Painting in U.S. Senate Collection Featured on New War of 1812 Stamp

The recently issued Battle of Lake Erie stamp commemorates one of the most important engagements of the War of 1812. This battle, fought 200 years ago on September 10, 1813, is considered a turning point of the war. For the stamp art, art director Greg Breeding chose to reproduce William Henry Powell’s famous painting, Battle of Lake Erie.

BattleLakeErie-Forever-single-v4The oil-on-canvas painting was commissioned by Congress in 1865 and completed in 1873. It depicts the heroic action of Master Commandant Oliver H. Perry and a portion of his crew as they rowed a small boat through a hail of gunfire from Perry’s ruined flagship, the Lawrence, to the Niagara. After taking command of the Niagara, Perry was able to save the day by pursuing four of the largest British ships and forcing them to surrender.

Powell’s nearly 17- by 27-foot painting looms large in the east stairway of the Senate wing in the U.S. Capitol and is part of the U.S. Senate Collection.

It was not Powell’s first painting of the Battle of Lake Erie. In 1847, the Ohio artist had received a commission from Congress to paint Discovery of the Mississippi by De Soto for the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. This prestigious assignment led to another one, when his home state commissioned him to portray the Battle of Lake Erie. The completed work, Perry’s Victory on Lake Erie, was displayed in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus in 1865. In March of that year Congress commissioned Powell to execute a similar painting for the U.S. Capitol.

FDC Full Sheet

This 9.5 x 8-inch envelope bears an affixed sheet of 20 Battle of Lake Erie Forever® stamps cancelled with official First Day of Issue black pictorial and standard postmarks. Click the image for details.

As did many artists portraying key historical events, Powell took certain liberties with the facts. He chose, for instance, to portray the Stars and Stripes flying from the bow of the small boat that ferried Perry to the Niagara. In actuality, Perry carried with him his private flag, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” in honor of his good friend Captain James Lawrence, who had uttered them only a few months earlier as he lay mortally wounded in a naval battle with the British.

Powell also made the questionable additions of an African American and of Perry’s young brother, Alexander, to the crew of the small boat. Alexander is shown anxiously tugging at Perry’s coat, evidently urging him to sit down to avoid being struck by gunfire. (This information comes from the Web site of the Office of the Senate Curator.)

Despite these licenses, Powell’s painting is widely admired and has been reproduced in numerous books and articles about the War of 1812. Its beauty and power, even at stamp size, remains undiminished.

The Battle of Lake Erie stamp is available now at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and at Post Offices around the country.

Learn More About the Battle of Lake Erie

DCP Keepsake

This handsome collectible set includes a sheet of 20 Battle of Lake Erie Forever® stamps and a stamped envelope bearing a First Day of Issue color postmark. Click the image for details.

Thank you to everyone who attended yesterday’s dedication of the Battle of Lake Erie Forever® stamp at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. What a turnout! We are very proud to have taken part in commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie.

The biggest commemorative event was a spectacular naval reenactment of the battle.  On Labor Day, September 2, fifteen tall ships came from several ports and gathered at the original battle site about 8 miles from Put-in-Bay. More than 550 reenactors in period garb manned the vessels, along with the permanent crews. The most prominent vessel was the Niagara, a reconstruction of the brig Oliver H. Perry commanded during the battle. The U.S. Coast Guard enforced a 500-yard safety zone as cannons fired away during the reenactment. Other celebratory events, including a Grand Parade, took place from September 7 through September 10.

Want to learn more about the Battle of Lake Erie? Here are some places to start:

Put-in-Bay, Ohio. The Battle of Lake Erie was fought near this island, now the site of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. The memorial is a Doric column that rises 352 feet over Lake Erie. It was constructed in 1913 to honor those who fought in the battle and to celebrate peace between Britain, Canada, and the United States. The memorial is now part of the National Park Service.

“Perry’s Victory: The Battle of Lake Erie.” The Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio, has put together an exhibition of paintings, prints, letters, and artifacts from and about the battle and the war. The museum is also hosting educational presentations and fun music performances, but you better hurry. The exhibition closes November 10.

