1931 13¢ Benjamin Harrison
Issue Date: September 4, 1931
First City: Washington, DC
The Most Perfect U.S. Stamps?
Issued as the U.S. spiraled into the Great Depression, the beautifully engraved Series of 1926-31 captures the spirit of America – the wisdom of our greatest leaders, the power of the majestic Niagara Falls, and the romance of the Wild West. This achievement is even more impressive when one considers the limitations the Bureau of Engraving and Printing worked with during the worldwide Depression.
“This series of definitive stamps represents, if not perfection, then at least a high degree of achievement by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.” – Noted philatelic author Gary Griffith
The Series of 1926-31 features the historic designs and patriotic symbolism of the Series of 1922. However, the new series was printed on a rotary intaglio press, saving time and money as it was printed in continuous rolls. The rolls were then threaded into a perforator, pulled through the machine under high tension, and perforated horizontally and vertically in a single step. A 10-gauge perforation had been the standard used to prevent the paper from tearing during production. To overcome complaints that stamps perforated 10 gauge were hard to separate, a quantity of the 2¢ stamps (U.S. #634, the first Series of 1926-31 denomination to be issued) were given experimental perforations of 11 x 101/2.
The experiment was a success – the stamps were sturdy enough to withstand the production process yet easy to separate for postal use. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing applied the compound perforations to the entire Series of 1926-31. In fact, the compound perforation stamps were so successful the format was used for the next 10 years, including the 1938 Presidential and 1954 Liberty Series.
Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)
23rd U.S. President
Benjamin Harrison was born August 20, 1833, in North Bend, Ohio. Harrison was named after his great-grandfather, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His grandfather was America’s 9th President, William Henry Harrison. His father, John Scott Harrison, served two terms in Congress. With his family’s political background, Harrison’s name was familiar to voters.
Harrison was elected city attorney of Indianapolis in 1857, secretary of the Republican state central committee in 1858, and began the first of three terms as the reporter of the state supreme court in 1860. He recruited and commanded a regiment of Indiana volunteers for service in the Civil War, and achieved the rank of brigadier general. After the war, Harrison won a national reputation as a lawyer. In 1876, he made an unsuccessful run for governor of Indiana. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him to the Mississippi River Commission. Harrison had just been elected to the U.S. Senate when President James A. Garfield offered him a cabinet post, but he refused this office.
Harrison was selected as the Republican candidate for President in 1888, largely based on his popularity as a soldier. He lost the popular vote by more than 90,000 votes. However, he won the electoral vote. Four key pieces of legislation were passed during Harrison’s Presidency: The Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlawed trusts and monopolies; the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which put more money in circulation, causing inflation and helping farmers pay their debts; the McKinley Tariff Act, which set tariffs on foreign goods and farm products at record highs; and the Dependent Pension Bill, which gave pensions to all Civil War veterans unable to perform manual labor.
Harrison was defeated in his attempt for re-election. After leaving office, he returned to practicing law. He published a book about the federal government, “This Country of Ours,” in 1897. In 1899, he represented Venezuela in a border dispute with Great Britain over British Guiana. Harrison died at home on March 13, 1901.