Stamp celebrates Perry victory


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During the Battle of Lake Erie, Oliver Hazard Perry left his ruined flagship, the Lawrence, got in a small boat and took command of the brig Niagara, and went on to defeat the British fleet.

On Tuesday, the bicentennial of the battle that helped America regain control of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, the U.S. Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp of that scene, which was painted by Ohio artist William Henry Powell.

"This is the second in the series of the War of 1812 commemorative stamps," said Tad Kelley, a spokesman for the Western Pennsylvania District of the U.S. Postal Service.

Largely forgotten by Americans, Mr. Kelley said, the War of 1812 "was the second war of independence."

The U.S. declared War in 1812 partly because of British trade restrictions. Britain also was taking American sailors and forcing them to crew on Royal Navy ships. Britain also supported American Indian tribes as they fought to block westward expansion of white settlers.

The first War of 1812 commemorative stamp, issued last year, showed the U.S.S. Constitution, known as "Old Ironsides." The three-masted frigate won a significant battle in August of 1812, defeating five British ships. That stamp is still available.

A third stamp will come out in 2015, but Mr. Kelley said he does not know what image will be used.

These commemorative stamps are sold in a set of 20 "forever" stamps and will be available at U.S. Post offices as well as online at www.usps.com.

"On the back is a really nice write-up of the battle," Mr. Kelley said.

A stamp advisory committee, whose members are appointed by the postmaster general, meet once a year in Washington, D.C., to choose artwork for commemorative stamps that are issued the following year.

People who serve on the committee, Mr. Kelley said, include artists, lawyers and captains of industry.

For example, the late actor Karl Malden, famed for his role on television's "The Streets of San Francisco," served on the stamp committee.

Committee members, Mr. Kelley said, "look at thousands of images that are suggested by historic agencies," adding that on average, the committee selects art works each year for commemorative stamps.

Mr. Powell's painting of the Battle of Lake Erie was commissioned by Congress in 1865. After it was finished, it hung in the east stairway of the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol.

"It may still be there or over at the Smithsonian," Mr. Kelley said.

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Marylynne Pitz: mpitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1648.


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