1901 2¢ Pan-American Commemorative
Issue Date: May 1, 1901
Quantity issued: 209,759,700
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Color: Carmine and black
The Pan-American stamps issue is a series of six stamps commemorating a 1901 World’s Fair held at Buffalo, New York. The Pan-American Exposition and World’s Fair was a celebration of technology and its impact on America. The expo was held from May 1 through November 1, 1901. The Pan-American commemoratives salute the marvel of the mechanical age. The stamps are so popular among modern collectors that all six denominations were selected to be included in 100 Greatest American Stamps – and each ranked in the top 50.
In recognition of the tie that truly united America’s East and West, the 2¢ issue illustrates the Empire State Express. In 1901, this four-car locomotive was a truly modern machine and could easily travel over 100 miles per hour. The Empire State Express was the world’s first high-speed passenger train, and it transported more than half of all the Expo’s visitors.
The decision to picture the Empire State Express on a commemorative stamp was controversial at the time. Critics charged the choice was political, pointing out that the Empire State Express was still in use as the flagship of the New York Central and Hudson railroad, which served the Exposition’s host city. Because of their protests, and the longstanding prohibition of advertising on U.S. stamps, the Pan-American series is simply inscribed “Commemorative Series, 1901.”
The Pan-American Commemoratives –
First New Stamps of the 20th Century
The Pan-American stamps were the first bi-colored commemoratives issued by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving (plans to print the 1898 Trans-Mississippi commemoratives in bi-color were scrapped after the outbreak of the Spanish-American War). They were also the first commemorative stamps of the 2oth century, and the first bi-color stamps since the 1869 Pictorials.
The bi-color Pan-Americans were printed in two steps. In the first, the vignette (center design) was printed in black ink. The frame was then printed in a second color. This process made it very difficult for the printer to align the frame evenly. As a result, several stamps feature frames that aren’t aligned properly, and inverts were created when the sheet was mistakenly fed into the press backwards.