Five new stamps with familiar artwork depicting historic lighthouses were issued in August (Figure 6). If these look like something you have seen before, you’re right.
Figure 6. For purchasing information and technical details about the Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses stamps, click here.
The artwork is from the late Howard Koslow (1924-2016), who created artwork for 30 previous stamps in the U.S. Postal Service’s Lighthouse series, which began in 1990. With each release comprising five stamps, other sets were issued in 1995 (Figure 6), 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2013. Each lighthouse painting was rendered in acrylic paints and based on photographs of the lighthouses, according to the Postal Service.
Figure 7. The second set of Lighthouses stamps were issued in 1995.
The stamps – officially called the Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses – were formally dedicated August 6 in a ceremony at the Twin Lights State Historic Site in the Navesink Highlands of New Jersey – which is among the highest points along the Eastern Seaboard, guarding the entrance to New York Harbor.
Koslow, who died at age 91, is considered one of the premier U.S. stamp artists of modern times. These are the final images Koslow painted for the Postal Service, according to Linn’s Stamp News.
The other four lighthouses featured on the stamps are in Montauk Point, Long Island, New York; Erie Harbor, Pennsylvania; Harbor of Refuge, Delaware; and Thomas Point Shoal, Maryland.
“Lighthouses are some of the most popular topics among stamp collectors and customers alike, and it’s easy to see why,” said Linda Malone, the Postal Service’s vice president of engineering systems, who served as dedicating official for the ceremony. “Lighthouses send a dual message of welcome and warning, of connection and isolation. They have come to symbolize solitude, service, history and hope.”
Joining Malone for the ceremony were Paul Eric Johnson, photographer and author of Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic Coast; Peter McCracken, an expert in historical ships and a librarian at Cornell University; and Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
“We are thrilled that the Twin Lights of the Navesink are featured on a Forever stamp, and that millions of people will be able to appreciate the beauty of a structure we are privileged to see every day in New Jersey,” LaTourette said in a USPS news release. “This remarkable structure was considered one of America’s best and brightest lighthouses when it was completed in 1862, and still stands today as a beacon to important moments in U.S. history.”
One of only seven stations in the country to feature two towers, the twin lighthouses in the Navesink Highlands were built in 1828 and have seen many historic firsts. In 1841, Navesink’s identical towers were the first lighthouses in the U.S. to have Fresnel lenses installed: a first-order fixed lens in the north tower and a second-order revolving lens in the south tower.
Navesink was also the site chosen for the first public reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in 1893, and six years later, Guglielmo Marconi set up his telegraph at the light station and transmitted the first wireless telegraphic communication. Murphy Rockette, the final keeper at Navesink, moved out in 1954. The Navesink site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
In 1792, President George Washington authorized the construction of a lighthouse on Montauk Point, at Long Island’s eastern end. After construction began in 1796, the lighthouse, built of Connecticut sandstone, was completed in only five months. With a foundation sunk 13 feet into the ground and a base with walls 7 feet thick, the building was so sturdy that Washington himself claimed it would stand for 200 years. He was right: The lighthouse still stands today.
Ownership of the Montauk lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the Montauk Historical Society in 1996. As the oldest lighthouse in New York and one of the oldest in continuous operation in the United States, Montauk Point Lighthouse became a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
Erie Harbor Pierhead in Pennsylvania – also called Presque Isle North Pierhead Lighthouse or Erie Harbor North Pier Lighthouse – has helped ships navigate the narrow inlet between Lake Erie and Presque Isle Bay for more than 150 years. Originally built in 1830 of wood, that tower was replaced in 1858. Since then, it has been moved twice to accommodate changes in the pier on which it rests. The 34-foot tower’s last move was in 1940 when it was automated and covered with steel plates.
The lighthouse has a distinctive white field and horizontal black band and features a shape that is one of a kind in the United States. Rather than a traditional pyramid silhouette, the Erie Harbor Pierhead Lighthouse tapers only halfway and then rises straight from its midsection to its top. Managed by the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse remains an active navigational aid.
The National Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse in Delaware was created in the late 1800s to light the way for oceangoing vessels caught in violent Atlantic weather and has gone through a series of changes in its evolution. The breakwater was completed in 1901 with temporary lights added on either end in 1902. The lighthouse was built in 1908, replacing the 1902 tower. In 1925, the lighthouse was demolished and replaced by a new tower, completed in 1926.
