1894 $5 Marshall
Issued: December 10, 1894
Issue Quantity: 6.251
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Color: Dark green
John Marshall – Longest-Serving Chief Justice
John Marshall began his 34-year career as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on February 4, 1801.
The eldest of fifteen children, John Marshall was born in a log cabin near Germantown, Virginia. Marshall joined the Continental Army in 1776, and spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge with General George Washington’s forces. He was promoted to captain in 1778. Although he had little formal education, Marshall studied law at the College of William and Mary and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1780. He quickly established a career defending individuals against their pre-Revolutionary War British debtors.
Marshall served several terms of office in Virginia’s House of Delegates. As a delegate to the constitutional convention, Marshall spoke forcefully in favor of a new constitution to replace the weak Articles of Confederation. After declining several positions in the Washington and Adams administrations, Marshall served briefly in the U.S. House of Representatives and as President Adam’s Secretary of State. Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1800. The Senate confirmed his appointment on January 27, 1801, and he was sworn in on January 31, officially taking office on February 4. Marshall continued to serve as secretary of state as well until Adams’ term was completed one month later.
Marshall believed that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land. As such, any law enacted by a branch of government must adhere to its principles or be struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Marbury vs. Madison, which determined that an action by a public official violated another’s constitutional rights, reflected this concept of judicial review. Judicial review, which is the practice of reviewing actions of government branches, firmly established the Supreme Court’s powers.
As chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 34 years, Marshall participated in more than 1,000 decisions and authored more than 500 opinions. The legacy of the Marshall Court was an increase in the power of the Supreme Court as a branch of the Federal Government. It placed an emphasis on the role of the judiciary in states and led to a stronger Federal Government.
As a close friend of George Washington, Marshall announced his 1799 death, offered the eulogy at his funeral, and led the commission that planned the Washington Monument. At the request of Washington’s family, Marshall wrote a five-volume biography about our nation’s first President, The Life of George Washington. John Marshall died in 1835, ending the longest tenure of any Chief Justice in Supreme Court history.
U.S. #263 is the key to owning a complete set of 1894 Bureau Issue stamps. It was issued in low quantities and sold for a price that exceeded many weekly salaries. Dealers who might have bought this stamp hoping it would quickly rise in value had just been disappointed by lackluster sales of the $5 Columbian stamp. As a result, very few were sold – and even fewer are available for collectors today.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
With the issue of the 1894 series, the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) began printing postage stamps for the first time. Until this date, contracts had been awarded to private companies for the production of stamps.
The BEP was established in 1862, following the outbreak of the Civil War. When the firing on Fort Sumter began, the nation was already on the verge of bankruptcy and was in no position to finance a war. This matter, along with other war issues, prompted President Lincoln to call a special session of Congress. During this session, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase suggested issuing non-interest bearing notes that would circulate as money and a system of domestic taxation.
Congress adopted the Chase plan, and as a result the first government-issued paper money came into existence. The notes were printed by the New York Bank Note companies and were then signed by the Treasurer of the United States and the Registrar of the Treasury. This procedure was soon found to be impractical. The designated officers had no time to do much else than sign their names on the notes! Therefore, it was decided that the notes should be imprinted with copies of the required officers’ signatures, as well as the Treasury seal. In addition, it was decided that this printing would be done in the Treasury building. The necessary machines for imprinting were obtained, and on August 29, 1862, the Bureau began its work, which would later lead to the printing of postage stamps.
That same year, the President appointed a commissioner of internal revenue, who was given the authority to assess, levy, and collect taxes. Items such as medicine, perfume, cosmetics, alcohol, and tobacco were taxed, and stamps were provided as proof of collection of the tax. The BEP began by printing only the beer and cigar stamps, but by 1878, nearly all revenue stamps were produced by them.
In 1894, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Bureau submitted a bid for the contract to print the new stamps. Their bid was almost $7,000 less than the lowest bid submitted by the three private companies also competing for the contract. Despite loud protests that the Bureau was not capable of producing the stamps, they were awarded the contract.
Since then, with some exceptions, they have printed most of the U.S. postage stamps. Today, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the world’s largest securities manufacturing firm. Remaining in Washington, D.C., it moved from the attic of the Treasury building and is now located in two specially-built buildings with a total floor space of almost 24 acres. The BEP has over 3,300 employees and is in operation 24 hours a day.