Erie, Pennsylvania. Perry built his fleet here at Presque Isle Bay. The city of Erie is also home to an actively sailing replica of the Niagara, the ship Perry used to defeat the British. The reconstructed Niagara, launched in 1988 on the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, sails the Great Lakes, preserves and interprets the story of the Battle of Lake Erie, and serves as a sailing school vessel. Erie is also home to the Erie Maritime Museum, which tells the story of the Battle of Lake Erie through historical artifacts, interactive exhibits, and videos.

“Seas, Lakes & Bay: The Naval War of 1812.” This exhibit at Mahan Hall, U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland, runs until November 3, 2013. It tells the story of the war through art, artifacts, and ship models from the collections of Mr. William I. Koch and the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

The U.S. Postal Service began its commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a war that ultimately helped forge our national identity and gave us our national anthem, with the release of the USS Constitution Forever® stamp in 2012. Both War of 1812 stamps are available now at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and at Post Offices nationwide.

Battle of Lake Erie Stamp Commemorates Great Victory

Two hundred years ago today, the American victory at the Battle of Lake Erie helped the U.S. take back territory lost to British forces in the opening months of the War of 1812. We are commemorating that momentous event with the release of the Battle of Lake Erie Forever® stamp.

BattleLakeErie-Forever-single-v4The stamp features a painting of the battle completed in 1873 by William Henry Powell. It depicts Oliver Hazard Perry in the small boat he used to transfer from his ruined flagship, the Lawrence, to the Niagara.

“The Postal Service’s commemorative stamp program honors America’s history, heritage and heroes to bring both historical and contemporary subjects to life,” said Eastern Area Vice President Joshua Colin.

The Battle of Lake Erie Forever® stamp is available now at usps.com/stamps, by calling 800-STAMP24 (800-782-6724), and at Post Offices around the country.

Second War of 1812 Stamp Available Tuesday

Tomorrow, September 10, marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, a pivotal battle in the War of 1812 that produced American naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry. We’re commemorating the event with BattleLakeErie-Forever-single-v4a new Forever® stamp, which will be issued tomorrow at Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

The Battle of Lake Erie stamp commemorates one of the most important engagements of the War of 1812. If the British had gained control of the Great Lakes, they could have moved men and materials from Canada into the United States, to devastating effect.

Here are some other key facts to know about the battle:

  • Its hero, Oliver Hazard Perry, was only 27 years old when he was assigned the task of building a fleet at Presque Isle Bay, off the coast of Erie, Pennsylvania. Perry had to procure material from as far away as Washington, D.C., to fill out the fleet, which included the two 500-ton ships, Lawrence and Niagara.
  • For most of the battle the Lawrence, Perry’s flagship, fought the two largest British vessels, Detroit and Queen Charlotte, unaided.
  • In the fierce exchange of fire, Perry was one of the few unwounded American survivors. Rather than strike his colors—the signal for surrender—he and several sailors boarded a small boat and managed to make their way to the Niagara and then pursue the British vessels.
  • The battle gave us two familiar sayings, “Don’t give up the ship” and “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” The first were the words Perry had emblazoned on his private flag in honor of his good friend Captain James Lawrence, who had uttered them only a few months earlier as he lay mortally wounded in a naval battle with the British. The second came from Perry’s succinct after-action report to General William Henry Harrison.

The American victory at the Battle of Lake Erie allowed the United States to take back territory lost to British forces earlier in the war. Also, less than a month after Perry’s triumph, Harrison was able to pursue retreating British forces into Upper Canada and win the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813.

Will you be in the Put-in-Bay area tomorrow? The stamp dedication ceremony is free and open to the public. Here’s your official invitation:

FDOI InviteCommemorative War of 1812 events are scheduled all day. We hope to see you there!

USPS Commemoration of War of 1812 Continues in 2013

This year we are proud to continue our commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 with a stamp on the Battle of Lake Erie. This critical battle produced an American naval hero, Oliver Hazard Perry, and gave us the famous line, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”

For the stamp art, we’ve selected William Henry Powell’s famous painting, Battle of Lake Erie. The oil-on-canvas painting, completed in 1873, was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and placed at the head of the east stairway in the Senate wing of the Capitol. It depicts Oliver Hazard Perry in the small boat he used to transfer from his ruined flagship, the Lawrence, to the Niagara.

BattleLakeErie-Forever-single-v4

Courtesy U.S. Senate Collection.

The War of 1812: Battle of Lake Erie stamp will be issued in September as a Forever® stamp in sheets of 20 self-adhesive stamps. (Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.)