Many of us don’t give a second thought to the little stickers that make the US Postal System work. Stamps are an essential part of the mail system, and they are truly works of art that represent different aspects of American culture, from Snoopy to snowflakes. The first American postal stamp was created in 1847 and since then a variety of stamps have featured residents of Essex County. These include moonwalkers, inventors, athletes, performers, and even a U.S. president. Read on to learn about those from Essex County on U.S. postage stamps.
Althea Gibson was an American tennis and golf player and one of the first Black athletes to cross the color line in international tennis. Althea was born in South Carolina in 1927 to Daniel and Annie Bell Gibson, sharecroppers on a cotton farm. In 1930, her family moved to Harlem. In 1939, at 12, Althea became the New York City women’s paddle tennis champion. During the 40s, she continued to win a variety of tennis competitions, proving just how talented she was. In 1949, she entered Florida A&M University on a full athletic scholarship.
In 1950, Althea became the first Black athlete to receive an invitation to the US Nationals, now the US Open. In 1951, she won her first international title at the Caribbean Championships in Jamaica. In 1956 she became the first African American to win the Grand Slam and the following year she won Wimbledon and the US Open (then called the US Nationals). After winning at Wimbledon, she became the first champion to personally receive the trophy from Queen Elizabeth. Althea won both of these events again the following year. Overall she won 11 Grand Slams. Upon returning home from the UK, she became the second Black American, after Olympian Jesse Owens, to receive a ticker tape parade in New York City. Althea passed away in 2003 in East Orange, New Jersey, and is buried in Rosedale Cemetery. In 2013, the U.S. Postal Service issued the Althea Gibson stamp seen here.
Read More: Where to Spot a Celebrity in North Jersey
Annie Oakley was an American sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. She was born Phoebe Ann Mosey in Darke County, Ohio. Annie began trapping, hunting, and shooting before age 8 and sold her hunted game to locals, restaurants, shopkeepers, and hotels. At age 15 she won a shooting contest against Frank E. Butler, whom she later married. The pair joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1885 and performed for numerous audiences such as Queen Victoria, a French President, and an Italian king.
Photo Credit: Nutley Historical Society and Museum
From 1892 to 1904, Annie and Frank lived at 300 Grand Avenue in Nutley, New Jersey; the home has since been demolished. In 1894, she performed in Nutley at an event to raise funds for the Red Cross. “The Amateur Circus at Nutley” by artist Peter Newell depicts the performance. That same year her stage acts were filmed for one of Thomas Edison’s early Kinetoscopes.
Annie passed away in 1926 and was buried in Darke County, where she was born. Numerous film and musical adaptations depicting Annie have starred actresses such as Jamie Lee Curtis, Reba McEntire, and Gail Davis. An Annie Oakley mural hangs in the Nutley Post Office and the Nutley Historical Society has several items related to her in its collection such as photographs and a coin she shot. Her stamp, issued in 1994, can be seen here.
Buzz Aldrin is an astronaut who was on the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and became the second person to walk on the moon. He was born Edwin Euegene Aldrin Jr. in 1930 at Mountainside Hospital in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and grew up in Montclair near Anderson Park. He later attended West Point.
After serving in the Air Force and graduating from MIT, he was selected as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Group 3. Three years later he became the second human being to walk the moon on July 21, 1969. Buzz was the first Freemason on the moon and the first person to hold a religious ceremony on the moon. Buzz Aldrin Middle School in Montclair is named after him. In 2019, the U.S. Postal Service issued 1969: First Moon Landing Forever Stamps, one depicting the moon and another depicting Buzz.
Clara Maass was a German-American nurse who gave her life to medical research, her death was a result of volunteering for medical experiments to study yellow fever. Clara Louise Maass was born in 1874 in East Orange to German parents Hedwig and Robert Maass. At 15 she began working at Newark Orphan Asylum and two years later she began studying at Newark German Hospital‘s Christina Trefz Training School for Nurses, becoming one of the first graduates. In 1898, she volunteered as a nurse for the Army and a few months later became part of the Seventh U.S. Army Nurse Corps and eventually served under the Eighth. Clara rarely encountered battle-related injuries and instead provided medical assistance to soldiers suffering from ailments like malaria, typhoid, dengue, and yellow fever.
