First U.S. Postage Stamp Goes on Sale 

First U.S. Postage Stamp Goes on Sale 

U.S. #1 features a portrait of Franklin based on a painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuze.

On July 1, 1847, America’s first postage stamps were issued.

In the 1840s, United States postal authorities were carefully watching the world’s reaction to Great Britain’s Penny Black – the first adhesive postage stamp. An adhesive stamp was being considered for use in the U.S. and when Robert H. Morris, postmaster of New York, proposed issuing a provisional stamp, there were no objections.

U.S. #9X1 – An 1845 New York Postmaster Provisional.

Morris assumed the printing cost, and in 1845, the first U.S. postmaster’s provisional was issued. Other postmasters followed suit, providing their own distinct stamps for pre-payment of mail.

Two years later, the U.S. Post Office Department decided to create its own government-issued stamps. A contract was awarded to a firm of bank note engravers for the printing of 5¢ and 10¢ stamps picturing two major American figures, though the 5¢ issue almost pictured another president.

U.S. #2 was based on the famed Gilbert Stuart painting known as The Athenaeum.

Early plans for U.S. #1 called for it to picture War of 1812 hero and former president Andrew Jackson. However, America was on the brink of division and Civil War, so Benjamin Franklin was selected as a unifying figure for his role in America’s independence. Franklin is also credited with organizing America’s postal service back in the 1700s. On July 26, 1775, he was appointed by the Continental Congress as the first Postmaster General of the Confederation – which was of great importance to communications during the Revolutionary War. The 10¢ issue of 1847 (Scott #2) pictures George Washington, Revolutionary War hero and the first U.S. president.

The stamps were to be available in major post offices on July 1, 1847. Due to delays in production, only one office, New York City, received the stamps on that date. The stamps were produced until 1851.

U.S. #948 was issued for the 100th anniversary of the first postage stamps as well as the Centenary International Philatelic Exhibition.

Rates were determined by the weight and distance the letter was being mailed. Letters mailed a distance of 300 miles or less were 5¢ per half ounce; while those mailed over 300 miles were 10¢ per half ounce. Postage could be paid by the sender at the time the letter was mailed, or by the addressee upon receipt.

U.S. #3139-40 were only available for 11 days during the Pacific ’97 Stamp Show.

When the sender paid postage, the letter was marked “paid” by pen and ink or hand stamped. If no such cancel was evident, the person receiving the letter paid the postage. Inspections for accuracy and records of postal revenues were virtually impossible. With pre-printed stamps, accurate records could be kept of how many were issued and sold. It wasn’t until 1855 that the use of postage stamps became mandatory.

The first United States Postage Stamps, the 5¢ and 10¢ issues of 1847, began a new era in mail service.

Click here to view last year’s discussion about this history.

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18 responses to "First U.S. Postage Stamp Goes on Sale "

18 thoughts on “First U.S. Postage Stamp Goes on Sale ”

  1. Happy Anniversary to Mystic’s ” This Day In History”. I reread the original offering which was the same topic as today’s and could not help but notice the excitement of those who left comments in the “Leave a Reply” section. By the way there were 42 replies that day. You have fulfilled every request that was received that day as well as answered every question that has been asked since. As always thank you Mystic and keep it up. To my fellow readers, keep those comments coming in.

    Reply
    • Hi Edward,

      Thank you for the kind words. All of use here at Mystic appreciate your support. We also look forward to the comments and stories. Thank you for making This Day in History a success and so much fun!

      Happy Collecting!

      Reply
  2. Born and raised in the cradle of the Revolution, I love history and old things. Being able to bring an old item back to life has always been a joy for me. Being able to hold a stamp older than me is an even greater thrill and I am no spring chicken.

    Reply
  3. I would think that 5 and 10 cents, in 1847, was not a small amount of money. A hundred years later stamps were only 3 cents. Anyone know what 5 cents in 1847 was in today’s money?

    Reply
  4. Congrats on the 1 year! I love reading these historical notes. Keep up the good work. BTW, I am a Mystic customer

    Reply
  5. Has MYSTIC ever thought of compiling a paperback of This Day in History? It’s not only interesting Americana, but also great fun for philatelists, old and young! It could also be issued annually, assuming each year the material changes.

    Reply
  6. In Hawaii- the Kingdom of Hawaii- a 13 cent “missionary”; necessary to make it from Hi to San Francisco, pony express rider to St Louis, and to the east coast in 1855 was worth about $35 at today’s rate!
    That’s why they were called “missionary” stamps , as the missionaries were the only people that
    could afford them to keep in touch with their masters in New Haven.
    It is my opinion, this is why the Grinell Missionaries ended up in New Hamshire because the kid brought them home from the print shop and left home. His Mom , being in such an isolated part of Maui at that time, and was not wealthy, cut those up and used them. $35 is a lot of money.

    Reply
  7. I would like to thank the researchers who provide the “Day in History” information and Mystic for sponsoring the well thought out Historical briefs surrounding the History of America concerning the stamps which were issued. I have decided to start a album with the US stamps, FDC and the historical information on the adjacent page for each day with a grandchild. Adding the FDC / cover will make it somewhat unique. Although I’m only interested in US philatelic material, some may want to include foreign material. Anyway, thanks for the short history lessons.

    Reply
  8. Ben Franklin is one of my favorites. Thank you Mystic for all the history you provide. Congratulations on your anniversary. I hope there will be many more. Mystic is a wonderful company.

    Reply
  9. Hi Mystic, thank you for “This Day in History”. I look forward to it and seldom miss a day. If I do, I make sure I get caught up by reading multiple days latter. For what ever reason, I did not learn much history as a kid. Now in my late 50’s I am getting my US and some world history lessons here. I inherited part of my Dad’s stamp collection a few years ago. I plan to look it over, add to it, or sell it. Whatever I do, I now know why my Dad loved his collection and learning history from that great hobby.

    Reply
  10. Dear Dean. I inherited more than half of my late father-in-laws stamp collection years ago. It includes a number of Philippine Stamps issued during the Japanese Occupation of 1941-’44, ’45. I treasure it! He purchased them during that time, since he was a Philipino Citizen living in Manila during the occupation. His wedding was June, 1941

    Reply

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