Edward Steimle modeled his engraving for the 1-cent after a bust of Benjamin Franklin executed by Jean Antoine Houdon. The 26 year old engraver his rendering would be the last regular issue portrait of Franklin accomplished by a private printing firm. The American Bank Note Company had hired the German-born Steimle, who had emigrated to the US about 1870, after he submitted an engraving of a train engine. The stamp was officially issued on February 22, 1890, two months shy of the 100th anniversary of Franklins death. The stamp would have been used for some third-class mail, drop letters, or in combination with other denominations to fulfill larger postage rates. The American Bank Note Company printed approximately 2,206,093,450 of these 1-cent stamps.
Previous versions of Franklins portrait on the 1c stamp had Franklin face portray an alert friendly expression. This was the principle reason that the new design was disliked by the general public. The NY-Times wrote that Franklin's face had entirely altered his expression and making him resemble a putty-faced personification of senility.
The image of George Washington was a staple for most Classic Period stamp series. In the 1890-1893 Issue, Washington was depicted for the most used rate, the 2-cent stamp, which paid the first-class mail rate. February 22, 1890, the official release date for most stamps in this issue, was Washingtons 158th birthday. Coincidentally, it made this stamp the first to be issued on the subjects birthday. The stamp was originally printed and issued in a lake color, but complaints about stamp's quality soon prompted the postmaster general to order the ink color changed. The new carmine ink became the predominant, familiar color for the majority of these 2-cent stamps. The American Bank Note Company printed approximately 6,344,719,500 of these stamps, making it the largest printing of any stamp of the Classics Period.
The 3c Jackson stamp was inspired by the Jean-Antoine Houdon sculpture. Other than George Washington, Jackson appeared on more Classic Period stamps than any other president. The 3-cent stamp was used primarily in combination with other denominations to fulfill larger rates.
During his tenure as superintendent of the pictorial department at the American Bank Note Company, Alfred Jones engraved the portrait of Abraham Lincoln for the 4-cent stamp of the 1890-1893 Issue. Born in Great Britain, Jones became an engraver for the Philadelphia printing firm Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson soon after immigrating to the United States. During the mid-1850s, the renowned portrait engraver operated his own firm, which later merged with the ABNCo. The 4-cent Lincoln was issued on June 2, 1890, the 25th anniversary of the surrender of the last major Confederate army. The 4-cent stamp would have been used to pay either the double-weight first-class rate or, in combination with other denominations, higher mail rates.
The 5-cent stamp of the 1890-1893 Issue was the first U.S. stamp to depict Ulysses S. Grant. Of the eleven men pictured in this issue, Grant and Sherman, both former Union generals during the American Civil War, were first-time subjects. After his defining role as general-in-chief of the Union army, Grant was twice elected president of the United States (1869-1877). He died in 1885, shortly after completing his memoirs. It is of special note that the Post Office Department released the 5-cent Grant exactly twenty-five years after Gen. Edmond Kirby Smiths surrender of the last major Confederate army (the Trans-Mississippi Department) at Galveston, Texas, on June 2, 1865. At the time of Gen. Kirby's death on March 28, 1893, he had seen three opposing Union generals honored on stamps—Winfield Scott, Ulysses S. Grant, and William Sherman. The 8-cent Sherman stamp was released seven days before Smiths death, the only one of the 1890-1893 Issue to be released that year. The 5-cent Grant stamp typically paid the Universal Postal Union (UPU) international rate.
Two American presidents were assassinated during the nineteenth century: Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield. John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford's theater, Washington, D.C., in 1865; a soldier named Charles J. Guiteau, disgruntled about the outcome of the 1880 general election, assassinated Garfield in 1881. Interestingly, the two 6-cent stamps issued after 1870 featured the two assassinated presidents. All regular-issue 6-cent stamps until 1909 featured Garfield. This stamp could have paid the triple-weight, first-class rate or, in combination with other denominations, higher rates.
When the American Bank Note Company and the Post Office Department began their collaboration on the 1890-1893 Issue, only ten different denominations were required. The need for an 8-cent stamp arose when the registered mail fee was lowered from ten to eight cents on January 1, 1893. William Tecumseh Sherman, who succeeded Ulysses S. Grant as commander of the U.S. army in 1869 and was a legendary Union general of the American Civil War, was chosen as the subject for the last stamp of the 1890-1893 Issue. He had outlived Grant by five years, dying on Valentines Day 1891. Now his stamp, released on March 21, 1893, would have the distinction of being the only stamp of the issue not released in 1890. Sherman was the only person born in the nineteenth century who would see a stamp series on which he would eventually be portrayed. The stamp was often used to pay the registered mail fee.
