1¢ George Washington
Issue Date: October 8, 1954
City: Baltimore, MD
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press Coil
Perforations: 10 Vertically
Color: Dark green
U.S. #1054 features a portrait of George Washington based on a painting by Gilbert Stuart. On October 8, 1954, the stamp was placed on sale in the first-ever First Day Cover ceremony for a coil stamp.
The First Commander In Chief
Washington was a representative at the First Continental Congress, which met in September 1774. At the Second Continental Congress, which opened on May 10, 1775, Washington was elected commander in chief. He had not sought the position, but accepted the responsibility.
General Washington became a hero of the people. Throughout the revolution, Washington seldom had more than 15,000 troops under his command. The British had a larger, better-trained army, more guns, and more supplies. But, Washington’s bravery and patience held the American army together. The brave general endured many hardships along with his troops. During the winter of 1777 to 1778, spent in Valley Forge, troops were forced to endure freezing weather with poor shelter, little food, and insufficient clothing. Some were even without shoes. Through it all, Washington’s stature among his soldiers and the American people continued to rise.
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.
Birth Of Artist Gilbert Stuart
On December 3, 1755, Gilbert Stuart was born in Saunderstown, Rhode Island Colony.
Stuart was the third child of Gilbert Stuart, who worked in America’s first colonial snuff mill. When he was six, Stuart’s family moved to Newport, Rhode Island. It was there that he first began to show an interest and talent for painting. In 1770, Stuart met Scottish artist Cosmo Alexander, who served as his first art tutor. The following year Stuart traveled to Scotland with Alexander but returned to America in 1773 following his tutor’s death.
Stuart didn’t remain in America for long. After the Revolutionary War started, he departed for Europe to study, as John Singleton Copley had done before him. While he struggled at first, Stuart eventually met artist Benjamin West, under whom he studied for the next six years. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777 and found his first real success with The Skater in 1782, his first full-length portrait. Stuart recalled that he was “suddenly lifted into fame by a single picture.”
In all, Stuart spent about 18 years in Britain and Ireland, earning some of the highest commissions of the day. He finally returned to America in 1793, first living in New York City before settling in Germantown, Pennsylvania, two years later. There, he established a studio and was soon hired to paint some of the most famous and significant Americans of the day.
One of Stuart’s goals in moving to Germantown (near then-US capital Philadelphia) was getting to paint President George Washington. He succeeded and had the first of several sittings with the president in March of 1795. From these sittings, Stuart produced some of his most famous paintings, notably The Athenaeum, which was later used for the $1 bill and several US stamps. During his lifetime, Stuart and his daughters painted 130 reproductions of The Athenaeum, but he never finished the original. Another famous Washington painting is the Lansdowne portrait, which was famously saved by Dolley Madison during the War of 1812.
After opening a studio in Washington DC, Stuart moved to Boston in 1805. There he exhibited his works and continued to paint. Many other artists also sought him out for advice, including John Trumbull, Thomas Sully, and John Vanderlyn.
Over the course of his career, Stuart painted more than 1,000 people, including the first six presidents. He was in high demand, not only for his painting talent but for his demeanor during sittings. As John Adams later described, “Speaking generally, no penance is like having one’s picture done. You must sit in a constrained and unnatural position, which is a trial to the temper. But I should like to sit to Stuart from the first of January to the last of December, for he lets me do just what I please, and keeps me constantly amused by his conversation.”
Stuart suffered a stroke in 1824 that left him partially paralyzed. In spite of this, he continued to paint for the next two years until his death on July 9, 1828. Unfortunately, Stuart was never good with money and when he died was in deep debt. His family was unable to purchase him a gravesite, so he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Old South Burial Ground of Boston Common. A decade later his family recovered from their debt and wanted to move his body to their family plot, but couldn’t remember exactly where he was buried, so he was never moved.
Over the years, Stuart’s paintings have served as the models for a number of US stamps, including these:
Click here to see more Stuart paintings.