User:Gwillhickers/American History on US Postage Stamps

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~ Benjamin Franklin ~ George Washington ~
The First U.S. Postage Stamps
Issued 1847
The first stamp issues were authorized by an act of Congress and approved on March 3, 1847.[1] The earliest known use of the Franklin 5c is July 7, 1847, while the earliest known use of the Washington 10c is July 2, 1847. Remaining in postal circulation for only a few years, these issues were declared invalid for Postage on July 1, 1851.[2]

Over the many decades the U.S. postage issues have honored and commemorated famous people, events and anniversaries with their splendid and noteworthy artwork. After more than 160 years of postage issues, today, every major chapter in American History is now recorded and inscribed on the face of U.S.Postage. From the time of Columbus, through the American Revolution, to the War of 1812, the Texas Revolution and the Mexican American War, all the way through the Civil War and up to and including both World Wars, along with all passed Presidents, Statesmen and other illustrious Americans -- all are represented on the face of U.S. Postage. Thanks to the U.S. Postage stamp we have a pictorial and literary outline of American History that now resides in the common Public Domain.


Much has been written about the various U.S. Postage Stamps where dates of issue, design variations, types, paper used, grills, etc. are concerned, but little is written about the subjects that are inscribed upon the faces on these issues, the People and Events that are honored and celebrated on their engraved faces, and the History that has inspired these works. This page identifies the U.S. Postage issues by their historical subject matter and examines and makes note of the various portraits, dates, buildings, flags, symbols and other subjects of interest that are inscribed there upon. The page is a philatelic reference that outlines what chapter of U.S. history is found on the various U.S. Postage issues. It is offered with the idea that 'History on Stamps' is not just another 'topic', it is the central theme that most stamp designs have traditionally used since the U.S. Post office issued its first two stamps in 1847. This historical theme is especially evident on the earlier postage issues of the 20th century. [2]

Since the United States Post Office issued its first two Postage stamps in 1847 the issues have featured an array of Historical (and sometimes other) subjects with their noteworthy artwork and fine lettering.[3] The Engraved Images of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Lincoln issued over the last 160 and more years all give us a public record of their likenesses.

Washington at Prayer
Issue of 1928

At this later date every major chapter of U.S. history is now recorded and inscribed on the face of U.S. Postal. Oftentimes it is well recorded. There are also well over 1000 commemorative issues that honor other historical and related subjects. The Alexander Graham Bell, Booker T. Washington, John Muir and Project Mercury commemorative issues provide us with excellent examples. All of these issues together has provided us with a tangible account of American history.[2][4]

As the production of U.S. postage with the advent of the U.S. Post office also are an important aspect of history and because these entities often played an important role in the fate of the nation's history, reference is also made regarding any politics or other events that played a role in the subject chosen for a given stamp issue. Attention is also given to various works of art that have been used as models or themes in the designs found on U.S. Postage as many different paintings and statues have inspired the designs that were engraved in to the master dies used in postage stamp production. Historical reference is also made to the various artists, engravers and other persons involved in the design and subject of a given issue.

Images used throughout the page have been provided from photos taken of personal collections as well as those from other sources as some of the examples of early U.S. Postage can only be found in famous collections, displayed in museums, exhibits and the like. Many of the images uploaded depict notable figures like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Sherman, Grant and other subjects along those historical lines. The engraved likenesses of Washington, Jefferson and others are among the best portrayals to be found and for generations has provided the nation and the world with a public record of their likenesses. These fine engravings provide us with both a literary and pictorial historical reference. The 'clay tablets' of latter day centuries.

Kentucky Statehood
~ Issue of 1942 ~

The page also offers the collector and the historian a cross reference of American History and United States Postage stamps as it is illustrated and recorded on these issues, and with the idea that the advent of U.S. Postage is also an ongoing chapter of U.S. History unto itself. ie.The Postage issues of the U.S. Government are a part of the nation's history, and as one historical event leads into other such events, so does the nation's history lead directly into the history of the U.S. Post Office and the Postage it has issued for the people of that nation. Information in paragraphs and contained in captions is often linked up with corresponding history and other pages where appropriate if one wants to reference a particular stamp subject at greater length. Information about paper, watermarks, grills, etc. is mentioned only where appropriate, as these items are covered at length on another page.

While the various sections of the page deal with given eras in U.S. history there are a few exceptions. Separate sections are devoted to four central figures of American History: Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and of course Abraham Lincoln. All other notable figures, like Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson or Ulysses S. Grant are dealt with in other sections that cover the respective time periods these individuals were involved in. A few of the sections will simply make reference to and link up with pages where the subject and stamp is dealt with separately.

This page is also offered with the mind that most collectors of U.S. Postage stamps and postal history, coins or other historical artifacts are indeed history minded, and that many historians have similar collections of historical artifacts of some sort. This presents a common ground of interest and as such a common platform from which to explore U.S. History and the history of U.S. Postage Stamps.

General Notes[edit]

* Images of U.S. postage found on this page are referred to by subject and year of issue and denomination and are not referred to by commercial catalog numbers. For example, George Washington, 1908 Issue, 4c.

* Images of U.S. Postage issued before 1978 are in the public domain.

American History recorded on U.S. Postage[edit]

~ George Washington ~
Issue of 1932

The issues of any empire or government have always honored its founders or rulers, and so it is evident with the U.S. government issues over the last 160 and more years. The stamp issues here are not just offered as illustrations but as historical testaments, as they are official issues of the U.S. government and function as clay tablets, a public record, and therefore are an actual component of U.S. history. As the coins and other artifacts throughout history has provided historians with tangible documentation of when Empires existed and when Emperors and Kings ruled, so also do the coins and postage issued by the U.S. Mint and the U.S. Post Office in more recent times.

Washington 1895 Issue-2c.jpg

The beautiful portraits and designs, first etched into steel by America's master engravers, are worthy of gracing the pages of any American History book. As issues of the U.S. Government, and the Post Office, these small engravings are like facets of history from the time they were first issued to the American people who used them. Or who saved them.

Along with the fine portrayals, Names and Dates found on US Postage Issues one will often find subjects such as historic buildings, Ships, maps, Flags, symbols, uniforms and other items of interest. Upon close examination these engravings will reveal themselves in all of their detail and content. The historical aspects of US Postage and surviving mail has helped historians in many areas of history put American History into a more tangible frame of reference for the people they write for. The "Postage Stamp". A window of entry into the halls of history.

~ USS Constitution ~
Issue of 1947

Coins and Currency are magnificent in their artwork and design, but these issues only provide us with a select number of portraits, One for Washington, one for Lincoln and so forth. They offer few depictions of historical events, buildings, and figures other than presidents, Benjamin Franklin being the only exception. There are only a few types of paper currency that depict an actual historical event on their reverse. Currency altogether offers us little in the way of a record or testament of history.

U.S. Postage that has been issued over the last 160 and more years however offers us an array of historical subjects that has been inscribed and recorded on its face over the many decades. -- The Revolutionary War era, the Civil War, all of the Presidents, and important people like Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Graham Bell can be found, recorded, on the face of U.S. Postage stamp issues.

The artwork and the engraved portraits and illustrations, found on various U.S. Postage are among the best to be found and today they collectively are capable of relating the nation's general history, from the times of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, up to the Present.

Thomas Jefferson
Issue of 1856

First Chapters in American History on U.S. Postage[edit]

Beginning in 1847 when the U.S. Post Office issued its first two stamps depicting Washington and Franklin, these portraits were the only ones to be found depicted on U.S. Postage until nine years later when the Post Office released its first issue honoring Thomas Jefferson in its issue of 1856. [2]

Including the next six years that followed, Washington, Franklin and Jefferson were the only faces to be found on U.S. Postage. It wasn't until fifteen years after the first issues of 1847 were released that the Post Office came out with its first issue honoring Andrew Jackson in 1862, seventeen years after his death. If Jackson had lived another two years, he would have been the only forefather to see a U.S. Postage stamp in 1847, Jackson's passing being in 1845.[5]

The first Andrew Jackson postage stamp was finally issued in 1863, 18 years after his death.[2]

Just four years later, prompted by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln did the Post Office issue its first Lincoln stamp on April 14, 1866, the first anniversary of Lincoln's death.