The registered mail fee had been ten cents for about 15 years when the Post Office Department released the Daniel Webster stamp of the 1890-1893 Issue. The fee that had been stable since July 1, 1875, was overturned on January 1, 1893. On that date the fee returned to eight cents, the pre-July 1875 level. Then on March 21, just two months later, the 8-cent Sherman was released as the new registered mail fee stamp. Just as the 10-cent Daniel Webster was seemingly eclipsed by this new stamp, a second use for it became clear. It could be used to pay the combined two-cent first-class rate and the eight-cent registered mail fee, a total of ten cents. This kind of customer convenience had not been envisioned in the 1890-1893 Issue. No twelve-cent stamp was designed to pay the combined two-cent first-class rate and the then ten-cent registered fee. When the fee returned to ten cents on November 1, 1909, it would be almost five years before the Post Office Department issued a twelve-cent stamp which could pay the combined registered and first-class rate.
Prior to the 1890-1893 Issue, one stamp design was created and reused for all Henry Clay stamps. The National Bank Note Company created Clays likeness from Clevengers sculpture for their 1870-1871 Issue; it was used again by the Continental Bank Note and American Bank Note Companies. The 1890-1893 Issue featured a new, strong image of Clay (befitting a man of his accomplishments and personality), engraved from a surviving daguerreotype. The stamp was most often used to pay large domestic rates.
The engraver of an incredible range of vignette types, Liverpool-born artist Alfred Jones (1819-1900) created the image of Thomas Jefferson that appears on the 30-cent stamp of the 1890-1893 Issue and the 4-cent Lincoln of the same issue. Jones moved beyond portraits and into full scenes during his time at American Bank Note Company. For examples of that work, see his 2-cent and 30-cent Columbian Exposition Issues of 1893. The 30-cent Jefferson of the 1890 American Bank Note Company Issue added one more denomination to the list of Jefferson stamps in the Classic Period. This would be the last 30-cent stamp of the Classic Period and the last 30-cent denomination on a United States stamp until 1914. It typically paid large domestic rates.
The American Bank Note Company continued National Bank Notes example and used the bust of Commodore Oliver Perry on the 1890 Issue's 90-cent denomination. The Oliver Perry stamp was the last 90-cent stamp of the Classic Period, and, unlike every other denomination issued between 1847 and 1893, it was never used during the Bureau and Modern Periods, making it the last 90-cent denomination printed and issued for the United States government. Edward Charles Steimle, the American Bank Note Company engraver who created the first denomination of the Issue, also engraved this last denomination. The stamp typically paid large domestic rates.
On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Landing of Columbus the largest Exposition ever held on US soil was held in Chicago. The Post Office was determined not to miss out on this and proposed a series of stamps to commemorate the event. The purpose behind this was three fold: 1) To encourage the purchase of stamps by the public, 2) To stimulate the hobby of stamp collecting, 3) To make a tidy profit. It was estimated that 3 Billion stamps would be sold and between September and the end of December 1892 work progressed on their production. At first the stamps proved to be immensely popular. So much so that Post Offices refused to sell the higher values for fear of running out. The price of these skyrocketed as a result. Companies instructed their offices to use the higher values on internal parcels so they could benefit from their sale when delivered to their branch offices. Soon afterward, the hbig values proved totally useless for letters, and with a world glut the price dropped like a stone, at one point stamp dealers would only offer 30% of the face value for them. The 5$ stamp (with infation it would be around 150$ now) resulted in a huge hue and cry from the stamp collectors, most of whom could not afford to buy this stamp, and thought that the post office was trying to wring money from them. Your collector would have to shell out $17.69 to purchase the whole series, equivalent to more than $500 today ! Many other countries also made expensive stamps with a normal tarif + a sum for some good deed, and they are commonly called semi-postals, hence my introduction of the term quasi-postal for these stamps: it was quasi impossible to use them within normal postal tarifs.
Fun miss: Columbus is clean shaven on the 1c whilst sighting land, and on the 2c stamp Columbus has a full beard during the landing.