Abbie Hoffman, 1936 – 1989

November 30, 1936: Birthdate of Abbie Hoffman.

Hoffman was a co-founder of the Youth International Party (“Yippies”) movement in the USA and was an American political and social activist and anarchist.

Hoffman was arrested and tried for conspiracy and inciting to riot as a result of his role in protests that led to violent confrontations with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, along with Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale. The group was known collectively as the “Chicago Eight”; when Seale’s prosecution was separated from the others, they became known as the Chicago Seven. While the defendants were initially convicted of intent to incite a riot, the verdicts were overturned on appeal.

Hoffman continued his activism into the 1970s, and remains an icon of the anti-war movement and the counterculture era.

Pictured here today is a 29-cent cinderella stamp of Abbie Hoffman wearing his U.S. flag shirt.  It was issued in 1994 by First Issue Reserved Edition (F.I.R.E.), an anonymous artist in New York City.

The F.I.R.E. artistamps commemorated ideas, people, or objects in American culture that would never appear on official U.S. postage stamps: guns, the homeless, friendly fire, Jack Kevorkian, Abbie Hoffman, Waco, etc. They were on display at Effect’s, a New York City gallery, in March 1994, and then they were sold at St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village.



C.S. Lewis, 1898 – 1963

November 29, 1898 – Birthdate of C.S. Lewis, British novelist, poet, and critic.

Clive Staples Lewis was also a medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He held academic positions at both Oxford University (Magdalen College), 1925–1954, and Cambridge University, 1954–1963. He is best known for his fictional work, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J.R.R. Tolkien were close friends. They both served on the English faculty at Oxford University, and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings. According to Lewis’s memoir Surprised by Joy, he was baptized in the Church of Ireland, but fell away from his faith during adolescence. Lewis returned to Anglicanism at the age of 32, owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, and he became an “ordinary layman of the Church of England”.  His faith profoundly affected his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim. (from Wikipedia)

Great Britain issued a stamp in 1998 picturing a scene from one of the books of The Chronicles of Narnia entitled The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe:



Jacob Gould Schurman & the Russian Jews

November 25, 1905: Jacob H. Schiff received a letter today from Jacob G. Schurman, the President of Cornell University in which he enclosed his check “for the fund in relief of the suffering Jews of Russia whose terrible condition appeals to the universal heart of mankind.” Schurman, a native of Canada whose family came from the Netherlands wrote, “The atrocities of the Russian mob have been beyond all description or imagination. Such an exhibition of bigotry, intolerance and racial hatred has seldom if ever, disgraced the history of the mankind. And to crown the horrors of it, the fiendish mob invoke the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached good will to men…”  (with thanks to Mitchell Levin)

As Cornell’s president, Schurman helped invent the modern state-supported research university. Under the Morrill Act, states were obligated to fund the maintenance of land grant college facilities, but were not obligated to fund operations. Subsequent laws required states to match federal funds for agricultural research stations and cooperative extension. In his inaugural address as Cornell’s third president on November 11, 1892, Schurman announced his intention to enlist the financial support of the state.

Schurman later served as United States Ambassador to Greece in 1912-13, Minister to China between 1921 and 1925, and then as Ambassador to Germany between 1925 and 1929, a position twice previously held by Cornell’s first president Andrew Dickson White. In 1917 Schurman was appointed honorary chairman of the American Relief Committee for Greeks of Asia Minor, an organization which provided humanitarian relief to Ottoman Greeks during the Greek genocide.  (from Wikipedia)

Pictured here today are two thematic artifacts:  (1)  a postcard of Morse & Franklin Halls at Cornell, ca. 1908 and, (2) a U.S. 1-cent postcard (Scott No. UX5) addressed to a Mr. W.A. Dudley at Cornell U. postmarked June 15th at Centennial Philadelphia, PA.





Scott Joplin, 1867 – 1917

November 24, 1867 – Birthdate of Scott Joplin, American pianist and composer.

