Series of 1867 90¢ Washington
Earliest Known Use: May 8, 1869
Quantity issued: 30,000 (estimate)
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
Grills were made by embossing the stamp, breaking paper fibers, and allowing canceling ink to soak deeply into the paper. This made it difficult to remove cancels and reuse stamps. Charles Steel, who oversaw postage stamp production in the 1860s, patented the grilling method. It was used nine short years – 1867 to 1875. Grilling resulted in some of the greatest U.S. stamp rarities, including the legendary “Z” Grill U.S. #85A.
U.S. Army Established
On September 29, 1789, Congress created the U.S. Army after multiple requests from President George Washington.
After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was largely disbanded, as the U.S. legislature believed that a standing army during peace time was dangerous and unnecessary. Some troops remained active to guard munitions and about 700 members of state militias were prepared to take on potential threats from Native Americans and the British.
When the Constitution was ratified, Congress was given the power to raise and support armies. But they didn’t see this as a priority. During their first session, which began in March of 1789, they focused on creating the State, War and Treasury departments, a judicial system, and argued over where to establish the new capital.
However, President Washington saw the importance in creating an American army. On August 7, he wrote a letter to Congress urging them to make the creation of an army a priority. He said, “I am particularly anxious it should receive an early attention as circumstances will admit; because it is now in our power to avail ourselves of the military knowledge disseminated throughout the several States by means of the many well instructed Officers and soldiers of the late Army; a resource which is daily diminishing by deaths and other causes.” Even after Secretary of War Henry Knox read Washington’s letter aloud, no action was taken. Days later, Washington reminded them of his request.
It wasn’t until over a month later, on the last day of the session, that Congress addressed Washington’s request. They passed a bill that allowed the President “to call into service, from time to time, such part of the militia of the states, respectively, as he may judge necessary.” Thus, the U.S. Army was born. And unlike before, states couldn’t refuse to send their men for service.
Series of 1867
Grills are classified by the dimensions of the grill pattern and are measured in millimeters or by counting the number of grill points. There are eleven major classifications.
The letters that classify the various grill types do not denote the size, shape, or appearance of the grills. Rather, they simply indicate the order in which they were discovered.
The exception to the rule is the “Z” grill, which was identified by William L. Stevenson. Stevenson could not decide to which family of grills this particular type belonged. Nor did he know which other families it preceded or followed and so he designated it as “Z Grill,” where “Z” signifies the unknown.
Visible in general from the back of the stamp only, grills may also be felt by lightly running a fingertip over the surface. Depending on which type of roller was used, the pattern may be “points up” or a “points down.” The ridges on an indented roller force the paper into the recesses, creating raised points, while a roller with raised pyramids will cause the points to be forced down into the paper, forming a series of depressions.
The United States was the first country to issue grilled stamps and was the only country to do so until the mid-1870s, when Peru also began using grills. The National Bank Note Company was responsible for producing both countries’ stamps.