1/2¢ Benjamin Franklin
Issue Date: May 1958
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 11 x 10½
Color: Red orange
U.S. #1030 features a portrait of Benjamin Franklin by J.S. Duplessis from the book, The Pictorial Life of Benjamin Franklin, Printer.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
Benjamin Franklin was an American statesman, writer, scientist, and inventor born in Boston, Massachusetts. He ran away to Philadelphia at age 17, and founded his own printing business there at age 24. Franklin published his famous Poor Richard’s Almanac from 1733 to 1758. Franklin was the only person to sign all four of the key documents in United States history: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States. Franklin was also appointed the first U.S. Postmaster General in 1775. Ben Franklin discovered lightning was electricity, and created such terms as armature, condenser, and battery.
The Liberty Series
Issued to replace the 1938 Presidential series, this patriotic set of stamps honors guardians of freedom throughout U.S. history. Eighteenth century America is represented by Revolutionary War heroes and statesmen such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Henry, Jay, and Revere.
Leaders of the 19th century including Monroe, Lincoln, Lee, Harrison, and Susan B. Anthony make an appearance. The 20th century is represented by Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and General Pershing.
The Liberty Series also features famous locations important to America’s democratic history, such as Bunker Hill, Independence Hall, and the Alamo.
“Wet” versus “Dry” Printing
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing began an experiment in 1954. In previous “wet” printings, the paper had a moisture content of 15 to 35 percent. In the experimental “dry” printings, the paper had a moisture content of 5 to 10 percent. This process required stiffer, thicker paper, special inks, and greater pressure to force the paper through the plates.
Stamps produced by dry printing can be distinguished by whiter paper and higher surface sheen. The stamps feel thicker and the designs are more pronounced than on wet printings. So the dry printing experiment was a success, and all U.S. postage stamps have been printed by this method since the late 1950s.
Franklin Arrives In Philadelphia
On October 6, 1723, a 17-year-old Benjamin Franklin first arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, Franklin apprenticed in his brother’s print shop at the age of 12. During this time Franklin submitted many articles under the pseudonym “Mrs. Silence Dogood.” However, when his brother discovered that Benjamin was the author of the articles, he refused to publish them. The two brothers quarreled frequently, and at the age of 17, Franklin ran away.
Franklin first traveled to New York City but was unable to find a job. However, while there he learned that he could work for a printer in Philadelphia.
Franklin finally reached Philadelphia on October 6, 1723. As he later recalled, he was in his working clothes, with additional clothes stuffed into his pockets. Tired and hungry from the journey, he found a baker and offered all the money he had – three pence – for whatever that would get him. He received three loaves of bread, one of which he ate as he walked the streets.
Franklin eventually followed a group of people to a Quaker meetinghouse where he slept briefly and then met a friendly Quaker who showed him a place to spend the night. There, Franklin could rest, eat, and get ready to meet the printer. However, when he met the printer, he told him that he didn’t have any work available, but offered to let him stay there. The printer also told Franklin about another printer in town who might have work for him, and this one eventually did hire him.
In the coming years, Franklin became a respected member of the Philadelphia community, thanks in large part to the kindness of these strangers in his early days there. Aside from his publishing work, Franklin flourished, and his accomplishments and contributions to the city earned him the title “The first citizen of Philadelphia.”
Franklin’s many contributions to the city of Philadelphia include: founding the first subscription library in the American colonies; organizing the city’s fire department; law enforcement reform; leading efforts to pave, clean, and light public streets; raising money to build a city hospital, the Pennsylvania Hospital; and founding the academy that became the University of Pennsylvania.
Click here to read Franklin’s account of his first days in Philadelphia.
Click here for more Franklin stamps.