32¢ Portrait of Richard Mather
Four Centuries of American Art
Issue Date: August 27, 1998
City: Santa Clara, CA
Printed By: Sennett Security Products
Printing Method: Photogravure
Taken from a woodcut print by John Foster created about 1670, Portrait of Richard Mather is the oldest work included in this series of stamps. Little is known about the artist, but the subject was a well-known intellectual and religious leader of his time.
Richard Mather was born in 1596 in Lowton, England. At age 15, he entered the ministry. He studied at Brasenose College, Oxford, until 1618 when he left to become minister of a small town in England. As a devout Puritan, Mather rejected the formalities retained by the Church of England. He preached for 15 years without a surplice, the loose-fitting white religious gown worn by clergymen of the time. Church representatives discovered this, and suspended Mather. He was reinstated, but returned to his dissenting ways and was tried before a court. He admitted his beliefs, and was silenced by the English religious authorities.
Mather decided to travel to America, where he would be free to preach according to his own beliefs. In 1635, Mather, his wife, and his four sons set out for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. There he helped establish the Congregational Church in America and became a minister in Dorchester. His wife later gave birth to two more sons. Of his six sons, four became ministers.