Joplin was an African-American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions and was dubbed the “King of Ragtime Writers”.  During his brief career, he wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. One of his first pieces, the “Maple Leaf Rag”, became ragtime’s first and most influential hit, and has been recognized as the archetypal rag.

Joplin was born into a musical family of railway laborers in Northeast Texas, and developed his musical knowledge with the help of local teachers. Joplin grew up in Texarkana, where he formed a vocal quartet, and taught mandolin and guitar. During the late 1880s he left his job as a laborer with the railroad, and travelled around the American South as an itinerant musician. He went to Chicago for the World’s Fair of 1893, which played a major part in making ragtime a national craze by 1897.

Joplin and his fellow ragtime composers rejuvenated American popular music, fostering an appreciation for African American music among European Americans by creating exhilarating and liberating dance tunes, changing American musical taste. “Its syncopation and rhythmic drive gave it a vitality and freshness attractive to young urban audiences indifferent to Victorian proprieties … Joplin’s ragtime expressed the intensity and energy of a modern urban America.”

Joplin’s death in 1917 is widely considered to mark the end of ragtime as a mainstream music format, and in the next several years it evolved with other styles into stride, jazz, and eventually big band swing. His music was rediscovered and returned to popularity in the early 1970s with the release of a million-selling album recorded by Joshua Rifkin. This was followed by the Academy Award–winning 1973 movie The Sting that featured several of his compositions including “The Entertainer”. The opera Treemonisha was finally produced in full to wide acclaim in 1972. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize. (from Wikipedia)

On June 9, 1983, the United States Postal Service issued a 20-cent stamp commemorating Joplin – Scott No. 2044.  First Day of Issue ceremonies were held in Sedalia, Missouri, where Joplin had lived early in his career and where he published his first compositions.  Shown here today is a plate block of this issue on a First Day Cover.


And, for your listening enjoyment, here is a link to to YouTube recording of the original 1916 piano roll of “The Maple Leaf Rag”.

I wish you and your families a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Partisans of Kovno

November 23, 1943: One hundred and fifty Jewish partisans escape from Occupied Kovno, Lithuania, and head eastward into the Rudninkai Forest. (Mitchell Levin)

Displayed here today is a piece with two Kovno (Kaunas) postmarks, cancelled by favor, on German postage stamps from July 12, 1916.



Here is a link to a blog post on Stamps Around the World describing the Jewish community in Kovno.

Also, below is a photo of the partisans from Kovno:




E = mc²

November 21, 1905 – Albert Einsteins’s paper, “Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?”, is published in the journal Annalen der Physik. This paper reveals the relationship between energy and mass. This leads to the mass-energy equivalence formula, E = mc².

E is the energy of a physical system, m is the mass of the system, and c is the speed of light in a vacuum (about 3×108 m/s). In words, energy equals mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light. Because the speed of light is a very large number in everyday units, the formula implies that any small amount of matter contains a very large amount of energy. Some of this energy may be released as heat and light by chemical or nuclear transformations. This also serves to convert units of mass to units of energy, no matter what system of measurement units is used.

Many countries have issued postage stamps commemorating Albert Einstein.  In fact collection of these stamps forms the basis for a philatelist’s topical or thematic collection.  Most of the stamps issued show a familiar portrait of Einstein with his disheveled hair and work-weary eyes.  However, a few, including these two from Ireland and Germany, show the scientist with his famous formula:




Elections impact our lives – VOTE!

November 8, 1892: Grover Cleveland was elected President for the second time. Cleveland is the only two-term President to have his terms separated by the election of another President. This split always causes confusion in counting American Presidents. During his second term in office, Cleveland vetoed an immigration bill that contained a literacy test. The bill was aimed at keeping immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe out of the United States. Its enactment was opposed by many Jewish leaders because it would have trapped the Jews of such places as Czarist Russia in their increasingly anti-Semitic homelands.  (Mitch Levin)

The U.S. Postal Service has issued three stamps picturing President Cleveland.  The first was a 12-cent definitive stamp issued in 1923.  The second was also a definitive – a 22-cent stamp issued as part of the Presidential series of 1938 – also known as “the Prexies.”  The most recent stamp honoring Cleveland was part of the AMERIPEX series of 1986 – also a 22-cent issue.  All three are pictured below.

