40¢ John Marshall
Issue Date: September 24, 1955
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary press dry printing
Perforations: 11 x 10.5
Color: Brown red
John Marshall – Longest-Serving Chief Justice
John Marshall began his 34-year career as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on February 4, 1801.
The eldest of fifteen children, John Marshall was born in a log cabin near Germantown, Virginia. Marshall joined the Continental Army in 1776, and spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge with General George Washington’s forces. He was promoted to captain in 1778. Although he had little formal education, Marshall studied law at the College of William and Mary and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1780. He quickly established a career defending individuals against their pre-Revolutionary War British debtors.
Marshall served several terms of office in Virginia’s House of Delegates. As a delegate to the constitutional convention, Marshall spoke forcefully in favor of a new constitution to replace the weak Articles of Confederation. After declining several positions in the Washington and Adams administrations, Marshall served briefly in the U.S. House of Representatives and as President Adam’s Secretary of State. Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1800. The Senate confirmed his appointment on January 27, 1801, and he was sworn in on January 31, officially taking office on February 4. Marshall continued to serve as secretary of state as well until Adams’ term was completed one month later.
Marshall believed that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land. As such, any law enacted by a branch of government must adhere to its principles or be struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Marbury vs. Madison, which determined that an action by a public official violated another’s constitutional rights, reflected this concept of judicial review. Judicial review, which is the practice of reviewing actions of government branches, firmly established the Supreme Court’s powers.
As chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 34 years, Marshall participated in more than 1,000 decisions and authored more than 500 opinions. The legacy of the Marshall Court was an increase in the power of the Supreme Court as a branch of the Federal Government. It placed an emphasis on the role of the judiciary in states and led to a stronger Federal Government.
As a close friend of George Washington, Marshall announced his 1799 death, offered the eulogy at his funeral, and led the commission that planned the Washington Monument. At the request of Washington’s family, Marshall wrote a five-volume biography about our nation’s first President, The Life of George Washington. John Marshall died in 1835, ending the longest tenure of any Chief Justice in Supreme Court history.
U.S. #1050 honors John Marshall. Marshall (1755-1835) was a jurist and statesman who shaped American constitutional law. As Chief Justice, Marshall established the exercise of judicial review, which gives the Supreme Court the power to strike down laws made by other branches of government that are “repugnant” to the Constitution.
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. The experiment was a success, and all U.S. postage stamps have been printed by the dry method since the late 1950s.