1932 3¢ Washington
Washington Bicentennial Issue
Issue Date: January 1, 1932
First City: Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 456,198,500
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 11 x 10.5
Color: Deep violet
U.S. #708 showcases a portrait of George Washington, painted by Charles Willson Peale. It was the third of five paintings by Peale that were used in the George Washington Bicentennial Series. Peale painted the portrait in 1777, while the Colonial Army was camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
Washington Bicentennial Issue
The Post Office officially announced their plans for a set of stamps honoring Washington’s 200th birthday in November 1930. Early on, they had grand ideas for the set.
At one point, the set was to consist of at least 18 stamps with all values between ½¢ and $5. Prior to that, the largest set issued was the Columbians, which had comprised 16 stamps. The Post Office also considered using the same wide format of the Columbians for the Washington Bicentennials.
The plan was to create two-color stamps with grand scenes retelling Washington’s life – crossing the Delaware, his 1793 inauguration, his home life, his birthplace, resigning his commission, a double portrait with his wife Martha, his tomb at Mount Vernon, and the Washington Monument. However, the Post Office eventually decided against the plan because they would have to use famous paintings that were known to be filled with inaccuracies.
At one point, Congress considered a bill that proposed that all the stamps issued in 1932 bear Washington’s portrait, but that bill was never passed. In the end, the Post Office decided to produce a set of 12 single color stamps picturing portraits by famous artists that showed Washington at different times in his life.
As a result, several of the stamps pictured unfamiliar images of Washington. But the Post Office specifically selected the famed and beloved Gilbert Stuart Athenaeum portrait for the 2¢ stamp. At the time, 2¢ was the normal first-class letter rate, so that would have been the most used stamp at the time. However, a few months after the series was issued, the first-class letter rate was raised to 3¢.
The Post Office conducted an emergency reprinting of the 3¢ Washington Bicentennial stamp as well as the current 3¢ Lincoln regular issue. But there still weren’t enough of the stamps to satisfy demand. And the Post Office knew that the portrait on the 3¢ stamp was little known to most people. So they decided to rework the 2¢ Athenaeum design. They made it a 3¢ stamp and removed the date ribbons next to the portrait, so it would essentially be a regular issue.
Washington Takes Command Of The Continental Army
On July 3, 1775, George Washington took command of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As America fought its war for independence against the British, it was decided that a commander in chief was needed to lead the newly established Continental Army. Several men were considered, including John Hancock.
Washington was among those in consideration and he arrived at the Second Continental Congress in full military uniform, signaling his intention to fight in the war. While some argued against Washington, the Continental Congress ultimately decided that his Virginian roots would help garner support from the southern colonies. Washington was officially appointed the commander of the Continental Army on June 16. In his acceptance speech, he said, “I am truly sensible of the high Honor done to me in this appointment… I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honored with.
Although he was faced with the very real threat of death, either in battle or following a conviction for treason, Washington refused compensation for his service and asked only to have his expenses reimbursed. Within days of receiving his commission, Washington left for Massachusetts, where his army awaited.
On July 3, 1775, Washington officially took command of the 14,500-member Continental Army in Cambridge, Massachusetts, riding out ahead of them and drawing his sword. Many of the troops were suspicious of the outsider they’d never heard of. But Washington was determined to transform the ragtag band of undisciplined men into a well-structured army. At Cambridge, it was evident that Washington possessed the leadership qualities to guide America through her fight for Independence.
The Washington at Cambridge Stamp
The 1925 Washington at Cambridge stamp is part of the Lexington-Concord Issue, which was the first set of US postage stamps to honor the War of Independence. Although part of the Lexington-Concord issue, US #617 pictures General George Washington leading colonial forces at Cambridge Common on July 3, 1775. This was two-and-a-half months after the battles at Lexington and Concord. A driving factor for this scene’s inclusion in the set was due to the famed “Washington Elm.” According to legend, Washington stood under the elm tree as he took command of the Continental Army.
Over the years, the tree was badly damaged and was accidentally knocked over during repair attempts in 1923. Revolutionary War scholars debate the historical accuracy of the scene pictured on this stamp. Some protest that the army would have been too busy and not properly trained to assemble in the way shown. Whether the story is true or not, a plaque stands where the tree once did, according to the Cambridge Historical Commission, “not because Washington ever stood there, but as a monument to a belief.”