Portland Head Light featured in new coastal lighthouses stamp series

U.S. Postal Service's New England Coastal Lighthouses Series
U.S. Postal Service's New England Coastal Lighthouses Series
Posted April 26, 2013, at 5:17 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Head Light is among five featured in the U.S. Postal Service’s new stamp series, New England Coastal Lighthouses. The east coast beacons are among the oldest in the United States.

The series also includes the lighthouses of Portsmouth Harbor, Boston Harbor, Point Judith and New London Harbor.

Stamp dedication ceremonies will be held simultaneously at or near each site at 10 a.m. on July 13. Details of the events are in the works and will be announced in June, according to the postal service.

Each of the five new stamps features an original acrylic painting by Howard Koslow based on recent photographs of the lighthouses. The art directors were Howard E. Paine and Greg Breeding.

In addition to many other stamp projects, Koslow has produced the art for the entire Lighthouses series: the five lighthouses in the 1990 stamp booklet; the Great Lakes Lighthouses stamps issued in 1995; the Southeastern Lighthouses stamps in 2003; the Pacific Lighthouses stamps in 2007 and the Gulf Coast Lighthouses stamps in 2009.

Maine’s oldest lighthouse, Portland Head was established in 1791. The construction of the tower was among the first acts of the Lighthouse Establishment, a federal agency created in 1789. The original rubblestone lighthouse still stands and looks much as it did in the late 1800s, the postal service noted in a news release issued Friday.

The 80-foot lighthouse had two types of Fresnel lenses during its history, a second-order and a fourth-order. The lighthouse was automated in 1989, and a modern DCB-224 optic installed.

A beautiful Victorian keepers’ duplex, built on the station in 1891, now houses the Museum at Portland Head Light. The lighthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973 and is owned and managed by the town of Cape Elizabeth.

The tower and the keepers’ house together are considered one of the most beautiful stations in the U.S., and they are among the most frequently photographed subjects in Maine.

The waters off the coast of New England have been a highway for ships since the earliest explorers came from Europe. The warm Gulf Stream flows from south to north, while the cold Labrador Current flows from north to south; these two currents make up the lanes of the highway, carrying ships along the busy Atlantic Coast.

But the coastal waters are treacherous, the rocks and shoals a constant danger, and the changeable weather a challenge to navigation. New England’s lighthouses have guided ships to safe harbor and saved countless lives while guarding this coast for almost 300 years, the postal service noted.

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