15¢ Oliver Wendell Holmes
Prominent Americans Series
Issue Date: March 8, 1968
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Prominent Americans Series
The Prominent Americans Series recognizes people who played important roles in U.S. history. Officials originally planned to honor 18 individuals, but later added seven others. The Prominent Americans Series began with the 4¢ Lincoln stamp, which was issued on November 10, 1965. During the course of the series, the 6¢ Eisenhower stamp was reissued with an 8¢ denomination and the 5¢ Washington was redrawn.
A number of technological changes developed during the course of producing the series, resulting in a number of varieties due to gum, luminescence, precancels and perforations plus sheet, coil and booklet formats. Additionally, seven rate changes occurred while the Prominent Americans Series was current, giving collectors who specialize in first and last day of issue covers an abundance of collecting opportunities.
Issued in 1968, the 15¢ stamp features Oliver W. Holmes as its subject. Ten years later, this stamp was also issued in coil format (U.S. #1305E).
One of the best known American judges, Oliver Wendell Holmes served as a member of the Supreme Court for 30 years. Known as the "Great Dissenter," he insisted laws be viewed in light of a changing society, rather than as old formulas to be adhered to.
In 1881, Holmes wrote, "The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience...the law embodies the story of a nation's development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics."
Founding Of ASCAP
On February 13, 1914, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) was founded in New York City.
For many years, composers and publishers made most of their money from sheet music sales, particularly for personal use. However, by the start of the 20th century, sheet music was being purchased for performances in nightclubs. The clubs made huge profits while the publishers only received payment for the cost of the printed musical scores.
A major change came in 1909 with the passage of a new copyright law that granted artists the rights to how their work was used, similar to how patents provided protection to inventors. This new law also applied to the public performances of musical works.
A few years later, composer Victor Herbert was passing through a hotel when he heard one of his songs being played. He hadn’t been paid for his music to be used there, a direct violation of the 1909 copyright law. Herbert was then inspired to form his own organization to combat the illegal use of creative works.
In October 1913, Herbert and eight other people met to discuss such an organization. And on February 13, 1914, they held their first official meeting. Initially, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers had about 100 members, including Irving Berlin, James Weldon Johnson, Jerome Kern, and John Philip Sousa.
In their effort to enforce the copyright law, ASCAP collected all their members’ works in a catalog and hired a staff to oversee their public performances. Anyone that wanted to use this music had to license the entire catalog, not just a single song.
Initially, ASCAP met stiff resistance. Restaurants and nightclubs had been using this music for free for some time and didn’t want to start paying. They threatened to halt music performances, which led some to panic. However, ASCAP won a series of important court cases supporting their rights. In the 1917 case of Herbert v. Shanley, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes stated that “If music did not pay, it would be given up. Whether it pays or not, the purpose of employing it is profit and that is enough.”
Eventually, these businesses got on board and were paying $8.23 a week to license ASCAPs catalog. ASCAP would go on to face similar resistance from the film and radio industries but eventually won those battles as well. Today ASCAP has over 625,000 members with more than 10 million registered works.
Click here to visit the official ASCAP website.