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General Ignorance

I went online today to buy stamps and was struck by the quantity of people I had never heard of, for whom commemorative stamps had been issued.

I've heard of Theodore Seuss Geisel, James Baldwin, Moss Hart, Robert Penn Warren, Lewis and Clark, Ronald Reagan, Henry Fonda, and the Pacific Coral Reef.

But who are these other characters, surely people any American should know. I'll see what I can glean from the stamp design before googling.

R. Buckminster Fuller. Looking at the stamp, I would guess that he built something. There's a fifties feel to the design. The wacky bus in the foreground. The guys in wide-legged pants looking up at him with wonder. Bucky Fuller is the idealist inventor of the geodesic dome. "On the verge of suicide, it suddenly struck him that his life belonged, not to himself, but to the universe. He chose at that moment to embark on what he called, 'an experiment to discover what the little, penniless, unknown individual might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity.'"

Arthur Ashe appears to be a tennis player. Not so surprising that I've never heard of him. "For Arthur Ashe, tennis was a means to an end."

Yip harburg. Looking at the stamp, I guess he's the guy who wrote the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," from the movie The Wizard of Oz. His real name was Edgar.

Martin Johnson Heade. Painter of flower arrangements?

Marian Anderson. Black Heritage. Nice jewelry. I have no clue. She is a singer.

You know what? I don't really know who Robert Penn Warren is. People are standing behind him with signs. Political activist? Politician? Poet, novelist, political activist. Read a couple of his poems.

"So hangs the hour like fruit fullblown and sweet,
Our strict and desperate avatar,
Despite that antique westward gulls lament
Over enormous waters which retreat
Weary unto the white and sensual star."


  1. Erik said...
    I don't know who Moss Hart is. Hm. Dramatist and director. My Fair Lady.
    tracy said...
    Did you know many of the ones I didn't know?
    Kai Carver said...
    The two that cracked me up were Buckminster Fuller and Arthur Ashe. Cracked me up as in, "You're kidding, right?". Not in a bad way though. Ignorance can be lovely.
    I actually saw Buckminster Fuller speak ages ago. He was very old. He was/is a revered figure in engineering/scientific/architecture/geek circles. I think of him every time I see la Géode. To me he's almost as famous as Einstein. (That's a pretty goofy stamp, by the way). Also: "Fullerenes [or buckyballs] are one of only four types of naturally occurring forms of carbon (the other three being diamond, graphite and ceraphite)."
    And Arthur Ashe, well, I guess it may be a generational thing, in addition to a sports thing. He was the first black tennis player, or the first to win big or something. Good-looking, charming trailblazer. Cool sunglasses. Yannick Noah was sort of a French knock-off of him. You've heard of Yannick Noah, right?
    tracy said...
    I have heard of Yannick Noah. Buckmister fuller I've surely heard of without ever retaining the name. But Arthur Ashe? Absolutely nothing.
    Erik said...
    My lacunae: Yip Harburg, and the women.
    Anita said...
    Sigh. I knew everybody except Martin Johnson Heade, which is a sign of the type of knowledge I have (Whole-Earth-Catalogue vintage and dilettantish). I used to enjoy reading Moss Hart comedies in a three-volume high-school English (well, American) textbook we had when I was a kid. I think he also wrote "The Philadelphia Story." Not to be confused with Hart Crane. It's almost like Marabout, bout de ficelle, selle de cheval, cheval de course, course à pied...

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