1st Lincoln stamp
Issue of 1866
The issue is considered by some to be the country's first mourning stamp. This was the first stamp to honor a recently deceased president. Others were to follow but not until the 20th century.

Up until this point the Post Office had only issued postage that portrayed presidents and one other notable American, Benjamin Franklin. It wasn't until 1869 that the Post office issued Postage that depicted actual historical events: Following are three examples of the 'pictorials of 1869'. The Pony Express Rider, The Landing of Columbus' and 'The Declaration of Independence'.[2]

From that point onward the U.S. Post Office routinely issued stamps commemorating an array of historical events on the various stamp issues.


In 1868 the Post Office contracted with the National Bank Note Company to produce new stamps with a variety of designs. These came out in 1869, and were notable for the variety of their subjects; the 2¢ depicted a Pony Express rider, the 3¢ a locomotive, the 12¢ the steamship Adriatic, the 15¢ the landing of Christopher Columbus, and the 24¢ the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Pony Express Rider
1869 issue.
3 cent value depicting a locomotive
Landing of Columbus
1869 issue.
Signing of Declaration
1869 issue

Designs for these issues were provided by the National Bank Note Co. of New York with their bid, when they placed their bid on December 12, 1868 for printing production of these issues [6]

Only printed one year due their unpopularity at the time.



1st Hamilton Postage stamp
Issue of 1870

Because of Hamilton's general unpopularity surrounding his federalist views which flew in the face of States rights advocates whose ideas were prevalent during that time he was not honored on postage or currency until the American Civil War era. By this time Hamilton was sufficiently admired enough that his portrait finally began to appear on U.S. currency, however he did not appear on the face of U.S. Postage until 1870, 23 years after the U.S. Post Office issued its first two postage stamps in 1847. The 1870 issue honoring Hamilton was the first U.S. Postage stamp to depict a Secretary of the Treasury. [7] Engraving for this issue was modeled after a bust by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Ceracchi [8] Hamilton's portrait has continued to appear on U.S. Postage, though rarely compared to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, etc.

Columbian Issues in American History[edit]

When Columbus discovered America for Western civilization he prompted a whole new age of history and was largely instrumental in giving birth to the Renaissance period [9]where great advances in technology and great discoveries were being made.

The World Columbian Exposition of 1893 commemorated the 400th anniversary of the landing of Christopher Columbus in the Americas. The Post Office got in on the act, issuing a series of 16 stamps depicting Columbus and episodes in his career, ranging in value from 1¢ to $5 (a princely sum in those days). They are often considered the first commemorative stamps issued by any country. The American Bank Note Company printed approximately 2,005,216,300 Columbian Exposition stamps, totaling over $40,000,000 in postage face value.[10]

Columbus in Sight of Land

~ Columbus in Sight of Land ~

Very early in the morning on October 12, 1492, a sailor named Juan Rodríguez Bermejo sighted land from the deck of the Pinta, one of Columbus' three ships. [11] At sea for more than a month the crews of the Columbus fleet had not since seen land and were growing weary and anxious. The crews were so overjoyed and amazed that they had finally discovered a new land, as legend would have it, they were finally convinced that Columbus was divinely destined and some fell to their knees in front of him. This legend was the subject and the inspiration of a painting by George William Henry Powell (1823-1879) from which the engraving on the one cent is taken.

Stamp Design: Alfred Jones was over seventy years old in 1892, when he began the engraving of the Columbian Exposition Issue. As engraver at the American Bank Note Co. he began work on the 1-cent Columbian Issue, using the painting by Powell as his reference. [12] In the center of Powell's painting stands a calm and collected Columbus among his elated and reverent crewmen. Of the 16 commemorative stamps issued in 1893 for the Chicago Exposition, this stamp departs the farthest from the original painting, possibly due to the painting's rather apparent religious overtones and the U.S. Postal Service's desire to ensure separation of church and state. The original, once thought "lost," turned up in a private collection in New York City. The engraver was Charles Skinner who used this painting as his model. The engraved reproduction is enclosed in a circle. D.S. Ronaldson engraved the frame and lettering. Depicted on the left is an Indian woman with her child, and on the right an Indian chief with head­dress of feathers. This issue was printed in 'Deep Blue' and the number of issues printed totaled more than 449 million. [13]

Landing of Columbus

~ Landing of Columbus ~

On August 3rd of 1492, Columbus departed from Palos de la Frontera with three ships named the Santa María, his falgship and two smaller caravels, the Pinta and the Santa Clara, nicknamed the Niña after her owner Juan Niño of Moguer. [14] Land was sighted at 2 a.m. on 12 October 1492, by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana (also known as Juan Rodríguez Bermejo) aboard Pinta. [11]

Stamp Design: Image is from a painting by John Vanderlyn (1775-1852), which is hanging in the United States Capitol rotunda The stamp’s first sheet was printed on November 5, 1892. Postmaster General A.D. Hazen and J. MacDonough, president of the American Bank Note Company, autographed this sheet. Alfred Jones and Charles Skinner engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the frame and lettering. [15] Both the 2-cent Columbian Issue stamp and the 15-cent 1869 Pictorial Issue stamp were inspired by the same painting, "Landing of Columbus," by John Vanderlyn. Douglas Ronaldson engraved the frames for both stamps, with some minor differences. The color used for printing was 'Brown-Violet'. The quantities issued for this stamp total more than a billion <[13] as it paid the standard letter rate for the time period. [16]

Flagship of Columbus

~ Flagship Santa Maria ~

From a Spanish engraving, artist unknown. Engraver was Robert Savage.The Santa Maria was a nao, a merchant ship, between 400 and 600 tons. The boat's length was 75 feet with a wide beam, 25 feet. No one can say for sure that this image is the exact likeness of the one navigated by Columbus, though historians generally agree that the ship depicted is definitive for that time period. More than 11 million of these issues were printed[2] by the American Bank Note Company.[17] [18]

Stamp Design: In celebration of Columbus’s discoveries, it was only fitting that a stamp's design in the Columbian Exposition Issue be devoted to the Santa Maria. It is widely believed that the source for the American Bank Note’s image for the 3-cent stamp was a Spanish engraving. The stamp does not fulfill any predetermined rate; it was meant to be used with other stamps to makeup any number of other domestic and foreign postage rates. The stamp was printed in 'Forest Green'. A total of 11,501,250 3-cent stamps were printed. [13]

Fleet of Columbus

~ Fleet of Columbus ~

Columbus' ships covered approximately 150 miles a day. His seafaring instincts were extraordinary. His crews used a compass for direction and a chip log and reel to measure speed. Over several days, ships of Columbus's time would average 4 to 8 knots, which was the norm for such ships of this time. These ships would cover about 90 to 100 miles in a 24-hour day. Of the three ships on the first voyage, the Santa Maria was the slowest, and the Pinta was the fastest so she would have to slow herself so as not to loose sight of the Santa Maria. [19] The three caravels, Santa Maria, Nina, and Pinta, are taken from a Spanish engraving, artist unknown.

