Notes on collections at the RIHS
In another serendipitous moment, while looking for a sheet of much earlier 5-cent stamps, I found this:
The USS Nathanael Greene was nuclear-powered James Madison class submarine, launched May 12, 1964 and commissioned on December 19, 1964. So 48 years ago tomorrow, this envelope was mailed to the RIHS to commemorate Rhode Island’s most important Revolutionary War general. The USS Nathanael Greene carried Polaris missiles, hence the iconography on either side of the Greene family crest. The Latin motto, nec timeo nec sperano, translates as “I neither fear nor despise.” Perhaps true of General Greene, but a statement somewhat less believable of Cold War America.
With its curious combination of bucks and missiles, 18th and 20th centuries, the envelope is but two years younger than the Brigade of the American Revolution, the oldest umbrella organization of Revolutionary War reenactors. The centuries and wars converge on this envelope, a commemoration of the past and a celebration of the bold future of nuclear weaponry (this was also the time of the space race).
The envelope looks almost kitschy now, missiles and elks, something more suited for a hipster t-shirt than a solemn event. How we honor history says as much about us as it does about the past.
~Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections