1 - 1847 5c Benjamin Franklin, red-brown, thin bluish wove paper, imperforate
US #1 features an engraving by John B Longacre based on a portrait by Joseph Siffred Duplessis.

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 US and when Robert H. Morris, postmaster of New York, proposed issuing a provisional stamp, there were no objections.

9X1 - 1845-46 Postmaster Provisional
US #9X1 – 1845 New York Postmaster Provisional

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

Two years later, the US 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.

2 - 1847 10c Washington, black, imperforate
US #2 was based on the famed Gilbert Stuart painting known as The Athenaeum.

Early plans for US #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 US president.

1847 10c Washington #2 on Cover with Canadian Postmark
Item #MA1626 – Unusual US #2 Cover With Canada Postmark

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.

948 - 1947 5c and 10c CIPEX souvenir sheet
US #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.

3139-40 - 1997 50c Ben Franklin and George Washington
US #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 1856 that the use of postage stamps became mandatory.

1947 3¢ U.S. Postage Stamp Centenary
US #947 – Stamp issued for the 100th anniversary of America’s first postage stamp pictures the portraits from both stamps as well as different ways the mail has been carried since then.
1972 8¢ Stamp Collecting
US #1474 – Stamp Collecting commemorative picturing US #1

These stamps changed our postal service forever – the newest step in making it easier and more efficient to send, receive and deliver the mail.  This in turn vastly improved communications across our rapidly expanding country.

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21 Comments

  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.

    1. 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!

  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.

  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?

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

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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

  11. Thank you Mystic! Great articles with so much historical information. I enjoy reading them and usually learn something new. Keep up the great work.

  12. Happy Anniversary Mystic stamp company yet another Anniversary
    as come to celebrate Americas 1st postage stamp and what a stunning stamp it is I would love to add one to my stamp collection one day I loved reading the article it was very interesting I’ve read similar articles on Americas first postage stamp but not to the length of yours there’s a lot more about the stamp and its history which iam grateful I’ve read it and grateful to you too

  13. Thanks for this good and timely information, since today is National Postage Stamp Day. I plan to forward on to the members of the Badger Stamp Club of the Madison, WI area

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