1925 Lexington-Concord Issue
First Day of Issue: April 4, 1925
First City: Washington, D.C.; Concord, MA; Concord Junction, MA; Boston, MA; Cambridge, MA; Lexington, MA
Printing Method: Flat Plate
The Lexington-Concord Issue of 1925 was the first set of U.S. postage stamps to honor the War of Independence. These stamps were issued during the 150th anniversary of the war.
1¢ Washington at Cambridge
U.S. #617 pictures General George Washington leading colonial forces at Cambridge Common on July 2, 1775. This was two-and-a-half months after the battles at Lexington and Concord. A driving factor for this scene’s inclusion in the set was due to the famed “Washington Elm.” According to legend, Washington stood under the elm tree as he took command of the Continental Army.
Over the years, the tree was badly damaged and was accidentally knocked over during repair attempts in 1923.
The historical accuracy of the scene pictured on this stamp is debated by Revolutionary War scholars. Some protest that the army would have been too busy and not properly trained to assemble in the way shown. Whether the story is true or not, a plaque stands where the tree once did, according to the Cambridge Historical Commission, “not because Washington ever stood there, but as a monument to a belief.”
2¢ Birth of Liberty
The image for this stamp (#618) was based on Henry Sandham’s 1885 painting, “The Dawn of Liberty.” Painted more than 100 years after the actual revolutionary war battle, it pictures an idealized version of the event, rather than an accurate account. In reality, the two officers pictured – Major John Pitcairn on the far right and Captain Jonas Parker in the foreground with his arm raised – focused on preventing their men from firing, rather than encouraging them to shoot. Some historians question whether any of the Lexington men fired at all, as only one British soldier was wounded while 10 Lexington men were killed and eight wounded.
The scene on this stamp serves as a symbol of the Colonists taking a stand for their rights and their commitment to the war for independence.
5¢ The Minuteman
The earliest plans for the Lexington-Concord Issue included stamp designs featuring the Minuteman statues in the two towns where those battles were fought. While the Lexington statue honored local hero Captain John Parker, the Concord statue stood as a symbol of the universal American farmer, “ready to defend liberty on a moment’s notice.”
In the end, the Concord statue was selected for this 5¢ stamp. On either side of the statue are tablets with lines from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 poem, Concord Hymn. At the time of its issue, this was the wordiest U.S. stamp and was the first to include lines of poetry.
Daniel Chester French created the sculpture for the 100th anniversary of the battles. The statue was French’s first commission and established his career as a leading sculptor of public monuments.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord
The battles that took place at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, were the first military encounters between Great Britain and the 13 colonies of British North America.
One reason for the battles was the secret order given to British Army forces to find and destroy military supplies held by the Massachusetts militia at Concord. Colonial Patriots received word of the impending theft and moved most of their supplies.
The first shots of the battle rang through the air as the sun rose over Lexington. The Colonial militia was outnumbered by more than 300 and fell back. In the meantime, the British forces moved on to Concord to search for supplies. As the British reached Concord’s North Bridge, about 500 militiamen met them. This time the British were outnumbered and defeated, then forced to retreat. In all, 49 Patriot lives were lost versus 73 British.