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Presidents of the United States on U.S. postage stamps
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"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."
Presidents of the United States have frequently appeared on U.S. postage stamps since the mid–1800s. The United States Post Office released its first two postage stamps in 1847, featuring George Washington on one, and Benjamin Franklin on the other . The advent of presidents on postage stamps has been definitive to U.S. postage stamp design since the first issues were released and set the precedent that U.S. stamp designs would follow for many generations.
The paper postage stamp itself was born of utility (in England, 1840), as something simple and easy to use was needed to confirm that postage had been paid for an item of mail. People could purchase several stamps at one time and no longer had to make a special trip to pay for postage each time an item was mailed. The postage stamp design was usually printed from a fine engraving and were almost impossible to forge adequately. This is where the appearance of presidents on stamps was introduced. Moreover, the subject theme of a president, along with the honors associated with it, is what began to define the stamp issues in ways that took it beyond the physical postage stamp itself and is why people began to collect them. There exist entire series of stamp issues whose printing was inspired by the subject alone.
The portrayals of Washington and Franklin on U.S. postage are among the most definitive of examples and have appeared on numerous postage stamps. The presidential theme in stamp designs would continue as the decades passed, each period issuing stamps with variations of the same basic presidential-portrait design theme. The portrayals of U.S. presidents on U.S. postage has remained a significant subject and design theme on definitive postage throughout most of U.S. stamp issuance history.Engraved portrayals of U.S. presidents were the only designs found on U.S. postage from 1847 until 1869, with the one exception of Benjamin Franklin, whose historical stature was comparable to that of a president, although his appearance was also an acknowledgement of his role as the first U. S. Postmaster General. During this period, the U.S. Post Office issued various postage stamps bearing the depictions of George Washington foremost, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln, the last of whom first appeared in 1866, one year after his death. After twenty-two years of issuing stamps with only presidents and Franklin, the Post Office in 1869 issued a series of eleven postage stamps that were generally regarded by the American public as being abruptly different from the previous issues and whose designs were considered at the time to be a break from the tradition of honoring American forefathers on the nation's postage stamps. These new issues had other nonpresidential subjects and a design style that was also different, one issue bearing a horse, another a locomotive, while others were depicted with nonpresidential themes. Washington and Lincoln were to be found only once in this series of eleven stamps, which some considered to be below par in design and image quality. As a result, this pictographic series was met with general disdain and proved so unpopular that the issues were consequently sold for only one year where remaining stocks were pulled from post offices across the United States.In 1870 the Post Office resumed its tradition of printing postage stamps with the portraits of American Presidents and Franklin but now added several other famous Americans, including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Alexander Hamilton and General Winfield Scott among other notable Americans. Indeed, the balance had now shifted somewhat; of the ten stamps issued in 1870, only four offered presidential images. Moreover, presidents also appeared on less than half of the denominations in the definitive sets of 1890, 1917, 1954 and 1965, while occupying only a slight major ...