Stamp Design: Models of 15th century Spanish ships held at the Smithsonian Institution inspired the images of Columbus’s ships featured on the 3-cent and 4-cent stamps[20][21] however the origin of this stamp's image is not certain. There are publications that attribute the design to a Spanish engraving, but in his Chronicle article on this stamp, George B. Arfken referenced an article in "Essay Proof Journal" that noted the appearance of a similar design in an American book published in mid-1892, six months before the Columbian Exposition Issue was released. There were striking similarities between the two images. In the end, the authors of both articles could not say with any certainty that the American Bank Note Company engravers had used the book’s design for their engraving. [22] The issue is printed in 'Ultramarine'. The number of 4c denominations printed totaled 19,181,000 making the issue somewhat common. [13]

Columbus Soliciting Aid of Isabella

~ Columbus Soliciting Aid of Isabella ~

In 1476 Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) and his brother Bartolomeo traveled to Lisbon, Portugal, determined to enhance their seafaring, navigation, and mapmaking skills. Within a few years, the visionary Columbus believed it possible to sail west from Europe to Asia, a distance which he calculated as 2,400 nautical miles. Such a route, he argued, would eliminate the need of sailing south around the tip of Africa, a long and dangerous trip. To prove his theory he needed the financial backing. Searching for a sponsor, Columbus appealed to King John II of Portugal, who was not impressed or convinced of Columbus' theories and he consequently declined. Columbus then appealed to the Spanish court of Queen Isabella. While waiting for a summons from the Spanish court, he lobbied unsuccessfully for support from King Henry VII of England. At first Isabella rejected his proposal, but upon urging from Catholic Monks and other advisers she finally reconsidered. This second review led to the Spanish monarchy's granting financial and material support to Christopher Columbus for his long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. [23]

Stamp Design: Alfred Major created the design for this stamp, the image taken from a 1884 painting by Václav Brožík (1851-1901) considered by many as the greatest Czech painter. Ferdinand II of Aragon, wearing his distinctive hat, is also seated at the table with Queen Isabella, with Catholic Monarchs who also funded Columbus' voyages seated at left in image. The color used to print this issue is 'Chocolate'. The number of 5c denominations printed totaled 35,248,000. [13]

Columbus Welcomed at Barcelona

~ Columbus Welcomed at Barcelona ~

In December, after his first historic trip to North America, the Santa Maria was wrecked on the coast of Española. The Niña and Pinta began the voyage home in early in January, 1493 and Columbus returned to Barcelona. The Spanish Monarchs and people of Barcelona offered an enthusiastic reception, including confirmation of honors and, additional honors, the title of Don for Columbus and his brothers.

Stamp Design: This scene is from one of the panels of the bronze doors by Randolph Rogers in the Capitol at Washington. On each side of the scene represented is a niche, in one of which is a statue of Ferdinand and in the other a statue of Balboa. [24] Rogers had created eight panels on the House Wing doors of the United States Capitol building that were ultimately arranged in random order on the doors. One large panel depicting the “Landing of Columbus in the New World” stretched above the doors. The seventh panel in this ordering inspired the 6-cent Columbian Exposition stamp. The image depicts the return of Columbus from his first voyage. He traverses the streets of Barcelona on horseback, heading toward the gates of the city. King Ferdinand stands to the left of the design, and Balboa, Spanish discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, to the right. The number of 6c denominations printed only totaled 4,707,000, [13] but because of the lower denomination that allowed collectors to buy up quantities, the stamp did not become as rare as the quantities issued might suggest.

Columbus Restored to Favor

~ Columbus Restored to Favor ~

When originally issued, there were only fifteen stamps in the Columbian Issue. The lower value denominations were released right after January 1st, 1893. The 8-cent ‘Columbus Restored to Favor’ stamp was issued in March 1893. Like the 8-cent Grant of the 1890 Issue, this 8-cent stamp was specifically created to pay the new, lower registered mail fee that was enacted on January 1, 1893. The 8-cent Columbian Exposition stamp was released before the 8-cent 1890 Issue by only a few weeks.

Stamp Design Based on the painting by Francisco Jover y Casanova, the stamp depicts Columbus being restored to favor by the king and queen of Spain. Queen Isabella is taking the hand of the kneeling Columbus. The 8-cent "Columbus Restored to Favor" stamp was added to the other Columbian Issues in March 1893. [25] The number of 8c denominations printed totaled 10,656,000. [13]

Columbus Presenting Natives

~ Columbus Presenting Natives ~

Before returning to Spain, Columbus, needing tangible evidence of the new people he had discovered, kidnapped approximately two dozen natives and brought them back to Spain with him. Only seven or eight of the native Indians arrived in Spain alive, but they made quite an impression on Seville.[11]

Stamp Design: "Columbus Presenting Natives", is taken from one of the paintings created by Luigi Gregori for the administration building at the University of Notre Dame after it was rebuilt following an 1879 fire, and was one of five designs engraved by Robert Savage.[26] The color is 'Vandyke Brown'. The number of 10c denominations printed totaled 16,516,950. <[13]

Columbus Announcing His Discovery

~ Columbus Announcing His Discovery ~

After thirty-three days at sea, Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492, finally spotted land in what is now known today as the Bahamas. On his return voyage to Spain, Columbus presented his discoveries to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The 15-cent Columbian Exposition Issue highlighted the royal court appearance in which Columbus stands in front of several kneeling natives from his first voyage to the new world.

Stamp Design: A painting by the Spaniard Ricardo Baloca y Cancico may have inspired the final stamp design. Unfortunately, it is lost and presumed to be a casualty of the Spanish Civil War.[27] The number of 15c denominations printed totaled only 1,576,000 making this issue rather scarce today. [13]

Columbus at La Rabida

~ Columbus at La Rabida ~

The 30-cent Columbian Issue depicts Columbus at the Franciscan monastery at La Rabida, where monks restored his confidence in his proposed expedition because his confidence had been diminished by repeated failures to win confidence and financial support elsewhere. Finally in 1490 Columbus appealed to the Royal Court of France for the funding needed for the long and dangerous voyage. The Catholic Monks of La Rabida and local monastery patrons, however, were able to convince Columbus to appeal to the Spanish Court a second time. Meanwhile, King Ferdinand's advisers had fortuitously convinced Queen Isabella to reconsider Columbus' appeal.[28]

Stamp Design: The title of painter Felipe Maso's work, "Columbus before the Franciscans at La Rabida" was shortened to "Columbus at La Rabida" when it was adapted for use in the Columbian Issue. This value was most commonly used to pay for mail to expensive foreign destinations. [29] The number of 30c denominations printed only totaled 617,000 making this issue rather rare today.[13]

Recall of Columbus

Recall of Columbus

Stamp Design: The 50-cent value of the Columbian issue was the first U.S. postage issue of that denomination. [30] The image of this issue is taken from the painting, 'The Recall of Columbus', by Augustus Heaton, and was considered his greatest work. The painting was sent to the U.S. Capitol in 1884 for examination by the Joint Committee on the Library and purchased later that year for $3,000 through the efforts of Committee Chairman, Senator John Sherman of Ohio. Heaton copyrighted The Recall of Columbus in 1891 as the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s landing in the New World approached. The painting was exhibited at the Columbian Historical Exposition in Madrid in 1892, and the following year it was displayed at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. [31] Like all high value Columbians, it was primarily used in combination to meet the needs of heavyweight or international shipments. [32] The stamp was printed in 'Slate Blue'. The number of 50c denominations printed only totaled 240,750 making this issue quite scarce. [13]

Isabella Pledging Her Jewels

The $1 Columbian

Queen Isabella I of Castile, sold her jewels to fund Columbus's expedition, in reality the Spanish nobility also provided the adventure considerable support. For decades the finances of northern Spain were committed to the war to re-conquer the south of Spain which was controlled by the Moors. After winning the struggle, Isabella's pledge to sell her own jewels to fund Columbus, his crew and three ships led many other noblemen to also give their support. [33]

Stamp Design: This design was based on a painting by Antonio Muñoz Degrain, and like many others in the Columbian Issue, the engraving for this design was done by Robert Savage. [34] Prior to the printing of "Isabella Pledging Her Jewels", no United States postage stamp had been issued with a value above 90 cents. This stamp, like all five dollar-value stamps in the set, paid no specific rate at all. Although all five are known to have been used for heavy international shipments, there is speculation that they were primarily intended as Exposition advertising and as revenue for the Post Office Department. Most uses of the dollar-value Columbians were on philatelic covers. [35] Color used to print this issue was 'Salmon'. The number of 1-dollar denominations printed totaled only 55,050 making the issue among the most rare in the series. [13]

Columbus in Chains

The $2 Columbian

Columbus was a prisoner in San Domingo on the island of Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic and Haiti). Adm. Don Francisco de Bobadilla had charged him with administrative misconduct and was put in chains. Columbus, himself, behaved with magnanimity, and made no complaint. Bobadilla asked him to bid his brother return to San Domingo, and he complied. He begged his brother to submit to the authority of the sovereigns, and Bartholomew immediately did so. On his arrival in San Domingo he was also put in irons, as his brother Diego had been, and was confined on board a caravel. As soon as a set of charges could be made up to send to Spain with Columbus, the vessels, with the prisoners, set sail.[36] De Bobadilla returned Columbus to Spain to stand trial, where he was acquitted.

Stamp Design: "Columbus in Chains", is taken from a painting by Emanuel Leutze,[6] is one of only two stamps in the series to depict Columbus on land in the New World (along with the 2-cent). Here, he is shown facing charges of administrative misconduct after his arrest in San Domingo by Don Francisco de Bobadilla. [37] Stamp was printed in 'Brown-red'. The number of 12-dollar denominations printed totaled only 45,550, making the issue also among the most rare of this 1893 series. [13]

Columbus Describing Third Voyage

~ Columbus Describing Third Voyage ~

Stamp Design: Robert Savage is credited with engraving the vignettes for the 3-, 6-, and 10-cent, 1-dollar, and 3-dollar Columbians. That someone so young engraved five of the sixteen dies without collaboration is testament to his extraordinary ability as an engraver. Columbus Describing Third Voyage" was one of five designs engraved by Robert Savage, all of which were the sole work of Savage, engraved without collaboration with either of the other two engravers working on the Columbian Issue. Engraving was based on a painting by Francisco Jover Casanova, the same artist whose work was adapted for the 8-cent stamp's design. [38] The three highest value Columbians were printed in much smaller quantities than less expensive members of the set, 27,650 in the case of the 3-dollar value.[39] Like with the 6-cent Columbian, a color variety exists that is awarded minor number status. While this stamp is normally described as yellow green, the variant is considered to be olive green. American Bank Note Company printed a total 27,650 stamps of the 3-dollar issue. [40]

Isabella and Columbus

Classic portrayals of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella grace the face of this issue.

Stamp Design

Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella

"Isabella and Columbus" was the first United States stamp to bear the portrait of a woman. Queen Isabella's place on U.S. postage in that regard would not be equaled until Martha Washington was depicted on a 1902 definitive. The portrait of Columbus on the right was adapted from one by Lorenzo Lotto.[41] Only 26,350 were printed, the least of any of the Columbians.

Like with the 6-cent Columbian, a color variant exists that is awarded minor number status. While this stamp is normally described as crimson lake, the variety is considered to be rose carmine.


The $5 Columbian

This issue features the highest denomination of the 16 stamp series depicting the bust of Christopher Columbus himself. This is arguably one of the finest depictions of Columbus to be found.

Stamp Design Alfred Jones engraved the "Columbus" portrait, which faced the opposite direction from his similar engraving work on the Columbian Exposition half dollar. The two framing figures were engraved by Charles Skinner. 27,350 were printed, of which 21,844 sold.[7] Like all the dollar-value Columbians, copies sell for many times the original face value, even adjusting for inflation, with the finest examples auctioning for tens of thousands of dollars. [42]

These postage stamps were interesting and attractive, designed to appeal not only to Postage stamps collectors but to historians, artists and of course the general public who bought them in record numbers because of the fanfare of the Columbian Exposition of the Worlds's Fair of 1892 in Chicago, Illinois. For generations they have been prized by collectors and historians today with the $5.00 denomination, for example, selling for between $1,500 to $12,500.00 [2]or more depending upon its condition.

George Washington[edit]

Washington, general issue of 1895, 2c

George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Washington was also the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783. Playing a central role in the American revolution, he has long since been a national icon, whose familiar face can be found in paintings and on the face of postage and currency.

In 1775 the Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces that had previously emerged into the forefront. The following year, he routed the British out of Boston, lost New York City at the Battle of Brooklyn, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, where he surprised and defeated British soldiers later that same year. Because of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial States, and French allies, Washington held together an army of farmers and storekeepers, and a young and struggling country all amid the looming threats of war. Washington being central to the theme of the American Revolution, he is depicted on U.S. postage in many ways.

George Washington also appears on contemporary currency, including the one-dollar bill and the quarter. On U.S. postage stamps however, Washington appears numerous times and in many different denominations. Washington has been depicted on U.S. postage stamps more than all other notable Americans combined, including Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin.[43]

Washington, general issue of 1862, 24c
Washington-Franklin Issue of 1916, 7c
Washington at Prayer, Valley Forge, issue of 1928, 2c
Washington Takes Oath, Issue of 1939, 3c
Washington, Bicentennial Issue of 1932, 10c

Washington and Franklin[edit]

Beginning in 1908, the U.S. Post Office issued one of the longest running issues in its history, the Washington-Franklins of 1908 - 1921. Up until this time George Washington's portrait occurs the most frequently on the face of U.S. Postage, but after this issue was released his record was forever sealed. To this day, Washington's portrait remains the most used, by far, on U.S. Postage. Franklin's portrait was used in the same issues as was Thomas Jefferson's, but after this series of issues, his portrait was and remains the one used most frequently on U.S. Postage, second only to Washington's. These stamps came out in several series with different perforations, watermarks and in sheet and coil form and were issued right through World War One up until 1920 when the last of these issues was released.[44] For more than twelve years these were primarily the issues found on US mail across America.

Issue of 1912
Issue of 1908
Issue of 1914
Issue of 1918
Issue of 1918
~ The Big Bens ~

Revolutionary War Era[edit]

The names and events of this era dominate the theme of U.S. Postage issues all the way up into the 1932 Bicentennial issues of the American Revolution. No other theme predominates the subjects found on U.S. Postage. Not even the American Civil War. Other than Lincoln appearing on Postage, the Civil War was not commemorated in any way until the Army and Navy issues of 1937 were released.

Issue of 1927
Issue of 1937
Issue of 1965

Battle of Brooklyn[edit]

In 1951, shortly after the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Brooklyn the U.S. Post Post Office issued postage that commemorated this famous battle which took place on August 27, 1776,. The first day of issue was in Brooklyn, N.Y., on December 10, 1951. The stamp depicts George Washington mounted on his white charger, with an accurate depiction of the Fulton Ferry House at right. Flat bottom ferry boats used in the evacuation are depicted crossing the East River in the background. [2] [45] The issue was printed in 'Violet'. The number of issues printed totaled more than 110 million, making this issue quite common even to this day. [13]

Washington evacuating Army
175th Anniversary Issue of 1951
The Fulton Ferry House, known then as the Brooklyn Ferry as it looked in the mid 1700s.[46]

The Battle of White Plains[edit]

~ Battle of White Plains ~
150th Anniversary Issue of 1926

The Battle of White Plains was a battle fought on October 28, 1776, near White Plains, New York. Following the retreat of George Washington's Continental Army northward from New York City, British General William Howe landed troops in Westchester County, with the intention of blocking Washington's escape route. Alerted to this move, Washington retreated further, establishing a position in the village of White Plains but failing to establish firm control over local high ground. Howe's troops drove Washington's troops from a hill near the village; following this loss, Washington ordered the Americans to retreat further north. The center vignette shows a gun crew in action, consisting of four men dressed in Continental uniform, with cannon and ammunition, copied from a painting by E. F. Ward, submitted by Dr. Jason S. Parker, of White Plains, N.Y. the Betsy Ross and 'Give me Liberty or Give me Death' flags.

The First Day of Issue for this stamp took place on October 18, 1926, at the Post Office at White Plains, N.Y. For the benefit of thee common collector, philatelists and historians, the Battle of White Plains issue was also placed on sale the same date at the branch of the Department's Philatelic Agency which was temporarily established at the International Philatelic Exhibition held at Grand Central Palace, New York City, from October 16 to 23, inclusive. Hence first use postmarks are fewer in number than those postmaked in New York City. On October 28, 1926, the anniversary of the Battle of White Plains, the new stamp was placed on sale at the Philatelic Agency at Washington, D.C., and at a number of the larger post offices.

