- Reproduction of the 1847 Issue of America’s First Postage Stamp
- Features the portrait of Benjamin Franklin – America’s first postmaster general
- Not valid for postage
- Extremely scarce
Stamp Category: Official Reproduction
Set: 1875 Issue
Value: Sold at face value of 5c, but not valid for postage
Issue Date: 1875
First Day City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Note: Some are of the opinion the stamp was sold only at the office of the Third Assistant Postmaster General in Washington, D.C.
Quantity Issued: 4,779
Printed by: Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Printing Method: Flat plate printing
Format: Panes of 50 subjects
Color: Red brown
Paper: Ungummed bluish wove paper
Why the stamp was issued: The stamp was issued by order of the U.S. Post Office Department
in conjunction with the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition. The post office hoped to sell all U.S. stamps at the Exhibition.
About the stamp design: The portrait of Franklin, which originally appeared on the first US stamp, was based on a painting by James B. Longacre. Longacre (1794-1869) was not only a portraitist, but also an engraver, becoming the fourth Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint. The engraving was done by Asher B. Durand, a well-known American landscape painter.
Special design details: Differences between the reproduction and the original US #1 –
- The initials of the printers of the original – RWH&E (Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson) – appear at the bottom of the stamp, centered inside the frame line. However, the initials are less distinct than on the original #1.
- The white ruffle on Franklin’s shirt connects with the oval frame more or less evenly with the top of the numeral “5”, while on the original, it does so with the top of the “F” of the word “Five”.
- The bottom of the right side of the “N” comes to a point; on the original, it is squared off.
About the printing process: U.S. #3 was printed by hand, which consisted of line engravingthe design onto the steel plate of a flat bed press. The plate was inked and heated. A sheet of damp paper was laid on the plate. A heavy wooden or metal piece on the press, called a platen, was rolled over the plate, transferring the ink to the paper. Each sheet was put aside to dry. All the work was done manually, making for a slow process and only a few thousand stamps printed each day. The early flat bed (or flat plate) press was called a “Spider” press.
The original 5¢ Franklin (U.S. #1) was printed by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson. This ungummed reproduction, the first stamp printed by the BEP, was printed with new dies and plates in panes of 50 subjects. The original plates and dies of US #1 were thought to be destroyed, so new ones were created.
About the set of 1875 reproductions:
Both 5c and 10c stamps were printed with the intention of selling them as a set at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition, along with all U.S. stamps produced up until that time. However, at least one source says these two were only available from the office of the third assistant postmaster general in Washington, D.C.
History the Stamp Represents:
On May 10, 1876, the first official World’s Fair in the United States was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was named the Centennial International Exhibition. The fair commemorated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Prior to the Centennial Exhibition, the U.S. had staged the Great Central Fair of 1864, one of several sanitary fairs held during the Civil War. This and similar fairs showed how public, private, and commercial efforts could join together for a larger fair. The 1864 included a visit from the president and his family. It also offered ordinary citizens the chance to support the welfare of Union soldiers and join in the war effort.
Two years after that fair, John L. Campbell, a professor at Wabash College, first suggested a world’s fair in Philadelphia to mark America’s centennial. Initially, many people thought it was a bad idea, believing funding would be hard to come by. Also, that America’s exhibits might not measure up to those of foreign nations. With support from the Franklin Institute, though, the fair was approved in January 1870.
Funding came from several sources – the city, the state of Pennsylvania, and extensive fund raising. New hotels were built and transportation was improved to bring people into and around Philadelphia. The 115-acre fairgrounds housed more than 200 buildings. These included five main buildings as well as separate structures for state, federal, foreign, corporate, and public exhibits. This was an unusual strategy compared to past fairs that usually only had one or a few large buildings.
The fair’s formal name was “The International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures, and Products of the Soil and Mine,” but it was more commonly known as the Centennial Exhibition. It was originally due to open in April, to honor the battle of Lexington and Concord, but was delayed by construction issues. The fair finally opened on May 10, 1876, with the ringing of bells throughout Philadelphia. President Ulysses S. Grant, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil and their wives participated in the opening ceremonies. Grant and Pedro ended the ceremony by turning on the Corliss Steam Engine that powered many of the exposition’s machines.
That first day, 186,272 people were in attendance, though 110,000 had free passes. Attendance dropped off sharply after that, and was further hurt by a heat wave in June and July. Cooling temperatures and positive reviews later created a surge in attendance.
Visitors to the fair saw a number of new inventions, including sewing machines, typewriters, stoves, air-powered tools, lanterns, guns, horse-drawn wagons, carriages, and an array of agricultural equipment. Among the most popular exhibits were the world’s first monorail system and a portion of the Statue of Liberty (its arm and torch). Visitors could pay 50¢ to climb a ladder to the top of the torch. These funds were used to help pay for the statue’s pedestal. Additionally, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was set up at opposite ends of one hall to show how voice could travel over wires. And Thomas Edison displayed his automatic telegraph system and electric pen. Visitors were also introduced to new foods, including bananas, popcorn, and Heinz ketchup.
The U.S. Post Office Department also had a strong presence at the fair. They wanted to sell every U.S. stamp at the exhibition, even those that were no longer in use. Because many of the original plates couldn’t be found, new ones had to be engraved. Observant collectors noticed subtle differences, so Scott gave them their own numbers. Not realizing they had created philatelic rarities, the Post Office Department sold them as planned. These stamps weren’t valid for postage and were issued in very small quantities. Most of the unsold stamps were destroyed.
While the fair didn’t turn a significant profit, 10 million people attended it. Additionally, it showed other nations how much America had grown industrially and commercially and helped to increase international trade.