On August 16, 1963, a little piece of paper carried a big message. It was the first-ever U.S. postage stamp created by an African American artist by the name of Georg Olden. The stamp's design? A powerful image of a broken chain. Not only did it honor 100 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, but it also told the story of a man who had broken his own chains.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, on November 13, 1920, Olden's life was deeply rooted in history. As a descendant of enslaved African Americans and the son of a Baptist preacher, Georg was convinced of his potential and his call to greatness. Even as the world around him was clouded with racial discrimination, Olden's vision was clear — to make his mark in design and advertising.
His big break came at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), where he worked with some of the country's most brilliant minds. It was here that he built connections that would make his path clear. By the time World War II ended, his name was well known. Especially by Colonel Lawrence W. Lowman's, who saw the magic in Olden's hands. At just 25, he trusted Olden with producing shows for CBS, one of the biggest TV channels of that time.
He gave colors and shapes to beloved shows like "I Love Lucy" and made important events, like the first-ever televised presidential election, visually captivating. His collaborations with design greats like Ed Benguiat and Bob Gill made him a standout design star.
By 1960, the world of advertising was calling, and Olden answered. His designs won him the prestigious Clio Award not once or twice, but seven times! He painted stories at big agencies, culminating as a top leader at the famous McCann Erickson.
Today, we remember Georg Olden not just as an artist, but as a trailblazer. A man whose designs touched hearts and whose journey inspired many.
Cover photo: Celebrating Georg Olden: Trailblazing Graphic Artist and Creative Pioneer/Photo Courtesy of Black Art Story