Battles of Lexington and Concord[edit]

In April 1925 the United States Post Office issued three stamps commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battles at Lexington and Concord. The Lexington—Concord commemoratives were the first of many commemoratives issued to honor the 150th anniversaries of events that surrounded America's War of Independence. The three stamps were first placed on sale in Washington, D.C. and in five Massachusetts cities and towns that played major roles in the Lexington and Concord story: Lexington, Concord, Boston, Cambridge, and Concord Junction (as West Concord was then known).[47] This is not to say that other locations were not involved in the battles.

Washington at Cambridge
1925 Issue, 1c
The Birth of Liberty
1925 Issue, 2c
The Minute Man
1925 Issue, 5c

Once cent issue -- Scene depicts Gen. George Washington and his troops stand at Cambridge, Massachusetts, and are the subject for this once cent denomination of the Lexington-Concord Issue. As a single, the one-cent issue typically paid the post card rate of 1 cent. It was also commonly used with other denominations to fulfill the postage of heavier items and for foreign destination rates. An estimated total of over 15 million stamps of the one-cent issue were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and issued to the public. [13]

Two cent issue -- Henry Sandham’s painting, ‘Birth of Liberty,’ was the model for the imagery on the two-cent stamp of the Lexington-Concord Issue. As a single, the two-cent stamp typically paid the first-class domestic rate. But it was also commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large-weight and foreign destination rates. An estimated total of over 26 million stamps of the two-cent issue were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and issued to the public.

Five cent issue -- The Daniel Chester French statue of the Minute Man who purportedly heard the call to arms and was ready to march at a minute’s notice was the subject of the final denomination of the Lexington-Concord Issue. The five-cent stamp was commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large-weight and foreign destination rates. An estimated total of over to 5 million stamps of the five-cent issue were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and issued to the public.

Two Cent Red Sesquicentennial Issues of 1926 - 1932[edit]

This series of Postage issues primarily lends itself to subjects surrounding the American Revolution and were issued on the corresponding dates of the 150th anniversaries of the given subjects thereon.

Two cent Reds

During this period the U.S. Post Office issued more than a dozen 'Two Cent Reds' commemorating the 150th anniversaries of Battles and Events that occurred during this time. The first among these was the Liberty Bell 150th Anniversary Issue of 1926, designed by Charles Aubrey Huston, and engraved by J.Eissler & E.M.Hall, two among America's most renowned master engravers. The 'Two Cent Reds' were among the last stamps used to carry a letter for 2 cents, the rate changing to 3 cents on July 6, 1932. There the rate remained for 26 years until it finally changed to 4 cents in 1958.

American Revolution Commemoratives[edit]

Favorites among the commemorative issues of the American Revolution is Constitution Sesquicentennial issue of 1937 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution into law. And the Washington at Brooklyn issue of 1951, celebrating the Washington's victory at the Battle of Brooklyn The accurate depiction of the Fulton Ferry House is discernable on its face..

~ Constitution Sesquicentennial ~
Issue of 1937
~ Charles W. Morgan ~
Issue of 1971

Turn of the 18th - 19th Century[edit]

Louisiana Purchase[edit]

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson sent an envoy headed by Robert Livingston and James Monroe to purchase New Orleans and western Florida from Napoleon of France. The central subject of the stamp is a reproduction of a sculptured plaque by Karl Bitter, [48] depicting James Monroe, Robert R. Livingston, and Francois Barbe Marbois, signing the Louisiana Transfer at Paris in 1803.

The 3-cent Louisiana Purchase commemorative issue was first released at the Saint Louis, Missouri Post Office on April 30, 1953. Printed in 'Violet Brown', the number of issues printed total 113 million.

Louisiana Purchase
150th Anniversary Issue of 1953

As U.S. Minister to France from 1801 to 1804, Livingston was instrumental in negotiating the Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon, who upon completion of the agreement, stated, "This accession of territory affirms forever the power of the United States, and I have given England a maritime rival who sooner or later will humble her pride." [49] After the signing of the Louisiana Purchase agreement in 1803, Livingston made this famous quote:

"We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives...The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world".[50] Jefferson had no idea that they would be returning with the entire 830,000 square mile Louisiana Territory secured for the United States.[51] The acqusistion doubled the size of the United States [52]which now had presented itself as a world power that rivaled England, Spain and France. Nine years later the United States and England were embroiled in the War of 1812.

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904[edit]

The Worlds Fair was held in St. Louis Mo in 1904. The fair was scheduled to open in late 1903, which would have been the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase. However, St. Louis was also preparing for the Olympic games and the fair opening was delayed. The Fair's 1,200-acre (4.9 km²) site, designed by George Kessler. [53] The Fair hosted the 1904 Summer Olympic Games, the first Olympics held in the United States.

Thomas Jefferson
James Monroe
Map of Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition Stamps of 1904

The First Day of issue for this series of Postage was April 30, 1904. As with the Columbian, Trans-Mississippi, and Pan-American postage issues that preceded them the Louisiana Purchase stamps were issued to promote an exposition - the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis.[54] The stamps were designed by C. Aubrey Huston and were engraved by Marcus W. Baldwin (vignette) and Robert Ponickau, L. F. Ellis and G. Rose.[55]

Robert Livingston 1c Issue

Robert Livingston served as a delegate of New York in the Continental Congress and as a delegate to the Constitution Convention. He administered the oath of office to George Washington in 1789. After Thomas Jefferson's election to the presidency in 1800, Livingston was appointed minister to France. Livingston's efforts culminated in the purchase of the Louisiana Territory.

Engraved image of Livingston is taken from a Gilbert Stuart (1783-1872) oil painting of 1794.[56] The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced 79,779,200 Robert Livingston stamps. [57]

Thomas Jefferson 2c Issue

President Thomas Jefferson, architect of the Louisiana Purchase, is featured on the 2-cent stamp of the Louisiana Purchase Issue. The 2-cent stamp paid the domestic first class rate. Combined with other denominations, it also fulfilled large weight and foreign destination rates. A total of 192,732,400 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

James Monroe 3c Issue

This issue marked the first appearance of James Monroe on US Postage. Under the first Jefferson administration, Monroe was dispatched to France to assist Robert R. Livingston to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase and helped negotiate the purchase from Napoleon. His portrait in this set of stamps helped honor his significant contribution to the nation's expansion. -- The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced a total of 4,542,600 these issues.

Louisiana Purchase Map 10c Issue

This issue depicts an engraved map of the United States, showing the territory of the Louisiana Purchase in darker color, with the year of the purchase, "1803", inscribed across the face of this area. The engraver of the map area was M.W. Baldwin, the frame design by Robert Ponickau.[58]: The Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed only 4,011,200 of these issues and consequently surviving examples have been scarce, making it the most valuable stamp of this series to this day.

War of 1812[edit]

The War of 1812 presents us with a variety of Names and events that are depicted and/or are commemorated on the face of US Postage. Andrew Jackson is the central figure in this chapter of American history. Up until 1863 the only persons depicted on US Postage were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. It wasn't until this time, 18 years after Jackson's death, in the middle of the Civil War, did the US Post Office finally issue the first Jackson Postage stamp, commonly referred to as 'The Black Jack' among many collectors because of the black ink used to print this issue. This Postage was designed and line engraved by Frederick Halpin and printed by the National Bank Note Company in New York City. [59] The engraved image of this issue was also used by the Confederacy to print the 'Red Jack' stamp, so named owing to its reddish color.

