21¢ Chester Carlson
Great Americans Series
Issue Date: October 21, 1988
City: Rochester, NY
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Engraved
Color: Blue violet
While working at a New York electronics company's patent office, Chester Carlson saw a need for making quick, inexpensive reproductions of documents and drawings. Using his knowledge of chemistry and physics, he developed xerography - the process of using electrostatic action to transfer dry powder on copy paper. In 1948, the Haloid Company of Rochester, New York, introduced the first Xerox copier. Carlson is pictured on the 21¢ Great Americans stamp.
Issued between 1980 and 1999, the Great Americans definitive series features 63 designs, making it the largest set of face different Regular Issue stamps issued in the 20th century. One stamp honors a couple (Lila and Dewitt Wallace) while the remaining 62 commemorate individuals.
The series is characterized by a standard definitive size, simple design and monochromatic colors. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced most of the stamps, but some were printed by private firms. Several stamps saw multiple printings. The result is many different varieties, with tagging being the key to understanding them.
First US Inventors’ Day
On February 11, 1983, America celebrated its first Inventors’ Day.
Some nations had set aside days to honor their inventors before 1983 and some since. In January of that year, US President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation establishing February 11, Thomas Edison’s birthday, as Inventors’ Day.
It’s custom in many countries to celebrate Inventors’ Day on the birthday of a noted native inventor. Reagan chose Edison because of his prolific career. Over the course of his life, Edison received 1,093 patents in the US (plus more in other countries) and founded 14 companies – including what would become General Electric.
In his proclamation, Reagan stated that “Inventors are the keystone of the technological progress that is so vital to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of this country. Individual ingenuity and perseverance, spurred by the incentives of the patent system, begin the process that results in improved standards of living, increased public and private productivity, creation of new industries, improved public services, and enhanced competitiveness of American products in world markets.”
Several American inventors have been honored on stamps: