1901 10¢ Pan-American Commemorative
Issue Date: May 1, 1901
Quantity issued: 5,043,700
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Color: Yellow brown and black
Reflecting the “speed” theme that’s common to all Pan-American stamp designs, the 10¢ Fast Ocean Navigation commemorative pictures a passenger liner slicing through ocean waves. The design is based on the St. Paul, a 553-foot American Liner steamship launched in 1895.
When the Spanish-American War began three years later, the St. Paul was the first commercial ship to be commissioned. The war was still fresh in the minds of many Americans in the early 1900s, and the St. Paul’s fame certainly influenced the choice of ships to feature in the Pan-American series.
The St. Paul was decommissioned at the end of the 113-day naval war and returned to its owner. Almost 20 years later, the steel ship was commissioned again during World War I and made 12 voyages between New York and England.
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 20th 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. Shortly after the series was issued, inverts were found among the 1¢ and 2¢ denominations. Reports of the discovery of 4¢ inverts reached postal officials, who reacted by deliberately creating two sheets of 200 inverted stamps each. Collectors were outraged by the intentional manipulation of the stamp market, prompting the government to abandon its plan to create 5¢, 8¢, and 10¢ inverts as well.