Andrew Jackson on the Definitive (regular) Issues.
Issue of 1873
Issue of 1883
Issue of 1903
Issue of 1938

Andrew Jackson and Winfield Scott[edit]

~ Jackson ~ Scott ~
Issue of 1937

This 2-cent Army stamp issued January 15, 1937, features portraits of Andrew Jackson and Winfield Scott on either side of Jackson's home, The Hermitage. As s General, Jackson was a hero of the War of 1812, his troops having defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans. He served as president from 1829-1837. General Scott was also a hero of the Mexican-American War, leading a campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. This issue was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

The Battle of New Orleans[edit]

Battle of New Orleans
150th anniversary issue of 1965

The Battle of New Orleans was the final battle of the War of 1812, which lasted more than a month and was fought near New Orleans, Louisiana, from December 23, 1814, to January 26, 1815. [60][61]

This 5-cent Battle of New Orleans commemorative issue was first placed on sale at the New Orleans, Louisiana, post office on January 8, 1965. Designed by Robert J. Jones, the stamp portrays then General Jackson leading his forces into battle against the British troops of Sir Edward Pakenham. This design also depicts a Battle of New Orleans Sesquicentennial medal, which honors the 150 years of unbroken peace between England and the United States. [62]

Texas Revolution[edit]

Sam Houston ~ Stephen Austin

The Texas centennial commemorative stamp of March 2, 1936, celebrates the centennial of adoption of a Declaration of Independence for Texas. Hostilities erupted in 1835 between Mexicans and American settlers in Texas; a provisional government was formed, leading up to the declaration. Statehood was achieved in 1845, following the end of the Mexican-American War.

The 3-cent violet stamp features portraits of Sam Houston, general of the Texas army and later governor of Texas and U.S. senator, and Stephen F. Austin, founder of the Texas colony. The portraits flank an image of the Alamo, prominent in the center of this issue. The issue was first releaseded in Gonzales, Texas, March 2, 1936. A total of 124,324,500 stamps were issued. The issue was designed by A. R. Meissner. The engravers were C. T. Arlt, L. C. Kauffmann & F. Pauling (vignette) · W. B. Wells (lettering). [63]

Mexican-American War[edit]

Winfield Scott
Issue of 1870

During the Mexican-American War of 1846 to 1848, Winfield Scott commanded the southern of the two United States armies and Zachary Taylor commanded the northern army, made up of militiamen and volunteers). Landing at Veracruz, Scott and his regulars, assisted by one of his staff officers, Captain Robert E. Lee, followed the approximate route taken by Hernán Cortés in 1519, and assaulted Mexico City.

The image at right is of a 'plate proof' of the actual 1870 issue. Printed by the National Bank Note Co. on 'Hard White Paper'. Only about 8,500 issues were printed and today surviving examples are quite rare and very costly.[64]

Zachary Taylor
Issue of 1870

In 1845, Texas became a U.S. state, and President James K. Polk directed Zachary Taylor to deploy into disputed territory on the Texas-Mexico border,[65] under the order to defend the state against any attempts by Mexico to take it back after it had lost control by 1836.[66] Taylor was given command of American troops on the Rio Grande,[[67] the Army of Occupation, on April 23, 1845. When some of Taylor's men were attacked by Mexican forces near the river, Polk told Congress in May 1846 that a war between Mexico and the United States had started by an act of the former.[68] Taylor declared, as the 1848 Whig Party convention approached, that he had always been a Whig in principle, but he did consider himself a Jeffersonian-Democrat.[69] In 1849, winning over Lewis Cass, the Democratic candidate, and Martin Van Buren, the Free Soil candidate, Taylor was elected 12th President of the United States.

When the American Bank Note Company received the federal contract to print postage stamps in 1879, Continental Bank Note relinquished all designs and property to ABNCo. Most of the printing plates had originated with the National Bank Note Company. CBNCo had only created one original stamp design—the 5-cent Zachary Taylor.[70]

Pre Civil War[edit]

A number of post Civil War events occurred before the actual outbreak of that war.

Lincoln Douglas Debates[edit]

Issue of 1958

The Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858 is considered by most historians to be the most famous political debate in American history. [71] One hundred years after the debate the Post Office issued a Postage stamp commemorating this landmark debate on August 27, 1858. This Postage issue was first placed on sale at Freeport, Illinois, the town where the second of the Lincoln-Douglas debates took place, on August 27, 1858.

Civil War[edit]

The Civil War era is documented and commemorated on US Postage in a variety of different ways and its subjects appear frequently on US Postage stamps. However, other than Lincoln and Grant appearing on the regular (definitive) issues, this era was not commemorated in any way until the release of the Army Navy issues of 1937 were released. With the exception of Andrew Jackson, even the Postage that was released during the Civil War depicted figures only from the American Revolution period, as Washington, Franklin Jefferson and Jackson were the only figures to appear on issues released during this time.

Postage Issued during the Civil War[edit]

Benjamin Franklin
1861 Issue
George Washington
1861 Issue

The outbreak of the American Civil War threw the postal system into turmoil. On April 13, 1861 (the day after the firing on Fort Sumter) John H. Reagan, postmaster-general of the Confederate States of America, ordered local postmasters to return their US stamps to Washington DC (although it is unlikely that many did so), while in May the Union decided to withdraw and invalidate all existing US stamps, and to issue new stamps. Confederate post offices were left without legitimate stamps for several months, and while many reverted to the old system of cash payment at the post office, over one hundred post offices across the South came up with their own provisional issues. Many of these are quite rare, with only single examples surviving of some types. Eventually the Confederate government issued its own stamps; see stamps and postal history of the Confederate States.

Civil War Commemorative Issues[edit]

In 1937 the US Post Office finally issued a series of commemorative stamp issues honoring various Army and Navy heroes of the American Civil War. Among them were issues commemorating Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, Robert E. Lee and Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson.

~ Generals Sherman, Grant
and Sheridan ~
Issue of 1937
~ Generals Lee and Jackson ~
Issue of 1937

During the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, the U.S. Post Office issued five postage stamps commemorating the 100th anniversaries of famous battles, as they occurred over a four-year period, beginning with the Battle of Fort Sumter Centennial issue of 1961. The Battle of Shiloh commemorative stamp was issued in 1962, the Battle of Gettysburg in 1963, the Battle of the Wilderness in 1964, and the Appomattox Centennial commemorative stamp in 1965.

Civil War Figures on issue of 1938[edit]

The Presidential issue of 1938 had values that corresponded with the number of the President's term, Lincoln being on the 16 cent issue and so on.

Lincoln 1938 Issue-16c.jpg
Andrew Johnson 1938 Issue-17c.jpg
US Grant 1938 Issue-18c.jpg

Abraham Lincoln[edit]

The first Lincoln Postage Issue of 1866

President Lincoln is one of the few Presidents whose portrait or other image has frequently appeared on the face of the US Postage issues.

On April 14, 1866, one year to the day after Abraham Lincoln's assassination by John Wilks Booth on April 14, 1865, the US Post Office issued its first postage stamp honoring the fallen President. From that point on Lincoln appeared on a variety of Postage issues. It was the first postage issue of that denomination released by the United States Post Office, and Lincoln was the first person pictured on a postage stamp who would have seen the 1847 Issues. -- The 15-cent denomination paid the single-weight rate to France or, in combination with other denominations, greater weight and foreign destination rates. After January 1, 1869, it would have satisfied the registered mail fee also. More than 2 million stamps of the 13-cent issue were printed by National Bank Note Company [72]

The second Lincoln Postage Issue of 1869

This 90-cent 1869 Lincoln Issue was designed around a photograph taken by Mathew Brady was and is the highest value of the set from which it belongs. It was also the least used postage issue, having the fewest printings, as there was no need for large quantities of this high denomination. The 90-cent Lincoln issue was the only bi-color issue of the pictorial series of 1869. [2] It would be the only bi-color portrait stamp printed by the United States until the 1918 Third Bureau Issue image of Benjamin Franklin. The next president to be portrayed on a bi-color stamp would be Woodrow Wilson in the 1938 Presidential Series. Because of these factors, the 90-cent Lincoln is highly desirable to collectors. Identical to its two preceding lower values, the 90-cent stamp most often paid the postage for large-weight letters sent domestically or expensive foreign destination rates. A total of only 47,460 stamps were printed by the National Bank Note Company. [73]

Much has been written about the life of the legendary Abraham Lincoln, from his birth in a log cabin in Kentucky to his assassination at the beginning of his second term as president in 1865. Honored worldwide as a symbol of justice and freedom, Lincoln has appeared on a variety of stamps over the decades.

