1940 10¢ Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain)
Famous Americans Series – Authors
Issue Date: February 13, 1940
First City: Hannibal, Missouri
Quantity Issued: 13,201,270
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 11x10 ½
Color: Dark Brown
Samuel Clemens’ name appears on U.S. #863, but he is far better known by his chosen name of “Mark Twain.” Twain gained fame as both an author and a humorist, and was renowned for his wit. His stories of life on the Mississippi River typically included sharp critiques on people’s behavior. After Twain died, he was called the “greatest humorist of his age,” but his literary influence was illustrated by William Faulkner’s praise as the “father of American literature.” The stamp was issued at Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain grew up and began his writing career.
In 1938, the Post Office Department announced plans for a series of stamps recognizing 10 famous Americans and invited the public to submit recommendations. The response was so great that it was decided to increase the number from 10 to 35. This required an unexpected level of organization by the Post Office Department for this series.
Seven categories were decided upon – authors, poets, educators, scientists, composers, artists, and inventors. Each category of five has the same set of denominations – 1¢, 2¢, 3¢, 5¢, and 10¢. Each rate had a valid use. The 1¢ stamp paid for a letter that was dropped off at a post office to someone who had a box at the same office. The 2¢ was for local delivery. The 3¢ paid the normal non-local mail rate, and the 5¢ and 10¢ were used in combination for heavier letters and special rates. The denominations also shared a consistent coloring scheme: 1¢ is bright blue green; 2¢ is rose carmine; 3¢ is bright red violet; 5¢ is ultramarine; and 10¢ is dark brown.
Each category has its subjects arranged with the oldest birth date going on the 1¢ stamp, down to the most recent birth date on the 10¢ stamp. Each category has its own dedicated symbol in the engraving – a scroll, quill pen and inkwell for authors; a winged horse (Pegasus) for poets; the “Lamp of Knowledge” for educators; laurel leaves and the pipes of the Roman god Pan for composers; and inventors had a cogwheel with uplifted wings and a lightning flash to symbolize power, flight, and electricity.
The artists and the scientists have multiple symbols. Artists have either a paint palette and brush (for painters), and the sculptors have a stonecutting hammer and chisel. Scientists had the classical symbol of their particular profession.
The artists and the scientists had multiple symbols. Artists had either a paint palette and brush (for painters), and the sculptors had a stonecutting hammer and chisel. Scientists had the classical symbol of their particular profession.