This is one of the stamps in my collection which I have had for some time. It is a U.S. number 39 from the 1851-57 issue.
It was not until June 12, 1860, that a need for this stamp was evidenced in a letter from A. N. Zeveley to Toppan, Carpenter and Company. He suggested its need for that rate and for packages. He requested "the importance of expending on it all the talent you can command in respect to designing, engraving and coloring." The stamp was placed in use in late summer of 1860. The earliest recorded date for this stamp recorded by Ashbrook was September 11, 1860. The design chosen was from a Trumbull portrait of Washington. This dark blue is one of the handsome shades of the stamp.
There was only one plate made and it is believed that only 29,000 were ever distributed. The stamp was only in use for one year until the outbreak of the Civil War led to the demonetization of the issue. It is estimated that 4,000 were returned as a result of this action. Due to the short period of use and the high rate, used copies of this stamp are scarce. Many of the unused stamps were "liberated" from southern post offices and mint stamps are more readily available. Cancellations have been applied to stamps from this source as the cancelled copies command a premium. The PF certificate for this one from the 1970s declined to comment on the cancellation. (Note: I have recently seen copies with similar cancellations which have had confirming recent Philatelic Foundation certificates so perhaps it is time to resubmit in hopes that the cancellation can now be confirmed by more modern methods.)
As might be expected, covers carrying this stamp are prizes for postal history collections. The two illustrated in Brookman's The United States Postage Stamps of the 19th Century are from the Newberry and Caspary collections.