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Greek Post Office Issues Stamps Honoring Great Philhellenes

Samuel Gridley Howe
Samuel Gridley Howe, one of the greatest philhellenes who fought in Greece’s War of Independence, is being honored along with other philhellenes in a new series of postage stamps in Greece. Credit: Facebook/Greek Consulate, Boston

In recognition of the bicentennial of the Greek War of Independence, the Greek Post Office is issuing a series of stamps featuring great philhellenes, including Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of Boston.

One year ago, the Hellenic Post Office, as it looked forward to the bicentennial, began to design a special series of stamps spotlighting the greatest philhellenes who participated in the struggle of the Greek revolutionaries.

The Hellenic Post’s Board of Directors accepted the proposal of the Consul General of Greece in Boston, Stratos Efthymiou, to include an American physician from Boston in the pantheon of great philhellenes. This was none other than Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe (1801-1876) who, after graduating from Brown and Harvard Universities as a physician, came to Greece to fight alongside the rebelling Greeks.

Howe organized camps, coordinated humanitarian aid, and provided assistance and education to children who had been orphaned during the Revolution. He personally fought for the Greek cause and served as the first surgeon general of the Greek Navy; perhaps most crucially of all, however, he wrote long letters home which ramped up American support for Greece during the War.

Stamps honoring great philhellenes issued as part of bicentennial celebrations

His contributions to mankind, however, extended even further. Howe later became a notable figure in the movement to abolish slavery in the United States, aided national liberation movements in Europe and Latin America, and pioneered the education of blind children worldwide as the founder of the renowned Perkins School for the Blind, which still exists today.

Greece’s recognition of this great American philhellene through the Hellenic Post’s issuance of a stamp became a reality thanks to the kind assistance of Polychronis Griveas, an active member of the Greek community of Boston.

The entire commemorative set of stamps, entitled “Greece 1821-2021, Philhellenes”, stamps depict five of the best-known philhellenes, whose iconic reputation rests on their contribution to the struggle for freedom and the international impact of their work.

In this way, the Greek Post Office honors the Philhellenism movement that emerged during the 1821 Greek War of Independence and became an important chapter in world history.

Philhellenes Pushkin, Delacroix, Krazeisen, Shelley also honored by Greece

Another notable philhellene honored on the new stamps is Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837). The iconic Russian poet and writer followed the progress of the war of independence, keeping a diary and composing poems praising the struggle of the Greeks.

The French painter Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863), who was one of the pioneers of French Romanticism, also has his likeness on a new Greek postage stamp. His works “The Massacre at Chios” (1824) and “Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi” (1826) are among the most iconic works of art depicting the Greek Revolution.

Through his paintings, people around the world discovered a Greece that was suffering while fighting for its freedom, a nation that deserved not only moral but material support as well. He was a source of inspiration for dozens of other European artists and his passion helped fuel the Philhellenic movement.

The great English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), is also honored in the commemorative stamp series. In the preface to his lyric poem “Hellas” (1822), he states: “We are all Greeks. Our laws, our literature, our religion, our arts, have their root in Greece.” It was Shelley who convinced Lord Byron — who eventually died in Greece during the War — to go and fight alongside the Greeks.

Karl Krazeisen (1794-1878), a German soldier, volunteer and painter, also has his image on the new stamps. Krazeisen, who came to Greece in 1826, also fought on the Greek side, later painting a series of portraits in which the leading figures of the Revolution were depicted as heroes from Greek mythology.

The “Greece 1821-2021, Philhellenes” commemorative set of stamps and associated products were designed by Myrsini Vardopoulou. First-day covers and numbered albums are also available.

All the stamps and philatelic products at Hellenic Post’s branches and e-shop, here.

The products also feature the lithograph called “Kefalas Raises the Flag of Freedom in Tripolitsa” by Peter von Hess (1792-1871), and a painting of the architect of the siege, Theodoros Kolokotronis, by George Rorris. They were adapted for use in the stamps by Marina Lasithiotaki.

Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe served as physician, soldier, and fundraiser in Greek War of Independence

One of the most prominent philhellenes of all was the influential American educator Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who revealed to the world the many horrors that took place during the war against the Ottoman Empire in his letters to the American people.

Many are aware of the crucial role that Dr. Howe played during the American assistance to the Greek War of Independence. However, the story bears repeating for another generation.

Dr. Howe, who was born into a prominent Boston family on November 10, 1801, attended the city’s elite Boston Latin School, becoming a physician after his graduation from Harvard Medical School. His grandfather, Edward Compton Howe, was known to have been one of the “Indians” at the Boston Tea Party during the American Revolution.

As a well-educated man of the nineteenth century, he was well-versed in the Greek language and in the history of Ancient Greece.

Later adopting two boys who had been made fatherless in the Greek War of Independence, he made caring for Greece and her people part of the very fabric of his life.
Howe, fleeing what his compatriots said was the memory of an unhappy love affair, sailed for Greece, where he joined the Greek Army as a surgeon.

Once in Greece, however, his services were not confined to surgery. Fighting for the Greek cause was so much a part of him that his bravery, enthusiasm, and ability as a commander — as well as his humanity — soon won him the title “the Lafayette of the Greek Revolution.”

After engaging in many campaigns, Howe returned to the United States in 1827 in order to raise funds and supplies to help alleviate the desperate famine and widespread suffering in Greece that had been brought about by the War.

Howe’s heartfelt appeals, both in the form of letters and speeches he gave to groups, enabled him to collect about $60,000 which he spent on provisions, clothing, and the establishment of a relief depot for refugees near Aegina.

This princely sum would amount to $15,090,000.00 today.

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