1939 Presidential Series
Rotary Coil Stamp
Issue Date: January 20, 1939
First City: Washington, D.C.
Quantity Issued: 28,309,771,500 (total of both coil types)
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 vertically
Color: Deep violet
Although Thomas Jefferson is best known for writing the Declaration of Independence, he was also instrumental in establishing the Bill of Rights. Upon seeing the first draft of the Constitution, he objected to the lack of a bill of rights and wrote to James Madison, urging one. As a result, Madison introduced the first ten amendments to the Constitution – The Bill of Rights.
The 1938 Presidential Series was printed on rotary press and perforated 11 x 10.5. In 1939, the 1¢ to 10¢ denominations were issued as coil stamps with 10 gauge perforations vertically. The 1¢ to 3¢ denominations were also issued with horizontal perforations.
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.
Library of Congress Founded
On April 24, 1800, President John Adams officially established the Library of Congress. It’s America’s oldest federal cultural institution, and one of the largest libraries in the world, with more than 171 million items.
James Madison was reportedly the first person to suggest the establishment of a congressional library in 1783. Seventeen years later, President John Adams created the library as part of an act of Congress that transferred the US seat of government from Philadelphia to Washington, DC.
The act, signed on April 24, 1800, included the allocation of $5,000 “for the purchase of such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress… and for fitting up a suitable apartment for containing them.” The first collection of 740 books and three maps were ordered from London and housed in the US Capitol Building. Two years later, when Thomas Jefferson was president, he appointed the first overseer of the library as well as a committee to regulate it. His law also gave the president and vice president borrowing privileges.
Disaster struck the library during the War of 1812 when British troops invaded the capital and burned the 3,000-volume collection. Former President Jefferson recognized the importance of the library and offered his personal collection within a month. He’d spent 50 years collecting 6,487 books that covered a wide array of topics, and believed there wasn’t a branch of science that Congress would want to exclude from their collection. Congress purchased Jefferson’s books in January 1815 for $23,950.
The collection grew significantly in the coming decades, but then the unthinkable happened. There was another fire in 1851. It burned 35,000 books, about two-thirds of the holdings at the time. Congress immediately gave the library $168,700 to replace the lost books, but not for any new ones.
In 1865 Ainsworth Spofford became the library’s director, and had one of the greatest impacts on the library since Thomas Jefferson. He gained support to expand the library’s holdings, arguing “there is almost no work, within the vast range of literature and science, which may not at some time prove useful to the legislature of a great nation.” Spofford also pushed for the passage of the Copyright Law of 1870 that required two copies of every copyrighted “book, pamphlet, map, chart, musical composition, print, engraving, or photo” created in the US be sent to the library.
By 1871, the library had outgrown its space in the Capitol, so Spofford campaigned to have a new building created to house the growing collection. Spofford “envisioned a circular, domed reading room at the library’s center, surrounded by ample space for the library’s various departments.” Congress approved the plan for a new building in 1886.
The new library, located on First Street and Independence Avenue Northwest, opened its doors to the public on November 1, 1897. Its collection had expanded to more than one million items. The library has grown vastly since then – now containing more than 167 million items. It’s America’s oldest federal cultural institution and the second largest library in the world (after the British Library). Today, the Library of Congress occupies three buildings: the Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison Memorial buildings, honoring the three presidents that made the library a reality. While the library is open to the public, only government officials can check out books.