1940 10¢ Booker T. Washington
Famous Americans Series – Educators
Issue Date: April 7, 1940
First City: Tuskegee Institute, Alabama
Quantity Issued: 14,125,580
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforation: 10 ½ x 11
Color: Dark brown
U.S. #873 commemorates Booker T. Washington, the first president of the Tuskegee Institute. It was the first time an African American was pictured on a U.S. postage stamp. Washington was born a slave, and after the Civil War he worked his way through the Hampton Institute and Wayland Seminary. In 1881, at age 25, he was named the president of the newly created Tuskegee Institute.
Washington was a skilled orator and became a spokesman for blacks in America. Along with Julius Rosenwald, part owner of Sears Roebuck, Washington helped develop over 5,000 small community schools to educate black students throughout the South. Washington and Rosenwald provided organization and matched funds raised by the communities.
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.