1869 3¢ Locomotive Pictorial
Earliest Known Use: March 27, 1869
Quantity issued: 335,534,850
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
"Locomotive" Ranked #18 in
100 Greatest American Stamps
Stamps issued from 1840 to 1870 are often referred to as “classic” stamps. Take a look at the U.S. stamps issued during that period and you’ll realize just how innovative the 1869 Pictorials were. Never before had stamps featured such things as paintings, horses and locomotives. Like tiny mirrors, these stamps reflect the times in which they were issued – the Pictorials were issued as America was rebuilding itself after the Civil War. The Pictorials showcase what Americans of the time were proud of regardless of what region of the country they lived in.
In 1869 the Transcontinental railroad was completed, uniting the nation with one common link from the Atlantic to the Pacific. So at the time of issue there was nothing quaint about the locomotive featured on U.S. #114; it was a shining miracle of modern technology. It represented freedom of movement – the opportunity to visit family and friends, or a chance to move on to a new life. All of the 1869 Pictorial designs were meant to capture the pride of the American people.
Unpopular at the time of issue – scarce and prized by collectors today!
With the benefit of hindsight, modern collectors see these stamps as the inventive forerunners of commemorative stamps. But at the time, many saw them merely as frivolous. In fact, the Pictorials were so unpopular it wasn’t until the 1893 Columbian Series that such innovative design elements were again put to use. Today’s collectors see these stamps as a ground-breaking, artistic step forward, and recognize the permanent effect they had on stamp collecting. Demand for the 1869 Pictorials is high – but due to their short time of availability and the fact that collectors just didn’t save them, the stamps are quite scarce today.
1869 Pictorials are the Only Stamps with the “G” grill
In the 1860s, postal officials were convinced large numbers of stamps were being cleaned of their cancellations and reused. This concern may have stemmed from the fact that many smaller Post Offices were not given cancellation devices, and simply used pen and ink. Such cancellations were easily removed with ink eradicator. Steps were taken to thwart the reuse of stamps. Charles F. Steel created a device to do just that. Steel’s machine “grilled” stamps, utilizing a roller which was either pitted with small depressions, which created a points-up pattern, or a roller with raised pyramids, which created a points-down pattern.
These grills broke the fiber of the paper, allowing the cancellation ink to sink in deeper. With grills it was impossible to remove the ink without destroying the stamp. Different shapes or patterns were used, but the “G” grill is exclusive to the 1869 Pictorials. Many collectors specialize in collecting grilled stamps, so the Pictorials are essential additions to these specialized collections.
The 1869 Pictorials were printed by the National Bank Note Company, which had the upper hand in bidding for the contract – it held the patent for the grilling process. So if the government wanted to have grills applied, and they surely did, then the American Bank Note Company was their only choice!