Prominent Americans Series
Issue Date: November 17, 1967
City: New York, NY
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Prominent Americans Series
The Prominent Americans Series recognizes people who played important roles in U.S. history. Officials originally planned to honor 18 individuals, but later added seven others. The Prominent Americans Series began with the 4¢ Lincoln stamp, which was issued on November 10, 1965. During the course of the series, the 6¢ Eisenhower stamp was reissued with an 8¢ denomination and the 5¢ Washington was redrawn, creating U.S. #1283B.
A number of technological changes developed during the course of producing the series, resulting in a number of varieties due to gum, luminescence, precancels and perforations plus sheet, coil and booklet formats. Additionally, seven rate changes occurred while the Prominent Americans Series was current, giving collectors who specialize in first and last day of issue covers an abundance of collecting opportunities.
The “Father of our Country”
The American people loved George Washington. His army officers would have made him king, if he had let them. Instead, he returned to Mount Vernon for five peaceful years. But, it wasn’t long before he was called again to serve his country, as the head of the Virginia delegation to the Constitutional Convention. After the United States Constitution was approved, Washington became the nation’s first President, winning all the available electoral votes. And when Washington was re-elected in 1792, he again received the highest-possible number of electoral votes.
President Washington successfully solved many of the problems of making the government established by the U.S. Constitution into a truly functional government. Washington believed the Constitution called for the branches of government to be kept separate. He felt the President should not attempt to influence the legislation passed by Congress – unless it was through presidential veto. Washington maintained that the presidency was for the administration of law and for maintaining relations with foreign nations.
After two terms, Washington retired to Mount Vernon. But he again served his country. On July 4, 1798, he was commissioned as “Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of the armies raised and to be raised,” and asked to raise an army for the nation’s defense.
Washington died at Mount Vernon at the age of 67. In 1776, he was given the rank of General of the Armies of the United States, making him the highest-ranking officer in U.S. history. No other American is as honored as the “Father of our Country.” His portrait is featured on numerous postage stamps, the $1 bill, and the quarter. The capital and a state are named in his honor. The Washington Monument, a giant obelisk erected in his honor in Washington, D.C., was completed in 1880.
First Flown Letter In America
On January 9, 1793, Jean-Pierre Blanchard carried the first letter by hot air balloon in America.
By 1793, Blanchard was well-known as a balloon aviator. He made the first flight across the English Channel, which was also the first time mail was ever carried by air (we shared this tale on January 7). He also made the first balloon flights in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Poland.
Blanchard arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 9, 1792, excited to bring his pioneering balloon exploits to America. He arranged to stage a flight one month later, on January 9, which gained the attention of President George Washington. Washington would be among the crowd to witness the first balloon flight in America.
On the morning of January 9, Blanchard began inflating the balloon at about 9 am. Throughout the morning cannons had fired, and as the takeoff approached a band began to play. In an attempt to cover the costs of his venture, Blanchard sold tickets for five dollars a piece. However, on the day of his trip, spectators crowded into nearby lots to watch the event for free.
Then at 10 am, Blanchard prepared to leave. Just before takeoff, President Washington handed him a piece of paper and spoke a few words to him. He then climbed into the balloon’s basket and immediately took off. As he ascended, he flew both the US and French flags. The balloon then rose high and began floating southeast at about 20 miles per hour.
Once up in the air, Blanchard performed three experiments. A Doctor Glenworth had him test the strength of a magnet, Benjamin Rush had him measure his pulse, and Caspar Wistar had him capture some air in bottles.
After a 46-minute journey, Blanchard landed in Deptford, New Jersey. The property owner had seen the unusual craft descending and approached it with caution. Blanchard offered him wine and the letter from President Washington. The President had instructed Blanchard to give the letter to whoever owned the property he landed on, making his balloon flight the first delivery of mail by air in America.
The letter was a passport of sorts. Blanchard didn’t speak English, so the letter was intended to encourage the landowner to help him. It requested the person to “aid him with that humanity and goodwill, which may render honor to their country, and justice to an individual so distinguished by his efforts to establish and advance an art, in order to make it useful to mankind in general.”
A small group of people had arrived by the time Blanchard touched down and they read the letter aloud. Upon hearing that the letter was from the president, they all anxiously helped Blanchard make his way to a carriage so that he could return to Philadelphia to tell President Washington about his journey.