Lincoln on the Definitive Issues[edit]

Issue of 1890

During his tenure as superintendent of the pictorial department at the American Bank Note Company, Alfred Jones engraved the portrait of Abraham Lincoln for the 4-cent stamp of the 1890-1893 Issue. Born in Great Britain, Jones became an engraver for the Philadelphia printing firm Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson soon after immigrating to the United States. During the mid-1850s, the renowned portrait engraver operated his own firm, which later merged with the American Bank Note Company. The Post Office issued this 4-cent Lincoln exactly twenty-five years after General Edmund Kirby Smith’s surrender of the last major Confederate army (the Trans-Mississippi Department) at Galveston, Texas, on June 2, 1865. [74] The American Bank Note Company printed more than 66 million of this 4-cent issue.

Issue of 1896

The design for this stamp, issued by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, was issued on several different dates in various shades of brown. It closely resembles the issue released by the American Bank Note Co. in 1890 but is distinguished from it by the inscribed triangles in the upper corners of the stamp design. The first issue of this type was release was on September 11, 1894, in a Dark Brown color. The second issue was released on June 5, 1895, also printed in the same shade of Dark Brown. The only way to distinguish this issue from the 1894 issue is by the watermarks found in the paper of this issue. The third release of this design was issued on October 7, 1898 and was printed with a 'Rose Brown' color, it bearing no watermark.

Issue of 1903

Lincoln (1809–1865), is portrayed on this 5-cent 1903 Postage issue. Lincoln’s fame as a great leader in American history is matched only by George Washington. No other American except Washington and Franklin has been honored more frequently on U.S. Postage than Abraham Lincoln. The international letter postage rate was five cents when the Series 1902 was in use. It was thus decided that the image of Lincoln’s would best represent the nation on mail sent to countries around the globe. Lincoln also appeared on the 4-cent stamp of the First Bureau Issue. The 5-cent Lincoln stamp was issued January 20, 1903. This 5-cent blue postage issue was designed by R. Ostrander Smith taken from a photograph by Matthew Brady. The engraved image of Lincoln is shown between two robed allegorical female figures each holding the American Flag to symbolize the reunited nation. The portrait and decorative figures were engraved by George F. C. Smillie, the frame was engraved by Robert F. Ponickau, and John U. Rose, Jr., and Lyman F. Ellis engraved the letters and numerals. [75]

Issue of 1923

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), president of the United States during the Civil War, was chosen for the design of the 3-cent stamp. Clair Aubrey Huston designed the stamp using an existing engraving for the vignette. George F.C. Smillie, an engraver at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, had made the earlier engraving in 1898.[76] Smillie modeled his engraving on a photograph of Lincoln taken in 1864 by Matthew Brady, who was one of the most prominent photographers of the Civil War. Edward M. Hall and Joachim C. Benzing engraved the frame for the stamp. The stamp, initially printed on the flat plate press, was issued on Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, 1923, in both Washington, D.C., and in Hodgenville, Kentucky, near Lincoln’s birthplace.

Issue of 1938

Lincoln (1809-1865), the sixteenth president of the United States (1861-1865), is appropriately depicted on this 16-cent issue of the 1938 Presidential Series. The denominations of this series correspond with the term of the President, hence the name 'Presidential Series'. The image was inspired by a statue of Lincoln's likeness in the Senate Gallery in Washington, DC. Issued on October 20, 1938, this 16-cent value was printed in black and only in sheet form. -- The 1938 Presidential Series definitives resulted from President Franklin D. Roosevelt's desire, he being an avid stamp collector himself, [77] for a stamp series in which every U.S. president was featured in the order they were elected. Lincoln, the 16th president, thus appears on the 16¢ stamp.

Turn of the 19th - 20th Century[edit]

The turn of the century of this period offers an array of distinctively unique suubjects to be found on US Postage as this era was marked by revolutions of various kinds, esp where the automobile and airplane are concerned. Both of these subjects, and others are featured and commemorated on US Postage stamps.

Air Mail[edit]

Airmail in the United States Post Office emerged in three stages beginning with the 'pioneer period' [78] where there were many unofficial flights carrying the mail prior to 1918, the year the US Post Office assumed delivery of all Air Mail. For the first eight years,(May, 1918 through February, 1926), all Airmail was flown by the US Government, after which time the US Post office began contracting out to the private sector to carry the mail (Contract Air Mail, CAM) on February 15, 1926.[79] In 1934 all US Air Mail was carried by the U.S. Army for six months, after which the contract system resumed. This proved to be a disaster, with many Army pilots dying in airplane accidents. This event ultimately gave rise to commercially flown airmail (CAM). The first two commercial Contract Air Mail (CAM) routes began in the United States were CAM-6 between Detroit (Dearborn) and Cleveland and CAM-7 between Detroit (Dearborn) and Chicago which were simultaneously inaugurated on February 15, 1926. The contractor for both routes was the Ford Motor Company, operating as Ford Air Transport, using a fleet of six Ford built Stout 2-AT aircraft.[80] The entire history of US Airmail is covered at length in Airmails of the United States

~ The First U.S. Air Mail Stamps, 1918

The first Airmal stamps were issued by the U.S. Post Office in 1918. Quantities issued for each stamp were 2 to 3 million. [81] (draft)

~ 1918 Issue, 6c ~
1918 Issue, 16c ~
~ 1918 Issue, 24c

Post WW-I Era[edit]

This era was marked with great advances in aviation and Airmail.

First TransAtlantic Airplane Crossing[edit]

~ Spirit of Saint Louis ~
Airmail Issue of 1927

When Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris on May 20–21, 1927, the Post Office decided to issue a Postage stamp that honored a living American, but since the existing law did/does not allow Postage to depict the portrait of a living person, the stamp's design instead depicted Lindbergh’s airplane, The Spirit of Saint Louis. The plane was later moved to the main entrance hall of the Smithsonian Institution’s Arts and Industries Building and then later moved to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum where it resides today.[82] Quantities issued were 20,379,000. [81]

WW-II Era[edit]

Famous Americans Series of 1940[edit]

After WW I the United States enjoyed an era of peace that came to an abrupt end in 1940 when Adolph Hitler invaded Poland and France which ultimately brought the United States into the war. That year the 'Famous Americans Issue' became the first commemorative series of the period. It would be the first large commemorative series since the Columbian Exposition Issue of 1893 that did not include an American president as the subject found on U.S. Postage. Among other famous Americans it included the first commemorative Postage issue to honor an American Black man with the 10-cent Booker T. Washington issue. Beginning January 29th of that year the U.S. Post Office began releasing its series of 35 Postage issues, released over the course of approximately a ten-month period, [2] commemorating America's famous Authors, Poets, Educators, Scientists, Composers, Artists and Inventors. This series of Postage issues was printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

~ Famous Americans Series of 1940 ~
(Resolution: 4,401 × 5,985)

Authors: Washington Irving - James Fenmore Cooper - Ralph Waldo Emerson - Louisa May Alcott - Samuel Clemens

Poets: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - John Greenleaf Whittier - James Russel lowell - Walt Whitman - James Whitcomb Riley

Educators: Horace Mann - Mark Hopkins - Charles Elliot - Frances E. Williard - Booker T. Washington

Scientists: John James Audubon - Dr. Crawford W. Long - Luther Burbank - Dr. Walter Reed - Jane Addams

Composers: Stephen Collins Foster - John Philip Sousa - Victor Herbert - Edward A. MacDowell - Ethelbert Nevin

Artists: Gilbert Charles Stuart - James McNeil Whistler - Augustus Saint-Gaudens - Daniel Chester French - Fredrick Remington

Inventors Eli Whitney - Samuel F. B. Morse - Cyrus Hall McCormick - Elias Howe - Alexander Graham Bell

Post WW-II Era[edit]

This is a period when the US Government issued more commemorative issues than ever before with issues being released at the rate of an average of one per month. Before this time the release of postage issues were spread apart by months and in earlier US History, by years.

