1938 1/2¢ Franklin
Issue Date: May 19, 1938
First City: Philadelphia, PA
Quantity Issued: 2,028,847,800
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary press
Perforations: 11 x 10 ½
Color: Deep orange
Known affectionately as the “Prexies,” the 1938 Presidential series is a favorite among stamp collectors.
The series was issued in response to public clamoring for a new Regular Issue series. The series that was current at the time had been in use for more than a decade. President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed, and a contest was staged. The public was asked to submit original designs for a new series picturing all deceased U.S. Presidents. Over 1,100 sketches were submitted, many from veteran stamp collectors. Elaine Rawlinson, who had little knowledge of stamps, won the contest and collected the $500 prize. Rawlinson was the first stamp designer since the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began producing U.S. stamps who was not a government employee.
Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
Statesman and First United States Postmaster
Benjamin Franklin was an American statesman, writer, scientist, and inventor. Franklin was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 17 he ran away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at that time the largest city in the American colonies, to seek his fortune. Franklin flourished, and his accomplishments and contributions to the city earned him the title “The first citizen of Philadelphia.”
Franklin’s many contributions to the city of Philadelphia include: founding the first subscription library in the American colonies; organizing the city’s fire department; law enforcement reform; leading efforts to pave, clean, and light public streets; raising money to build a city hospital, the Pennsylvania Hospital; and founding the academy that became the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1753, Franklin was appointed deputy postmaster general of the American colonies. He vastly improved the frequency and reliability of mail service. By 1761, the post office showed a profit for the very first time. Under Franklin’s supervision, the Colonial post office continued to show a profit for several years. In 1774, Franklin was dismissed from the office due to his views on Britain’s “taxation without representation.”
In 1775, when the American Revolution began, Franklin was the obvious choice for starting the new mail system, and the Continental Congress appointed him the first postmaster general of the United States. Soon, mail was flowing from Portland, Maine, to Savannah, Georgia. Franklin donated his salary for relief for wounded soldiers.
Franklin was the only person to sign all four of the key documents in United States history: the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States. As a statesman, he stands among the top rank of the people who built our nation.