$1 Bernard Revel
Great Americans Series
Issue Date: September 23, 1986
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Engraved
Color: Dark Prussian green
Issued between 1980 and 1999, the Great Americans definitive series features 63 designs, making it the larges set of face different Regular Issue stamps issued in the 20th century. One stamp honors a couple (Lila and Dewitt Wallace) while the remaining 62 commemorate individuals.
The series is characterized by a standard definitive size, simple design and monochromatic colors. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced most of the stamps, but some were printed by private firms. Several stamps saw multiple printings. The result is many different varieties, with tagging being the key to understanding them.
The Story of the Engraver’s Secret (and Forbidden) Mark...
In 1986, a Bureau of Engraving and Printing master engraver defied postal regulations covering the creation of US stamps. While engraving the artwork for the 1986 $1 Bernard Revel stamp, he added a secret mark. Although secret marks are permitted by some countries, it’s against US postal regulations to etch signatures or other unauthorized marks into a stamp die. The mark went undetected by BEP officials until an anonymous phone call tipped them off after the stamps were printed and many sold.
The mark added by the engraver was a small Star of David, nearly invisible without a magnifying glass. This secret mark is located, as you look at the stamp, on the right side of Revel’s mouth, near where his beard and moustache meet.
The Bernard Revel stamp was issued on the 100th anniversary of New York City’s Yeshiva University. Revel, a long-time Hebrew educator, was the university’s first president.
Birth Of Bernard Revel
Rabbi and scholar Bernard Revel was born on September 17, 1885, in Prienai, Russia (present-day Lithuania).
Revel first studied under his father, who was also a rabbi. After his father’s death in 1896, Revel studied under other local rabbi’s and graduated from high school through independent study. Revel participated in the Russian revolutionary movement and was arrested and imprisoned following the revolution of 1905.
After he was released in 1906, Revel moved to the United States. He attended Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and earned a Master of Arts degree from New York University in 1909. Revel then met Rabbi Bernard Levinthal, one of the leading rabbis in America, who invited him to come to Philadelphia to serve as his secretary and assistant.
While in Philadelphia, Revel briefly attended law school but realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do. He went on to earn a doctorate of philosophy from Dropsie College.
Revel got married in 1908 and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to join his wife’s family business in the oil industry. He built a sizable fortune there and continued his study of the Torah.
In 1915, Revel was invited to move back East to serve as the first president of Yeshiva College. Under his leadership, the school (which had been created by merging two existing schools) combined a liberal arts program with Jewish studies and established a graduate school to train rabbinical leaders.
Revel was well respected among his students. In addition to his duties, he continued his own studies. He was largely concerned with finding ways to continue traditional observances in the modern world. He also wanted to establish a growing educational system that helped his students feel accepted in the world. To honor Revel’s role in the school’s history, their graduate school was named after him.
Outside of the school, Revel was also a member of the Union Orthodox Rabbis and was appointed its honorary president. He published articles in several Hebrew periodicals and was an associate editor of Otzar Yisrael, ad Hebrew Encyclopedia. He also became the first vice president of the Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1935. Revel died on December 2, 1940, in New York.
About the Bernard Revel Stamp…
If you look closely at Dr. Revel’s beard you may be able to see this stamp’s secret mark – the Star of David. Placed there by the engraver, this practice is prohibited by the US Postal Service.