Postal History[edit]

US mail that has survived over the years has helped both collector and historian alike to better put the country's history into a not so abstract frame of reference. As issues of the US Government postage stamps and mail have in many ways been involved in the events in the nation's history, as the postage stamp is what carried the mail that was sent between Presidents, Governors, Soldiers and others. Mailings from US Naval Ships, letters from prisoners of war during the Civil War, Pony Express mail, mail carried by First Air Mail flights, etc., all offer remarkable insight into the period in question. Postage stamps that are Postally used stamp issues with their distinctive name and dated postmark often provide us with tangible documentation of People, Events and dates. Because these artifacts actually existed in a given time period of history they are in fact part of that history and often serve as documentation of various People and Events.

Postage Stamps by their Topic[edit]

US stamps, and stamps altogether, are usually categorized by their date of issue. However the issues are often instead categorized by their subject or Topic. Some issues are categorized by Ships, as some collectors specialize in collecting 'Ships on stamps' as some sea Captains were sometimes known to do. Among the favorite topics found on US Postage are Ships, Airplanes, Trains, Poets, Horses and Birds. A favorite category among collectors and historians is 'History on Stamps'. In the case of US Postage stamps this category, or topic, offers the most examples, as no other topic or subject (except for Washington and Franklin) is featured as frequently as this particular topic.[2]

Space Exploration in US History[edit]

With the advent of unmanned and manned space flight, the U.S. Post Office began honoring the various events with various commemorative issues. The first stamp to depict a space vehicle was issued in 1948, the Fort Bliss issue. The first stamp to commemorate a space project by name was the ECHO I communications satellite commemorative issue of 1960. The next to follow was the Project Mercury Issue of 1962. A a variety of other issues followed in the ensuing decades. [2] These issue can be viewed on the page that used to be a section of this page: U.S. Space Exploration History on U.S. Stamps

American Flags on US Postage Stamp Issues

The American Flag on US Postage[edit]

The American Flag did not appear in any form on US Postal stamp issues until the Battle of White Plains Issue was released in 1926, and there it displays the 'Betsy Ross' flag with its circle of 13 stars. The 48 star flag first appeared on the General Pulaski issue of 1931 however the depciction there is noticble at best. The first U.S. Postage stamp to feature the American Flag by itself with the Flag being the sole subject of the postage stamp was issued July 4, 1957, displayed at the top of the photo to the right. [2]

Ships on US Stamps[edit]

Ships that are depicted on the face of US Postage issues are almost always historical in their aspect. Upon close examination the many details of these Postage stamp images will reveal themselves. The engravings possess excellent detail, often revealing the ship's rigging and other features of interest.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ USPS, United States Postage Stamps:
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Scotts Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps
  3. ^ US Postal Service: Stamps and Postcards:
  4. ^ USPS:
  5. ^ Biographical Directory of the United States: -
  6. ^
  7. ^ Scotts U.S. Stamp Catalogue
  8. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum]
  9. ^ "Renaissance, Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2010-04-27.
  10. ^ Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum: /
  11. ^ a b c Clements R. Markham, ed. The Journal of Christopher Columbus (During His First Voyage). ASIN B000I1OMXM. Text "Hakluyt Society (1893)" ignored (help)CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "book2" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  12. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Columbian-1c
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Scotts Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps:Quantities Issued
  14. ^ The Original Nina The Columbus Foundation
  15. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum: Arago, the Museum's educational and research Web site:
  16. ^ The History of Postage Rates in the United States
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ [[The Life of Christopher Columbus, 1891, by Edward Everett Hale, Chapter III, The Great Voyage
  20. ^ Smithsonian Institution:
  21. ^ Arago:
  22. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Columbian-4c]
  23. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Columbian-5c]
  24. ^ The National Sculptor Society:
  25. ^ Haimann, Alexander T. (2006-05-16). Columbian Exposition Issues (1893). Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  26. ^ Haimann, Alexander T. (2006-05-16). Columbian Exposition Issues (1893). Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  27. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Columbian-15c]The color is 'Dark Green'.
  28. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Columbian-30c]
  29. ^ Haimann, Alexander T. (2006-05-16). Columbian Exposition Issues (1893). Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  30. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum]
  31. ^ United States Senate, Art and History
  32. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum]
  33. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum]
  34. ^ Smithsonian National Postal - Isabella pledging Jewels Museum
  35. ^ Haimann, Alexander T. (2006-05-16). Columbian Exposition Issues (1893). Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  36. ^ The Life of Christopher Columbus, 1891, Chapter X, by Edward Everett Hale]
  37. ^ Haimann, Alexander T. (2006-05-16). Columbian Exposition Issues (1893). Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  38. ^ Bird, Gayland. Columbian Series of 1893. Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  39. ^ Haimann, Alexander T. (2006-05-16). Columbian Exposition Issues (1893). Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  40. ^ [Smithsonian National Postal Museum]
  41. ^ Bird, Gayland. Columbian Series of 1893. Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  42. ^ The Scarsdale Collection, Part One. Robert A. Seigel Auction Galleries. Retrieved on December 14, 2006.
  43. ^ This is easily confirmed by viewing any stamp catalog of U.S. Postage stamps. The Washington-Franklin issues of 1908–1917 alone put the number of Washington issues greater than any other.
  44. ^ Bob Allen, 1847USA:
  45. ^ South Brooklyn Net:
  46. ^ NYPL Digital Gallery
  47. ^ Scott's United States Stamp Catalog: First Day Covers
  48. ^ Smithsonian Postal Museum - Louisiana purchase Issue of 1953.
  49. ^ Godlewski, Guy; Napoléon et Les-États-Amis, P.320, La Nouvelle Revue Des Deux Mondes, July-September, 1977.
  50. ^ [ The Louisiana State Capitol Building
  51. ^ The American Pageant by David M. Kennedy, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey
  52. ^ "Table 1.1 Acquisition of the Public Domain 1781–1867" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-09-02.
  53. ^ Handbook of Texas Online - KESSLER, GEORGE E.. Retrieved 18 May 2006.
  54. ^ Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps: Louisiana Purchase Exposition Issue of 1904
  55. ^ Robert Allen: 1847USA:
  56. ^ Clermont State Historical Site:
  57. ^ Smithsonian Postal Museum - Arago:
  58. ^ Robert Allem, 1847USA:
  59. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum: Arago
  60. ^ Also known as the "Battle of Chalmette Plantation".
  61. ^ Several military engagements were after and followed the Battle of New Orleans. The first, the Battle of Lake Borgne, occurred on December 14 when British forces captured an American flotilla protecting Lake Borgne. The last occurred on January 18 when British forces terminated their bombardment of Fort St. Philip.
  62. ^ Smithsonian Postal Museum -Arago:
  63. ^ Robert Allen - 1847USA:
  64. ^ 1847usa:
  65. ^ Zachary Taylor: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  66. ^ Whitney, David C; Robin Vaughn Whitney (1993). The American Presidents. The Reader's Digest Association. p. 101. ISBN 1-56865-031-0.
  67. ^ The American Presidents. p. 102.
  68. ^ "Zachary Taylor: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  69. ^ "Zachary Taylor: Campaigns and Elections". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
  70. ^ Smithsonian Postal Museum-Arago:
  71. ^ McPherson (1993), p. 182.
  72. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum - First Lincoln Postage issue, 1866
  73. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Second Lincoln Postage Issue, 1869
  74. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Lincoln 1890 Issue
  75. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum - Lincoln 1903 Issue]
  76. ^ [ Bureau of Engraving and Printing, U.S. Department of the Treasury]
  77. ^ William H. Young, Nancy K. Young (2007), The Great Depression in America: A Cultural Encyclopedia (illustrated ed.), Greenwood Publishing Group, pp. 520–521, ISBN 0313335206
  78. ^ Scott's US Stamp Catalog, Air Post Stamps
  79. ^ Glines, Carroll V. "The Saga of the Air Mail" (1980) Ayer Publishing. ISBN 0405122136
  80. ^ CAM Contract Air Mail First Flights CAM-6:
  81. ^ a b Scotts Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps - Air post Stamps
  82. ^ Smithsonian National Postal Museum: Arago, the Museum's educational and research Web site: