Series of 1861-62 3¢ Washington
Earliest Known Use: August 18, 1861
Quantity issued: 1,782,000,000 (estimate)
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Flat plate
Washington Delivers First State Of The Union Address
On January 8, 1790, President George Washington delivered the very first State of the Union address at Federal Hall in New York City.
Part of the U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3, Clause 1, states that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
While the State of the Union address is a regular and expected part of presidencies today, at the time it was an important event. The Constitution was still relatively new, and our government and citizens were learning how to interpret and live by it. So by giving this address, President Washington was fulfilling one of his duties and setting an example for Americans and future presidents alike.
The importance of his role as America’s first president was not lost on Washington. He knew that his actions would be the model for future presidents. He thought it important to clearly show the difference between a president and a king.
Washington delivered his first inaugural address on April 30, 1789. In that speech, he didn’t make any significant recommendations, but asked for everyone to cooperate to guarantee their success as a new government. Then nine months later, on January 8, 1790, Washington delivered his first Annual Message to a Joint Session Congress (more commonly known today as a State of the Union Address). In this speech, Washington was cautious to not make direct demands, to avoid appearing like a monarch. Instead, he offered specific goals while providing encouragement to his listeners.
Washington began his speech by congratulating the Senate and House on North Carolina’s recent addition to the Union. His next point, which he considered especially important, was the formation of a standing army. While the idea was somewhat controversial at the time, Washington insisted, that “providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.”
President Washington then shared what he considered to be some of the new nation’s greatest challenges. He suggested that Congress make further attempts to protect America in foreign affairs. Washington also brought attention to the issues of immigration, establishing a national currency and system of weights and measures, as well as post office and educational systems. His final points concerned public credit and the repayment of public debt.
Washington’s address was well received. The Senate and House both agreed to start acting on his suggestions. Several newspapers reprinted the address in its entirety and included positive comments on his ideas – and his clothes. (Washington’s every move, including his choice in clothing, was under constant scrutiny.)
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While mail between the North and South decreased during the war, there was an overall increase in volume as soldiers and their families communicated with each other. The 3¢ Washington stamp satisfied the domestic first class rate for mail sent less than 3,000 miles.
Although a large quantity was printed, the 3¢ Washington stamp was produced with 26 plates. There are also several shades. The rose stamp is used most often on “patriotic” covers. The stamp is also prized for the variety of cancellations used. It’s also found on Prisoner of War and Pony Express covers, which are both scarce and interesting.
The Series of 1861-62
In 1860 and 1861, eleven Southern states left the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, an action that resulted in the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the war erupted at Fort Sumter. Less than two months later, the United States discontinued postal services to the South. However, numerous stamps were still in the hands of postmasters of seceding states. Fearing that these stamps would be sent to the North and sold (thus providing money for the Confederate states) the United States sent a proclamation to all postmasters, requesting that the remainders be sent to Washington. When this order was largely ignored, the government made arrangements for designing new issues and demonetizing the old issues.
The process of demonetizing rendered the old stamps invalid, while at the same time replacing them with the newly designed stamps. The new 1861 stamps were sent to post offices along with a notice that required an exchange period of six days be announced in local newspapers. During the exchange period, old stamps could be exchanged for new ones. After the six-day exchange period, the old stamps were no longer accepted as postage.
While the designs and color of the new issues differed from the old ones, the Postal Service wanted to be certain there would be no confusion between the two. They felt a change that could be easily recognized was necessary, and so the 1861 issues have the values expressed in numerals instead of being written out.
The Confederates, concerned that the Federal Government would use the postal system to spread anti-Southern propaganda, quickly set up their own postal service.