Photo Credit: Public Domain
In 1901, she arrived in Cuba to provide medical aid. Yellow fever was rampant and most believed that medical practitioners would contract it while on the island. John Guiteras, a Cuban doctor, believed that controlled infection from a mosquito would produce a case of yellow fever that could be controlled and eventually lead to immunity. Nineteen volunteers, including Clara, the only woman and only American, partook in the medical trial. She was bitten several times between March and August of 1901, and a final bite on August 14th would cause her to fall ill in the following days. Clara passed away on August 24th, 1901 at the age of 25. She was originally buried in Havana, Cuba with military honors. In February of 1902 her body was moved to Fairmount Cemetery in Newark and reburied there. Clara Maass’s stamp, issued in 1976 can be seen here.
Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only one to serve non-consecutive terms. Grover Cleveland Middle School in Caldwell is named after him and a stamp portraying him was first printed in 1923.
Photo Credit: National Archives
Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey. His father was minister of the First Presbyterian Church in town and the family lived at the Manse, where he was born. Today this Manse, located at 207 Bloomfield Avenue serves as The Grover Cleveland Birthplace State Historic Site and operates as the only museum dedicated to President Grover Cleveland. He was named Stephen Grover to honor the first pastor of the church.
Grover Cleveland’s political career included: sheriff of Erie County, New York; Mayor of Buffalo, New York; Governor of New York and winner of the 1884 and 1892 presidential elections. In 1908, he suffered a heart attack and died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. He is buried in Princeton Cemetery, quite close to Vice President Aaron Burr, who also lived in Essex County for some time.
Sara Vaughan was an American jazz singer and pianist. She was born in Newark, New Jersey, and lived on Brunswick Street. Her family was part of the New Mount Zion Baptist Church. She developed a love for music and by her mid-teens, began venturing illegally into Newark’s nightclubs and performing as a pianist and singer at the Piccadilly Club and the Newark Airport.
Early in her career, Sara signed a contract with Columbia Records, and then with Mercury. She performed for a variety of audiences and famous individuals such as Gerald Ford and a French president. She died in 1990 and was buried at Glendale Cemetery in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Click here to see her stamp.
Thomas Alva Edison was a businessman and inventor with 1,093 patents to his name. He was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio to Nancy Matthews Elliot and Samuel Ogden Edison Jr. whose father was born in Caldwell or Newark, New Jersey. At 12, he developed hearing issues which later led to deafness.
In 1876, Thomas established an industrial lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey where many of his early inventions were developed. In 1886, he moved to Glenmont, a home in Llewellyn Park in West Orange. He later established a laboratory nearby that featured the world’s first movie studio known as the “Black Maria”.
Thomas died in 1931 at his Glenmont home and was buried in Rosedale Cemetery. In 1963, his remains were reinterred at Glenmont which is now part of the Thomas Edison National Historic Site. A West Orange middle school and the Middlesex County township of Edison, are named after him. His stamp issued in 1947, can be seen here.
Yogi Berra was born Lawrence Peter Berra in 1925 in Saint Louis, Missouri to Italian parents. Yogi played, managed, and coached both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets as well as coaching the Houston Astros. He married Carmen Short and they raised their three sons in Montclair. In 1972, he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1996, he received an honorary degree from Montclair State University (MSU) which also named its campus stadium Yogi Berra Stadium.
Photo Credit: Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center
In 1998, the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center opened at 8 Yogi Berra Drive in Little Falls and on the MSU campus. Yogi died in West Caldwell in 2015. His ashes were interned with his wife’s at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Hanover. On July 1st, 2021, the United States Postal Service issued the Yogi Berra commemorative stamp outside that museum. The stamp can be seen here.