Thursday, March 22, 2007

Department store mogul turned Postmaster General

John Wanamaker (1838-1922) was appointed Postmaster General under President Benjamin Harrison on March 5, 1889. He served in that position for four years.

It was during Wanamaker’s administration, the Post Office Department issued the first U.S. commemorative postage stamps. The 15-stamp series commemorating Columbus’s voyage were issued in time for the World Columbian Exposition of 1893.

According to the National Postal Museum,"The stamps were an immediate hit with the growing numbers of stamp collectors in the U.S. and abroad. Wanamaker faced Congressional criticism over the new program as a waste of funds, but collectors eagerly purchased and saved the stamps. Two billion Columbian stamps were sold for a total of $40 million and the commemorative stamp program is still going strong."

Prior to serving as Postmaster General, Wanamaker was a pioneer of the American department store and was founder of the famous Philadelphia department store that bore his name.

Shown above is a portrait of Wanamaker painted by Leopold Seyffert(1887-1956). Seyffert created the painting for the Post Office Department in 1919, a quarter century after Wanamaker left office.

For more on Wanamaker, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 PM