U.S. Stamp for War of 1812 Centennial Depicts USS Constitution

In honor of the centennial of the War of 1812, the United States Postal Service (USPS) issued a stamp depicting the frigate USS Constitution, popularly known as Old Ironsides. The stamp is the first in a series to commemorate the centennial of the war. It is denominated "Forever," indicating that it can always be used to pay the first class rate for mail up to one ounce. The first day of issue was August 18, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Greg Breeding designed the stamp based on a painting by Michele Felice Cornè, an Italian painter who came to Salem Massachusetts in 1800 when he was 48 years old. He moved to Boston in 1807 and is best known for his paintings of ships and battles of the War of 1812.

The USS Constitution, built in Boston and launched October 21, 1797, is world's oldest commissioned warship still afloat. One of six ships designed by naval architect Joshua Humphries, it cost $302,700, a princely sum in those days, and used 2,000 trees. Paul Revere made the copper fixtures used to hold the cannons in place.

Although she was used to fight the Barbary pirates in the Barbary Wars of 1801-1805, the USS Constitution's real fame came in the War of 1812. Rallying to the cry of "Free Trade and Sailors' Rights," The United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. Britain had been interfering with American trade with Europe, stopping merchant ships, kidnapping American sailors, and impressing them into the Royal Navy. There was also widespread belief among frontier settlers that Britain was arming Native Americans and encouraging them to attack the settlers.

Shortly after the start of the war, on August 19, 1812 off the coast of Nova Scotia, The USS Constitution battled the HMS Guerriere. During the 35 minute battle the Constitution's 24 lb. shots brought down the Guerriere's masts and so damaged the ship that there was nothing to do but take the wounded off and set her ablaze. In contrast, the 18 lb. cannon shots the Guerriere fired on the Constitution bounced off her sides. A sailor seeing this marvel cried, "Huzza! Her sides are made of iron." And so, her nickname Old Ironsides was born.

Painting of the battle between HMS Guerriere and the USS Constitution by Michele Felice Cornè, the same artist whose painting of the Constitution adorns the stamp.

Winning the War of 1812 bolstered the national pride of the young nation. The Star Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key in joyful response to the success at the battle of Fort McHenry, and Old Ironsides became a symbol of Naval strength. So when the United States Navy considered scrapping the USS Constitution because she was no longer sea worthy, the idea was met with great objection.

In response to the news, Oliver Wendell Homes wrote the poem Old Ironsides which was published in the Advertiser on September 16, 1830. (You can read Old Ironsides at the Poetry Foundation website.) The poem so touched the hearts of the American people that the ship was saved. Today it is located in Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, MA. Visitors can tour the ship with active duty Navy Sailors as guides. They can also visit the USS Constitution museum, which is also located in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

Other Articles

Norway Celebrates 100 Years of Aviation
To mark the occasion of the centennial of Norwegian aviation, Norway Post issued a three stamp set on May 18, 2012. The stamps picture various aircraft that have figured in the country's aviation history.

Grace Hopper, Josephine Cochrane and Stefania Maracineanu Featured on Romanian Stamp Set
On April 27, 2003, Romania's stamp issuing agent Romfilatelia released a set of three stamps entitled Women and Inventics in celebration of World Intellectual Property Day. Designed by Razvan Popescu the four-color stamps feature three femle pioneers in the fields of science, technology and mathematics: Stefania Maracineanu, Josephine Cochrane, and Grace Murray Hopper.

The Grinnell Missionaries - Stamp Collecting's Greatest Controversy
First seen in 1919 when high school teacher and stamp collector George Grinnell claimed to have discovered dozens of rare early Hawaiian stamps, the Grinnell Missionaries have become perhaps the longest running controversy in stamp collecting. To this day experts and collectors alike still debate whether they are clever forgeries or the find of a lifetime.

French Art Stamp Features American Painter Edward Hopper
Famous Edward Hopper painting Morning Sun is part of La Poste's long running Musee Imaginaire art stamp series.

Louis Braille Featured on Belarus Stamp
Issued on January 4, 2009, this stamp issue from the Republic of Belarus celebrates Louis Braille. Having lost his sight at the age of 3, Braille went on to invent a writing system based on raised dots that brought reading to blind and vision-impaired people around the world.

Károly Ferenczy - The Father of Hungarian Impressionism
Known as the father of Hungarian impressionism, Károly Ferenczy was a leading member of the artist colony of Nagybánya in Transylvania. This 2012 stamp issue shows his painting Morning Sunshine.

Tarzan Stamp a Tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs' Legacy
Tarzan of the Apes is featured on this 2012 US commemorative stamp honoring author Edgar Rice Burroughs. For Burroughs fans, the stamp was a long time coming. The stamp, associated cancels, first day covers, and other philatelic products, join a great heritage of Tarzan collectibles.