Series of 1902-03 2¢ Washington
Issue Date: January 1, 1903
Quantity issued: 3,261,541,426 (estimate)
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
When stamp experts saw the beautiful proofs of this stamp in black they agreed this was the finest they had ever seen.
The portrait is based on a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Washington’s portrait is draped by American flags, which was the first time the banners had appeared on a U.S. stamp since the 1869 Pictorials. After viewing the proofs, prominent newspapers described the stamp as “the finest postage stamp ever produced.”
Unfortunately, when the actual stamp was printed in red, the result was considered disappointing. Some copies were so poor they were mistaken for counterfeits. The stamp was redesigned and issued with shields replacing the flags. U.S. #301 is commonly known as the “flag” stamp, while redesigned #319 and the imperforate #320 are known as the “shield” stamps.
Series of 1902-03
In 1902, the Postmaster General commissioned an entirely new series of general issues. Until this time, the current regular issues had been in use since 1890 with relatively few changes.
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.