This Day in History… May 23, 1895

Founding of the New York Public Library 

US #3447 – The library’s two lion statues are named Patience and Fortitude.

On May 23, 1895, the New York Public Library was established. Exactly 16 years later, on May 23, 1911, the main branch of the library opened its doors to the public.

At the suggestion of friend and librarian Joseph Cogswell, businessman John Jacob Astor included a donation of $400,000 in his will to be used to start a public library. After his death in 1848, a board of trustees founded the Astor Library, which opened in the East Village of New York City in 1854.

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This Day in History… May 22, 1978

First Alphabet Rate Change Stamp 

US #1735 – The first A-rate stamp.

On May 22, 1978, the US issued its first in a long series of Alphabet rate change stamps.

In the years prior, other stamps had been issued non-denominated for impending rate changes. Because postage rates for late 1975 were uncertain, both of the Christmas stamps that year (#1579 and #1580) were issued without denominations. These were the first non-denominated US stamps.

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This Day in History… May 21, 1966

Opening of SIPEX

US #1310 was issued on the opening day of SIPEX.

On May 21, 1966, the Sixth International Philatelic Exhibition opened in Washington, DC.

All five previous US international philatelic exhibitions had been held in New York City. Initially, SIPEX was also to be held there, but disagreement among the show’s planners nearly canceled the event.

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This Day in History… May 20, 1939

Trans-Atlantic Airmail Service

US #C24 was issued four days earlier specifically for this flight.

On May 20, 1939, the US Post Office inaugurated its official trans-Atlantic airmail service to Europe.

The flight wasn’t the first to carry mail from the US to Europe. As early as 1919, individual pilots had carried mail across the Atlantic. And in the early 1930s, German and French airlines started airmail service across the South Atlantic between West Africa and Brazil.

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This Day in History… May 19, 1883

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West 

US #2177 from the Great Americans series.

On May 19, 1883, the first Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show opened in Omaha, Nebraska.

A fascination with the untamed West had already existed for years. Horse shows and exotic animal displays were popular since the 18th century and medicine shows hired frontiersmen and Native Americans to help sell their tonics and “natural” medicines.

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This Day in History… May 18, 1863

Siege of Vicksburg

US #4787 pictures an 1863 Currier and Ives lithograph titled Admiral Porter’s Fleet Running the Rebel Blockade of the Mississippi at Vicksburg.

On May 18, 1863, the key Siege of Vicksburg Began.

Vicksburg, Mississippi, was called the “Gibraltar of the West” because cannons mounted on the bluffs kept enemy ships from passing by on the Mississippi River while narrow ridges and deep ravines protected the city from a land attack. North and South both knew the importance of controlling the key position.

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