The new tower, as shown on the stamp, stands on a cast-iron caisson supported by a heavy block of concrete that lies within the breakwater. The 76-foot-high conical lighthouse is built of cast-iron plates and lined with bricks. The tower, owned by the Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation since 2004, displays a flashing white light every five seconds. It is visible up to 19 miles away and is an active aid to navigation.
Located in the Chesapeake Bay south of Annapolis, MD, Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse has withstood the elements since 1875. The hexagonal, one-and-a-half story, wood-frame cottage was built over a steel-frame deck mounted on a screw-pile foundation, which provides long iron rods with spirals at the ends that “screw” down many feet to anchor a foundation into soft, sandy soil.
Staffed until 1986, Thomas Point Shoal was the last lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay to be automated. It is owned by the city of Annapolis but is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard as an active aid to navigation.
Koslow has been among the most recognizable U.S. stamp designers for quite some time.
“Mr. Koslow had established a busy practice as a commercial artist, doing corporate reports, book covers and advertising illustrations, when, in the early 1970s, a fellow artist suggested that he try his hand at postage stamps,” said Koslow’s obituary in the New York Times.
The Times’ obituary bears repeating for those of us interested in stamp designers and their work:
“Koslow was born Sept. 21, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood. After graduating from James Madison High School, he studied advertising design at Pratt Institute and served an apprenticeship at the Manhattan studio of the French poster designer Jean Carlu. He spent a summer at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and studied graphics at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.
“His early stamps, produced by engraving, were executed in a linear style with a limited color palette. Later, using offset lithography, he was able to expand his color range and adopt a more naturalistic style, often working from photographs. While painting his designs, he looked through a reducing glass to see how his work would look when shrunk to about a sixth its actual size.”
The Times obituary quoted Daniel A. Piazza, chief curator of philately at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum: “He was a well-known designer, and very prolific, but it is not so much the number of stamps as the time span of more than 40 years, which is very unusual. The first series (of Lighthouse stamps), in 1990, was supposed to be a one-off, but the stamps were so popular that he ended up doing five (now six) more series.
“There is a real skill to making something readable at one inch square,” Piazza said. “Howard was very good at that.”
With the new release in August, it stretched to seven lighthouse sets in all. Koslow once acknowledged that the lighthouses were his most popular stamps.
Aside from his 35 lighthouses, Koslow created the artwork for at least another three dozen U.S. stamps, among them the 1972 Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center stamp; the Brooklyn Bridge stamp of 1983; eight of the 1940s Celebrate the Century stamps in 1999; four Jazz and Blues stamps from 1994; and the federal branches of government and Constitution stamps of 1989-90. His first stamp was the 8¢ Antarctic Treaty stamp of 1971, giving him more than 40 years of stamp creation.
The first day location has quite an interesting history. The Virtual Stamp Club (www.virtualstampclub.com) received online commentary from Jeff Tyler, president of the Twin Lights Historical Society, which was founded in 1955 and turned the unused lighthouses into a museum. Here are some excerpts from Tyler’s note about the lighthouses where the dedication ceremony was held:
“(The lighthouses) are not really ‘twins’ or identical. .... When the present station was commissioned on May 1, 1862, the south tower contained a first order Fresnel lens that gave ships a warning of their approach to land. The north tower was lit by a lens of the second order, an indication to vessels they were coming up on a headland along the seacoast and the approach to a bay.”
“The best way to fit our two lighthouse towers on one stamp was this classic image, which also includes the midsection of the building where lighthouse keepers lived and worked, and the powerhouse directly behind where the site generated its own electricity beginning in 1898. Today, the Fresnel lens that once sat upon the South Tower is proudly displayed in the powerhouse, where visitors can get an up-front and personal view of the lens that revolutionized navigation and maritime safety during the golden age of sea travel.
“The stamp indicates the location as Navesink, New Jersey. It was originally named Navesink Light Station by the federal government when first commissioned in 1841, as it was built upon the Navesink Highlands (also spelled Neversink in olden days), the geological land mass which overlooks Sandy Hook and features the highest elevation along the Atlantic coast between Maine and South America. Hence, the name Neversink! Interestingly, there is actually no town of Navesink in New Jersey. The Twin Lights, as they are simply referred to today, are located in the town of Highlands, New Jersey.”