The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 7, February 14, 2016, Article 26


Arthur Shippee forwarded this New York Times article on stamp designer Howard Koslow. Thanks. While non-numismatic, stamp engravers often also work on paper money. Is anyone aware of a numismatic connection with Koslow? -Editor

Howard Koslow at work Howard Koslow, a painter and illustrator who for more than four decades designed many of the most recognizable stamps issued by the United States Postal Service, including a 1994 series depicting famous blues and jazz musicians and 30 stamps depicting coastal lighthouses, died on Jan. 25 at his home in Toms River, N.J. He was 91.

Mr. Koslow had established a busy practice as a commercial artist, doing corporate reports, book covers and advertising illustrations, when, in the early 1970s, a fellow artist suggested that he try his hand at postage stamps.

In 1971 he secured the commission to design an eight-cent stamp commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, an agreement among 12 nations to ensure that their research in the Antarctic should be freely shared and nonmilitary. Against a blue background, Mr. Koslow superimposed the official emblem used on treaty documents on a white map of Antarctica.

The following year, for a series honoring the national parks, Mr. Koslow designed a six-cent stamp that depicted an evening concert at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Va.

Koslow's Mildred Bailey stamp Over his long career he designed more than 50 stamps and postal cards, on subjects including the signing of the Constitution, Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Bridge, Ellis Island and, as part of the “Legends of American Music” series, eight blues and jazz masters: Robert Johnson, Bessie Smith, Muddy Waters, Ma Rainey, Jimmy Rushing, Howlin’ Wolf, Billie Holiday and Mildred Bailey.

“He was a well-known designer, and very prolific, but it is not so much the number of stamps as the time span of more than 40 years, which is very unusual,” said Daniel A. Piazza, the chief curator of philately at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. “The lighthouse stamps went on for nearly 25 years. The first series, in 1990, was supposed to be a one-off, but the stamps were so popular that he ended up doing five more series.”

Koslow's lighthouse stamps

Each subsequent series celebrated a different region: the Great Lakes, the Southeast, the Pacific and the Gulf. The final series, devoted to the lighthouses of New England, was issued in 2013.

Howard Bertram Koslow was born on Sept. 21, 1924, in Brooklyn, where he grew up in the Flatbush neighborhood. His father, Benjamin, was an electrician, and his mother, the former Ruth Sachs, was a housewife.

His early stamps, produced by engraving, were executed in a linear style with a limited color palette. Later, using offset lithography, he was able to expand his color range and adopt a more naturalistic style, often working from photographs. While painting his designs, he looked through a reducing glass to see how his work would look when shrunk to about a sixth its actual size.

“There is a real skill to making something readable at one inch square,” Mr. Piazza said. “Howard was very good at that.”

In addition to his postal work, Mr. Koslow achieved a substantial reputation as a historical painter for the Air Force and NASA. Many of the works he executed while traveling for the Air Force’s Historical Art Program are exhibited at the Air Force Academy and the Pentagon.

Even in the normally placid world of stamps, Mr. Koslow sometimes encountered controversy. In designing a 33-cent stamp in 1999 honoring the artist Jackson Pollock, Mr. Koslow worked from a well-known Life magazine photograph, by Martha Holmes, that showed the artist at work in his studio, a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Mr. Koslow removed the cigarette in accordance with Postal Service policy, which forbade any image that could be seen as promoting tobacco use.

Not everyone appreciated the alteration. The president of the National Smokers Alliance wrote, in a letter to the Postmaster General, that the revision was “an affront to the more than 50 million Americans who choose to smoke.”

To read the complete article, see:
Howard Koslow Dies at 91; Artist Designed Stamps for 40 Years (

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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