1929 Kansas-Nebraska Overprints
Issued: May 1, 1929
First City: Colby, KS
Quantity Issued: 2,860,000
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 11 x 10.5
Color: Orange yellow
The 10¢ Kansas stamp was overprinted on U.S. #562, picturing James Monroe.
Kansas Becomes 34th State
On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as America was on the brink of Civil War.
Four main tribes lived in eastern Kansas before white settlers arrived – the Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, and Wichita. After acquiring horses by the late 1700s, the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, and other tribes moved into the central plains to hunt buffalo.
Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led the first whites into the area in 1541. Coronado’s expedition was looking for a land called Quivira, where an Indian guide told him he would find gold. No gold was found, and the Spanish left without creating a settlement. By the early 1600s, France had claimed much of North America, including Kansas. During the early 1700s, French fur trappers began to settle in what is now the northeastern corner of Kansas.
In 1803, France sold the vast Louisiana Territory to the United States, including most of Kansas. The southwestern corner of present-day Kansas was claimed by Spain. This land would later become part of Mexico, and then Texas, before being made part of Kansas.
Kansas was governed as part of the District of Louisiana, the Louisiana Territory, and the Missouri Territory. Many Indians from the East were resettled in Kansas for a time. But soon, whites began to settle the area. Some came as missionaries to the Indians and others decided to stay while traveling the Santa Fe Trail. In 1827, Colonel Henry Leavenworth opened the first U.S. outpost, Fort Leavenworth. By 1850, there was substantial pressure to open Kansas for white settlement. The Federal Government negotiated with Indians and reclaimed most of the land. In 1854, Kansas was declared open for settlement. The Indians were sent to reservations in Oklahoma – but some decided to fight. However, none of these groups were successful for long.
During the 1850s, Kansas became the center of the America’s fight over slavery, an issue which had divided the nation. In Congress, slavery created a deep rift between the North and South. This was particularly true concerning the fate of new U.S. territories – there was a great struggle over whether the practice of slavery would be allowed in the new territories or not. Congress sought to avoid the issue with the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which essentially let the people who settled these territories decide whether slavery would be legal or not.
Kansas became a U.S. territory on May 30, 1854. Soon, settlers from the North and South were pouring into Kansas. Groups looking to influence the decision over slavery aided these people in an attempt to gain a majority. In the election of 1855, many citizens from the slave state of Missouri came to Kansas and voted. Proslavery candidates did well in the election. Soon after, violence broke out in Kansas, particularly near the border with Missouri. The fighting became so intense that newspapers began to call the territory “Bleeding Kansas.” Proslavery officials wrote a constitution favoring slavery, but Congress refused to admit Kansas to the Union as a slave state. Finally, politicians opposed to slavery were able to gain control of the legislature.
Kansas achieved statehood on January 29, 1861. At that time, several Southern states had already seceded from the Union. Within a few weeks, the Civil War erupted. Kansas was soon hit with a new wave of violence. Confederate raiders under William C. Quantrill burned most of the town of Lawrence, Kansas, and killed about 150 people. During the war, Kansas sent more men to the Union Army in proportion to its total population than any other state. When the war ended in 1865, thousands of Union veterans and newly freed slaves moved to Kansas. In the years following the war, Kansas became a major ranching and farming center (dubbed the Breadbasket of America). Water shortages have plagued the state, though, particularly during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
Why Were the Kansas-Nebraska Stamps Issued?
During the 1920s, a rash of post office robberies baffled U.S. postal inspectors. Burglars were stealing stamps in one state and then selling them in another. As the Post Office Department searched for a solution to put an end to the problem, the robberies became more frequent and more widespread, especially in the Midwest.
In February 1929, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was authorized to apply special state overprints to the 1¢ through 10¢ denominations of the current regular issues, in an effort to put an end to the interstate sale of stolen postage stamps. Once the stamp had been produced, the name of the state where the stamps were to be used would be imprinted over the design. Such a move had been under consideration for some time, and it was hoped that the overprints would make it difficult to sell or use stamps from another state.
Kansas and Nebraska were selected as trial states, since the postal inspector who had made the suggestion was in charge of inspections in these two states and would be supervising the experiment. The overprints were abbreviations of the states (Kans. and Nebr.) and were applied in the same manner as precancels. Each state received a small supply of stamps for each of its post offices.
If successful, it was decided that these overprints would be used in the other 46 states as well (Alaska and Hawaii didn’t become states until 1959). Fortunately for collectors, problems arose and the idea was abandoned – otherwise there could have been 48 different varieties of each stamp issued, which would have been a nightmare for philatelists.
When the new Kansas/Nebraska overprints were released, the Post Office Department made the announcement that these stamps were valid as postage throughout the United States. However, these overprints were very similar to the current precancels, which were not valid for use outside the intended area. Numerous complaints were received because post offices in other states were not accepting the overprinted stamps as evidence of pre-payment.
Early on in the experiment, the idea was abandoned due to the ineffectiveness of the overprint issue. Consequently, not many of these stamps were produced. As early as June 1929, collectors were eagerly seeking this new and scarce variety. Various types surfaced, including the shifted overprints, which resulted in strips containing one stamp completely lacking the overprint.
Because there were so few stamps and such a great demand for them, these issues became a prime target for counterfeiters. The most common forgeries were known as the “California Fakes,” since they were first discovered in San Francisco. Since the genuine overprints were printed using electrotype plates and the forgeries were done using a typewriter, the difference between the two is easy to distinguish. On a genuine overprint, the image was printed on the surface rather than impressed into the stamp. Thus, the ink lies flat on the surface and almost appears raised. Most importantly, if one turns the stamp over, the image doesn’t appear impressed, and it never breaks the gum.