Series of 1923-26 1 ½¢ Warren Harding
Issue Date: March 19, 1925
First City: Washington, D.C.
Quantity Issued: 2,146,673,000
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 vertically
Color: Deep brown
U.S. #598 was the solution for a sudden rate increase for third class mail. In December 1924, Congress received the results of a postal rate study, which showed that nearly every type of mail service offered resulted in a financial loss. In particular, the number of third class mailings, such as circulars, was growing rapidly. But their rate of 1¢ for the first two ounces hadn’t changed since 1879 – over 40 years.
On February 27, 1925, a new 1 ½¢ rate was approved to go into effect on April 15, 1924. That gave the Bureau little time to prepare, as a large number of stamps would be needed and it was doubtful they could meet the deadline. Michael Eidsness, superintendant of the Division of Stamps, wrote a memo to Third Assistant Postmaster General W. Irving Glover, which presented some solutions.
Eidsness proposed that the plates for the black 2¢ Harding Memorial Stamp (issued in 1923) could be used for the 1 ½ ¢ stamp as well, with a change in color. Only a small amount of engraving would be needed to change the denomination, and the approval process should be quick. Work began on the project the next day.
Precancel Machine Increases Bureau Efficiency
The results from the experiment involving the 1¢ Franklin being printed on the rotary press prompted the Bureau to consider adopting this method to produce the remaining stamps in the series. By 1925, the rotary press was being used to print all values from 1¢ to 10¢. However, as with all innovations, problems arose. Postmasters complained that sheets were curling, making it difficult to apply precancels.
In order to simplify the mail-handling procedure, cancelations were applied to the stamps with a special device before being sold and affixed to mail. Mainly used in large cities such as New York, Boston, and Chicago, these precancels allowed postal clerks to handle mail more efficiently and promptly. A new device, developed by Richard Breaden, used an electrotype plate to print the precancels. The 1¢ stamp was used experimentally to produce the first Bureau precancels, which were issued in New York City on April 23, 1923.
This new machine alone saved the Bureau over $250,000 per year in labor costs. When added to lowered production costs of the rotary press, the Bureau was able to save a considerable sum of money. Eventually, the precancel device was combined with the rotary press, further reducing production time and cost. The process was further improved when a new perforator allowed the stamps to be printed, gummed, precanceled, and perforated on the same machine, eliminating the need to handle the sheets between the various stages.