Prominent Americans series

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Original 5¢ Washington design, 1966
Washington gets a shave, 1967

The Prominent Americans series is a set of definitive stamps issued by the United States Post Office Department (and later the United States Postal Service) between 1965 and 1978.

It superseded the Liberty issue of 1954, which by the mid-1960s had become somewhat dated, for instance in its focus on political figures. This was the first U. S. omnibus definitive series in which Benjamin Franklin did not appear at or near the beginning: on the ½¢ or 1¢ stamp. The values of the new series included figures from all walks of life, each depicted in a different style by a different designer, presumably in a quest for wide diversity—a significant departure from the uniformity of concept that had marked previous definitive issues. That portraits of two women appear in the series (Elizabeth Blackwell and Lucy Stone) represented a small but significant step toward gender equality in U. S. Stamp history: no previous definitive set had included more than one prominent female (Martha Washington in the issues of 1902, 1922 and 1938; Susan B. Anthony in the Liberty series). This was also the first definitive issue to include a stamp devoted to an African-American, with Frederick Douglass portrayed on the 25¢ denomination.

The stamps appeared one by one from 1965 on, and the basic designs had all been issued by 1968; tagged versions made their first appearances gradually through 1973, and coil and booklet version of the 15¢ were issued in 1978 in response to a first-class rate change.

The 5¢ Washington was originally excessively shaded around the lower part of the face, so much so that it has come to be known as the "dirty face" or "unshaven" Washington. Originally appearing in February 1966, it was superseded by a lightened version in November 1967.[1][2] The $1 Eugene O'Neill stamp was notable for its repeated use by Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who habitually used them on his mail bombs.[3]

Highly diverse lettering and drawing styles mark the Prominent Americans series.

Stamps of the series:[4]

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Preceded by
Liberty Issue
US Definitive postage stamps
1965 - 1978
Succeeded by
Americana series