Notes from the Past

First Bureau Postage Stamps

If you were to ask most collectors to name the first postage stamps printed and produced at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the answer would undoubtedly be, "The issue of 1894."

While organized in 1862, the Bureau in its earlier years was engaged solely in the production of currency and other government securities and their only activity in stamps was confined to revenue stamps.  Actually, the first postage stamps printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing were the reproductions of 1847, 5¢ and 10¢ stamps which they produced in 1875 for the Philadelphia Centennial, although the issue was obsolete and no longer valid for postage.

The report of the chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, G. B. McCartee, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1875, gives the data on the issue: -- "Engraved two dies for the Post Office Department, special Agent commission, die No. 2,088 with one 5 cent and one 10 cent stamp on the same die.  Engraved two plates, 5 and 10 cent, postage, 1847.  Printed, 11,450 -- 5 cent stamps.  Printed 10,000 -- 10 cent stamps."

Die No. 2088, with the 5¢ and 10¢ designs side by side, and spaced about 19 mm. apart, is still in the custody of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.  the two plates each containing 50 stamps have long since been destroyed.  The new die was made because the original dies of 1847 were not in custody of the government.

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
September 21, 1946

 Posted December 1, 1999  

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