If you’re reading this today, on Election Day in the United States, get out and vote and bring a friend along!  It’s your civic duty and your right as a citizen of this country, so exercise it.





Susan B. Anthony and women’s suffrage

November 5, 1872 – in defiance of the law, suffragist Susan B. Anthony votes for the first time, and is later fined $100.

Anthony and nearly fifty other women in Rochester, New York attempted to vote in the presidential election of 1872. Fifteen of them convinced the election inspectors to allow them to cast ballots, but the others were turned back. There had been earlier cases of women attempting to vote, and even some cases of success, but the reaction of the authorities had been muted. When Anthony voted, however, the reaction was different, and her case became a national controversy.  Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872, by a U.S. Deputy Marshal and charged with illegally voting. The other fourteen women were also arrested but released pending the outcome of Anthony’s trial.

Anthony did not live to see the achievement of women’s suffrage at the national level, but she was proud of the progress the women’s movement had made. At the time of her death, women had achieved suffrage in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Idaho, and several larger states followed soon after. Legal rights for married women had been established in most states, and most professions had at least a few women members. 36,000 women were attending colleges and universities, up from zero a few decades earlier.”  Two years before she died, Anthony said, “The world has never witnessed a greater revolution than in the sphere of woman during this fifty years”.

Part of the revolution was in ways of thinking. In a speech in 1889, Anthony noted that women had always been taught that their purpose was to serve men, but “Now, after 40 years of agitation, the idea is beginning to prevail that women were created for themselves, for their own happiness, and for the welfare of the world.”  Anthony was sure that women’s suffrage would be achieved, but she also feared that people would forget how difficult it was to achieve it, as they were already forgetting the ordeals of the recent past.  (from Wikipedia)

On August 26, 1936, the United States Postal Service issued a 3-cent stamp commemorating Anthony and the Women’s Suffrage Movement (Scott No. 784):


Yitzhak Rabin, 1922 – 1995

November 4, 1995 – Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by an extremist Israeli.

Rabin was an Israeli politician, statesman and general. He was the fifth Prime Minister of Israel, serving two terms in office, 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995.

Rabin was born in Jerusalem to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants and was raised in a Labor Zionist household. He learned agriculture in school and excelled as a student.

Rabin was the first native-born prime minister of Israel, the only prime minister to be assassinated and the second to die in office after Levi Eshkol. Rabin has become a symbol of the Israeli–Palestinian peace process.

For his role in the creation of the Oslo Accords, Rabin was awarded the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres.  The Accords greatly divided Israeli society, with some seeing Rabin as a hero for advancing the cause of peace and some seeing him as a traitor for giving away land they viewed as rightfully belonging to Israel. Many Israelis on the right wing often blame him for Jewish deaths in terror attacks, attributing them to the Oslo agreements.  (from Wikipedia)

In 1995, Israel Post issued a stamp commemorating Yitzhak Rabin.  Pictured below is a plate block of the stamp:



The Balfour Declaration – 1917

November 2, 1917 – The Balfour Declaration proclaims British support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” with the clear understanding “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities”.

This declaration was in the form of a letter from the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland.

The text of the letter was published in the press one week later, on November 9, 1917.  The Balfour Declaration was later incorporated into both the Sèvres peace treaty with the Ottoman Empire, and the Mandate for Palestine. The original document is kept at the British Library.  (from Wikipedia)

Israel Post issued two stamps in 1967 commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.  One stamp pictures Chaim Weizmann, the president of the World Zionist Organization who was responsible for engagement and negotiation with Secretary Balfour, who is pictured in the 2nd stamp.