Series of 1902-03 1¢ Franklin
Issue Date: February 3, 1903
Quantity issued: 11,067,482,974
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Color: Blue green
Impressed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s workmanship on the 1901 Pan-American series, the Post Office Department decided to inaugurate a new general issue to replace the then-current Regular Issues, which had been in use with only minor changes for more than ten years.
Criticized by art critics as well as stamp experts, the 1¢ Franklin stamp received numerous unfavorable comments. Many felt the portrait looked like a caricature, while the overall design was unbecoming.
The portrait of Franklin is based on a painting by J. B. Longacre, which hung in Pennsylvania’s State Capitol. On the side of the portrait is a nude child, seated with flowing drapery around its loins. The child’s head and arm support an Ionic capital with the U.S. Shield. The child’s other arm is outstretched and holds an electric light bulb.
Series of 1902-03
This series is an extreme example of officials deliberately using postage stamps as learning tools. Included within the ornate frames of each stamp are symbols relating to the honored American’s legacy, along with biographical information about him or her. These design details were added to help new immigrants learn American history easily – an important lesson carried throughout the mail system, costing only pennies apiece.
The ornate new designs, however, were not the only addition to the 1902 series. The 13-cent denomination was added, and two new faces were introduced – Benjamin Harrison and Admiral David Farragut. For the first time in postal history, an American woman was honored.
A slight change was also made in the format. Each stamp in this series bears the inscription, “Series 1902.” This caused some concern abroad, as many European philatelists wondered whether the U.S. was planning on issuing new stamps each year. Many of the stamps, however, did not even reach post offices until 1903, and the next general issues were not produced until 1908.