of modern Biblical critics.  He believed that the Torah had not been written by Moses, but by Ezra the Scribe.  The ban from the Jewish community was total. Spinoza spent the rest of his life moving from place to place in Holland studying and developing his philosophical works.  At one point he joined a Mennonite sect and changed his name to Benedictus or Benedict. By the time of his death in 1677, Spinoza had developed a philosophy of rational pantheism in which to “know” nature is to know God.  Over the centuries, many Jews have expressed their displeasure over Spinoza’s excommunication.  In the 1950’s no less a figure than David Ben Gurion tried unsuccessfully to have the ban lifted.  From the writings of Spinoza: “As long as a man imagines a thing is impossible, so long will he be unable to do it.”  “Men who are ruled by reason desire nothing for themselves which they would not wish for all humankind.”  (thanks to Mitch Levin)

For your philatelic enjoyment today, I submit images of two stamps honoring Spinoza – the first, issued by Holland in 1977 and the second, issued by Israel in 2002.  The latter issue is of special interest to me given the power that the Orthodox factions in Israel have.  Apparently, the progressives and the secularists must have infiltrated the stamp advisory committee of the Israel Post!

baruch spinoza - netherlands


baruch spinoza - israel




Sathya Sai Baba, 1926 – 2011

November 23, 1926 – Birthdate of Sathya Sai Baba, Indian guru and philosopher.

Sai Baba’s materializations of vibhuti (holy ash) and other small objects such as rings, necklaces, and watches, along with reports of miraculous healings, resurrections, clairvoyance, bilocation, and alleged omnipotence and omniscience, were a source of both fame and controversy.  His devotees considered them signs of his divinity, while skeptics viewed them as simple conjuring tricks. He further faced accusations over the years of sexual abuse and fraud, which he rejected as smear campaigns.

The Sathya Sai Organization, founded by Sathya Sai Baba “to enable its members to undertake service activities as a means to spiritual advancement”, has over 1,200 Sathya Sai Centres (branches) in 126 countries.  Through this organization, Sathya Sai Baba established a network of free hospitals, clinics, drinking water projects, auditoriums, ashrams and schools.

The Indian Postal Service issued a stamp in 2013 honoring Sathya Sai Baba and yours truly has been known to chant a few bhajana in his day.

sathya sai baba postage stamp - india


Man of La Mancha Premiere

November 22, 1965: “Man of La Mancha” a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman and music by Mitch Leigh opens” at the ANTA Washington Square Theatre in Greenwich Village with Irving Jacobson, a veteran of the Yiddish Theatre playing “Sancho Panza”.  Only in America could a Jew play a major role in play set in what would become the Land of the Inquisition.

Pictured below is a stamp issued for postal use in the territory of Spanish Sahara.  It shows Don Quixote and Sancho Panza riding on their horses alongside each other.

don quixote stamp - Spanish Sahara

Judas Maccabeus and the Re-dedication of the Temple

November 21, 164 B.C.E. – Judah the Maccabee, son of Mattathias of the Hasmonean family, restores the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem. Judah led a revolt in Judea against the Seleucids – a Hellenistic empire led at the time by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  This event is commemorated each year by the festival of Hanukkah.

In 2012, Israel and India released a joint issue of stamps celebrating the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah and the Hindu Festival of Lights, Deepavali.

Hanukkah 2012-Israel-India-Joint-Issue-Festival-of-Lights-Postage-Stamp


Robert F. Kennedy, 1925 – 1968

November 20, 1925:  Birthdate of Robert F. Kennedy.  In 1968, Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan – a Palestinian of Jordanian citizenship.  Supposedly he was upset because Kennedy was a supporter of the state of Israel.

In 1979, the United States issued this stamp in memory of RFK.  Shown here is a plate block example, which is the block of 4 stamps in one of the corners of the sheet of stamps, with the selvage and the printing plate number attached.

robert f kenney PB - USA 1979