1898 2¢ Trans-Mississippi Exposition
First Day of Issue: June 17, 1898
Quantity issued: 159,720,800 (unknown quantity destroyed)
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat Plate in sheets of 100 subjects
Watermark: Double-line watermark USPS
Color: Copper red
The 2¢ Trans-Mississippi Exposition stamp entitled “Farming in the West” pictures a team of horses plowing a wheat field. The design is based on a photograph taken in the field of the Amenia and Sharon Land Company, a 27,000 acre “bonanza farm” in North Dakota. Bonanza farms were very large operations that grew and harvested wheat on a large scale.
The scene was originally designated for the $2 stamp. However, officials believed the photograph was the best representation of the “Western” theme they planned for the Trans-Mississippi stamp series. Therefore, a change was made to place it on the 2¢ stamp where it would see much greater use.
The photograph features sixty-one horses and their drivers. The man closest to the camera was Evan Nybakken, and he was captured trying to keep his hat from blowing away when the photographer snapped the picture. Although the attempt blocked his face, Nybakken is arguably the first living human to be pictured on a U.S. postage stamp. (A point of pride that was included in his obituary thirty-six years later.)
The 2¢ stamp features the same border as the rest of the values. Unlike the 1893 Columbian series, the Trans-Mississippi Exposition commemoratives didn’t include the name or dates of the event. Instead, each stamp features a caption with the name of the photograph or painting upon which its design is based.
Printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The Trans-Mississippi commemorative stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Original plans called for the series to be printed in bi-color. However, the Spanish-American War strained the resources of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which was overburdened by the demand for revenue stamps to fund the war. The Trans-Mississippi commemoratives were printed in a single color, with the 2¢ denomination printed with copper red ink. The “Farming in the West” stamp paid the domestic first class rate.
About the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition Series
The 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was held to further the progress and development of natural resources west of the Mississippi River. Held in Omaha, Nebraska, the exposition opened on June 1, 1898, and ran for four months. More than 4,000 exhibits showcased social, economic, and industrial resources of the American West. The expo wasn’t a financial success overall, but it did revitalize Omaha, a community that had been devastated by drought and depression.
Over 2.6 million people attended the expo, which featured the Indian Congress, the largest Native American gathering of its kind. Over 500 members representing 28 tribes camped on the fair grounds and introduced Americans from the East to their way of life. Reenactments of the explosion of the battleship Maine also fueled patriotism and support for the Spanish-American War.
The series is also referred to as the “Omahas” because the show was held in the city of Omaha.