The stamp of the great philhellene Samuel Gridley Howe issued by the Hellenic Post Office on the occasion of the 200 years anniversary of the Greek Revolution. (Photo provided by Consul General of Greece)
BOSTON – A year ago, the Hellenic Post Office, as the 200th anniversary since the start of the Greek Revolution was approaching, started designing a special series of stamps spotlighting the great philhellenes who participated in the struggle of the Greek revolutionaries. The Hellenic Post’s Board of Directors accepted the proposal of Stratos Efthimiou, the Consul General of Boston, to include an American physician from Boston in the pantheon of great philhellenes: Samuel Gridley Howe who, after graduating from Brown and Harvard Universities, went to Greece to fight alongside the rebellious Greeks.
Howe organized camps, coordinated humanitarian aid, and provided assistance and education to children who were orphaned during the Revolution. He fought on the side of the Greeks and was the first Surgeon General of the Greek navy; he also supported the Cretan Revolution.
His contributions to mankind, however, extended even further. Howe was 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.
Greece’s recognition of this Boston philhellene through the Hellenic Post’s issuance of a stamp became a reality thanks to the kind assistance of Polychronis Griveas, a beloved member of the Greek community of Boston, who the Community thanked just as warmly as they did the Hellenic Post.
It is recorded in the Wikipedia that, “Samuel Gridley Howe November 10, 1801-January 9, 1876, was an American physician, abolitionist, and an advocate of education for the blind. He organized and was the first director of the Perkins Institution. In 1824 he had gone to Greece to serve in the revolution as a surgeon; he also commanded troops. He arranged for support for refugees and brought many Greek children back to Boston with him for their education.
An abolitionist, in 1863 Howe was one of three men appointed by the Secretary of War to the American Freedmen’s Inquiry Commission, to investigate conditions of freedmen in the South since the Emancipation Proclamation and recommend how they could be aided in their transition to freedom. In addition to traveling to the South, Howe traveled to Canada West (now Ontario, Canada), where thousands of former slaves had escaped to freedom and established new lives. He interviewed freedmen as well as government officials in Canada.
Howe was born on Pearl Street in Boston, Massachusetts on November 10, 1801. His father Joseph Neals Howe, was a ship-owner and rope manufacturer in Boston. The business was prosperous until he supplied the U.S. Government with ropes during the war of 1812 and was never paid. His mother Patty (Gridley) Howe was considered to be one of the most beautiful women of her day. Samuel Gridley Howe’s grandfather Edward Compton Howe was one of the `Indians’ at the Boston Tea Party.
Howe was educated at Boston Latin School, where he was cruelly treated, and even beaten, according to his daughter. Laura (Howe) Richards later wrote: “So far as I can remember, my father had no pleasant memories of his school days.”
Samuel Gridley Howe brought many Greek refugee children back with him to the United States to educate them. Two who later gained prominence were John Celivergos Zachos, who became an abolitionist and activist for women’s rights, and Christophoros P. Kastanes. Kastanes survived the Chios massacre. He later wrote a memoir about these events, `The Greek Exile, Or, a Narrative of the Captivity and Escape of Christophorus Plato Castanis.’ He mentioned both Dr. Howe and John Celivergos Zachos in this book.
Samuel Gridley Howe died on January 9, 1876. His remains are buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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