1898 5¢ Trans-Mississippi Exposition
First Day of Issue: June 17, 1898
Quantity issued: 7,694,180 (unknown quantity later destroyed)
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat Plate in sheets of 100 subjects
Watermark: Double-line watermark USPS
Color: Dull blue
The 5¢ Trans-Mississippi commemorative stamp pictures Captain John C. Fremont. Fremont was the son-in-law of Senator Thomas Hart Benton, who championed the expansionist movement know as Manifest Destiny. Benton and Fremont believed the entire North American continent should belong to the citizens of the U.S. – that it was the nation’s destiny. Benton arranged for Congressional appropriations to fund expeditions to the Oregon Trail, the Great Basin, the Sierra Mountains and California. Using his influence, Benton also arranged for Fremont to lead each expedition.
“Fremont on the Rocky Mountains” pictures the explorer raising a flag on the highest peak in the mountain range. The design is believed to be based on an old woodcut engraving. Officials considered using the Fremont image on the 8¢ and 2¢ stamps before eventually agreeing to the 5¢ denomination.
The 5¢ 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 5¢ denomination printed in dull blue ink.
A number of 5¢ Trans-Mississippi stamps were used to send first class mail to Europe.
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 fairgrounds 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. An unknown number of unsold stamps were recalled and destroyed.