Series of 1902-03 $5 Marshall
Issue Date: June 5, 1903
Quantity issued: 49,211
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Color: Dark green
The primary use for the Series of 1902-03 $2 and $5 stamps was to settle accounts between various post offices and the Post Office Department.
When publishers of newspapers and magazines requested their mail be changed from third to second class mail, an application was filled out at the local post office and mailed to Washington, D.C. At times, the Post Office Department took months to reach a decision. In the meantime, the publisher was allowed to send mail at the lower requested rate – if he placed on deposit the difference between the two rates.
If the request was ultimately granted, the deposit was refunded to the publisher. If it was denied, the local postmaster sent the deposit to Washington, D.C. To do so, the postmaster filled out a special form and the amount owed was sent in the form of postage stamps canceled with ink.
Because the applications often languished in Washington, the amount owed was often considerable, requiring high-value postage stamps for payment. These forms, with the stamps attached, were kept on file at the Post Office Department for a few months and then destroyed (although a few were given away). Because of limited postal use and the destruction of many of these stamps by the Post Office Department, U.S. #313 is quite scarce today.
In 1917, U.S. citizens began sending packages to war-torn Russia. Demand for high-value stamps rose at the very same time the inventory of $2 and $5 Series of 1902-03 stamps was nearly depleted. The stamps were re-issued (becoming U.S. #479 and #480), but with 10 gauge perforations that distinguish them from this issue, which has 12 gauge perfs.
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.