Series of 1922-25 1/2¢ Nathan Hale
Flat Plate Printing
Issue Date: April 4, 1925
First City: New Haven, CT and Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 626,241,783
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat plate
Perforation: 11 gauge
Color: Olive brown
U.S. #551 commemorates Nathan Hale, an American Patriot. Although unschooled in spycraft, Hale volunteered to go on a mission behind British lines during the American Revolution. He was caught and hanged, at age 21. American folklore indicates that Hale said, “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” prior to his hanging, but there are no records to support this.
This stamp was the result of strong lobbying by several Yale University alumni (where Hale also attended school). George Dudley Seymour in particular had pushed for the recognition. Seymour had purchased Hale’s birthplace in Coventry, Connecticut, and was an admirer.
Hale’s image on the stamp was taken from a statue made in his honor by sculptor Bela Lyon Pratt in 1898. There are no known images of Hale, so his features were based on a young man the same age as Hale at the time of his death.
The Series of 1922-25
and the Wheels of Progress
In 1847, when the printing presses first began to move, they didn’t roll – they “stamped” in a process known as flat plate printing. The Regular Series of 1922 was the last to be printed by flat plate press, after which stamps were produced by rotary press printing.
By 1926, all denominations up to 10¢ – except the new ½¢ – were printed by rotary press. For a while, $1 to $5 issues were done on flat plate press due to smaller demand.
In 1922, the Post Office Department announced its decision to issue a new series of stamps to replace the Washington-Franklin series, which had been in use since 1908. Many criticized the change, believing it was being made to satisfy collectors rather than to fill an actual need. However, the similar designs and colors of the current stamps caused confusion, resulting in a substantial loss in revenue each year. In busy situations, postal clerks could not tell at a glance if the correct postage was being used.
Postal employees requested a variety of designs which could easily be distinguished from one another. Great care was taken to make sure the new designs could not be confused. Although the frames are similar, the vignettes (central designs) are distinctive. Prominent Americans, as well as scenes of national interest, were chosen as subjects for the new series.
In addition to issuing new designs, the Department developed a plan to first distribute a small number of each stamp on a particular date in a selected town which was of historical and geographical significance to the subject. The plan greatly increased interest and began a new trend of collecting stamps on covers or envelopes postmarked on the first day of issue.