Over the years, Iowa has produced a lot of very fine people. Regular, down-to-earth kind of folks who go on to make a pretty big name for themselves. The complete list is too long, of course, to offer – but we can share those unique women and men with strong Iowa roots, individuals the USPS have honored with commemorative postage stamps over the years. So here goes…
Once a high school art teacher at McKinley in Cedar Rapids, Grant Wood is recognized as one of the most important representatives of the artistic style of regionalism, which flourished in America in the 1930s. The majority of Wood’s paintings focused on the people and rural countryside typically seen in Iowa. (S-0054) (C-0188) (C-0186) (S-0049) (C-0165) Click here to read more about Iowa’s iconic artist: Grant Wood.
Growing up in Charles City as a farmer’s daughter, very few people expected Carrie C. Catt to be a world-changer. But over her 88 years, this ISU graduate became one of the key leaders of the American women’s suffrage movement. Her superb oratory and organizational skills led to ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote in August, 1920. Below – (S-0072) (S-0073) 1970 – 50th Anniversary of Woman Suffrage and 1998 19th Amendment – Celebrate the Century Series. Click here to read more about Iowa’s Champion for Women’s Rights: Carrie C. Catt.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943) was an agricultural scientist and inventor who developed hundreds of products using peanuts, sweet potatoes and soybeans. Born into slavery a year before it was outlawed, Carver left home at a young age to pursue education and continued that training in Iowa – Simpson College in Indianola (1890-1891), agricultural science (Iowa State University -1894) and was the first black faculty member at ISU (1894-1896) earning a master’s degree. He would go on to teach and conduct research at Tuskegee University (1896-1943). Below – (C-0191) (S-0055) (C-0192) Click here to read more about George Washington Carver.
(C-0193) (S-0056) William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody was an American soldier, a bison hunter, and showman. He was born on February 26, 1846, on a farm outside Le Claire, Iowa, but lived for several years in his father’s hometown of Toronto, Canada before the family returned to the Midwest, settling in the Kansas Territory. Cody started working at the age of eleven, after his father’s death, and became a rider for the Pony Express at age 15. During the Civil War, he served the Union from 1863 to the end of the war in 1865. Later he served as a civilian scout for the US Army during the Indian Wars, receiving the Medal of Honor in 1872.
(S-0060) Born in Winterset, Iowa on May 26, 1907, John Wayne was a leading Hollywood star for nearly half a century. Born Marion Robert Morrison, Wayne’s first starring role was in the 1930 film The Big Trail, Hollywood’s first epic Western sound motion picture. Nine years later, Wayne became a major star with the film Stagecoach. Wayne played the male lead role in 142 of 153 films, setting an industry record. As Hollywood’s most outspoken conservative Republican, Wayne was asked to run for President in 1968. He declined because he didn’t believe an actor could be elected to the highest office. Wayne was awarded an Academy Award for his role in the 1968 hit True Grit. President Jimmy Carter awarded the legendary actor the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980. This John Wayne stamp is the tenth issue of the Legends of Hollywood Series.
(L-0026) Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th president of the United States (1981-1989), became a highly influential voice of modern conservatism. Prior to his presidency, he was a Hollywood actor and union leader before serving as the 33rd governor of California (1967-1975). Reagan was a Midwesterner at heart, born in central Illinois (Tampico) on Feb. 6, 1911, Reagan graduated from Eureka College in 1932, when jobs were tight because of the Depression. Luck was with Reagan when he landed a broadcasting job at Davenport’s radio station WOC, which needed an announcer to broadcast University of Iowa football games. Reagan’s first assignment – for $5 and bus fare – was the Hawkeye’s Homecoming game in Iowa City against Minnesota (1932).
In the spring of 1933, partly because he had covered the Drake Relays so skillfully, Reagan was chosen to become chief sports announcer for WOC’s sister station, WHO in Des Moines. “Dutch” (a childhood nickname because of his “Dutch boy” haircut) gained national media exposure covering Iowa Football and recreating Chicago Cubs baseball games from the WHO studio in Des Moines via telegraph. During one game between the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, with the score tied 0-0 in the 9th inning, the telegraph went dead. Reagan smoothly improvised a fictional play-by-play (in which hitters on both teams gained a superhuman ability to foul off pitches) until the wire was restored!
The 1999 Broadway Songwriters Stamp Series featured some of Broadway’s biggest names: George & Ira Gershwin, Alan Lerner & Frederick Loewe, Lorenz Hart, Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, and of course… Meredith Willson.
(S-0071) No collection of famous Iowans featured on U.S. postage stamps could ever be complete without Mason City’s very own – Meredith Willson. Composer/arranger/musician and author, Meredith’s biggest hit was his 1957 Broadway musical based on his growing up in small-town Iowa – The Music Man. Read the full story here and visit our entire set of blogs surrounding Willson’s many talents.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.