$5 Alexander Hamilton
Issue Date: March 19, 1956
City: Paterson, NJ
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat Plate
The image of Alexander Hamilton on U.S. #1053 is based on a painting by John Trumbull. This stamp is generally considered one of the most beautiful U.S. portrait stamps of the 1900s. It was also one of the last U.S. stamps printed on the Flat Plate Press. Due to its high face value it was used primarily on registered mail, typically to mail money between small post offices and Federal Reserve Banks.
Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804)
Once an impoverished immigrant orphan, Alexander Hamilton became George Washington’s most trusted aide, a lawyer, and the first Secretary of the Treasury. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton established the first Bank of the United States and proposed the seagoing branch of the military that eventually became the U.S. Coast Guard. He also played a crucial role in the passage of the Naval Act of 1794, which led to the creation of the U.S. Navy.
Long-time acquaintances during the fight for independence, Hamilton and Vice President Aaron Burr later became bitter political rivals. When a Burr supporter insulted Hamilton’s father’s honor in 1801, 19-year-old Philip Hamilton challenged him to a duel. Philip Hamilton died of injuries he suffered during the duel, which was held in Weehawken, N.J. Three years later, Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in exactly the same location with the same pistol used to kill Hamilton’s son.
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.