Skip to main content
Featuring Research Volunteer Contributions

Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue

refer to caption
$1 Western Cattle in Storm single

Besides the 1893 Columbian Issue, the only other commemorative stamps issued during the nineteenth century came about when Edward Rosewater, publisher of the Omaha Daily Bee, convinced Postmaster General James A. Gary to issue a set of nine stamps to commemorate the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition being held in Omaha to promote development of the Midwest and West.

Surprisingly, the designs of the Trans-Mississippi stamps have no explicit connection to the Exposition. Unlike the Columbians, they don’t bear dates, and the illustrations on each stamp bear only the caption of the painting or photograph used, without obvious relationship to the others. All the values from one-cent to two-dollars were printed from plates of one hundred subjects and were printed on double-line watermarked paper.

The Trans-Mississippi stamps were originally to be printed in two colors, the borders in various colors, and the vignettes in black. Unfortunately, the Bureau was unable to furnish satisfactorily or in the time desired supplies of the several denominations in two colors, so the stamps were produced in a variety of single colors.

The one-dollar and two-dollar values never had the sales to collectors that were anticipated. Ironically, the stamps, which were on sale from June 17 through December 31, 1898, were available to the public at the same time that the 1893 dollar-value Columbians were still available from the Washington, D.C., post office.

Though it took one hundred years, the U.S. Postal Service eventually released the Trans-Mississippi stamps in two colors, as originally intended. In 1998, on their 100th birthday, the set of nine two-color Trans-Mississippi stamps appeared on two souvenir sheets.

Encyclopedia of United States Stamps and Stamp Collecting
May 16, 2006

refer to caption
1-cent Marquette on the Mississippi single

The one-cent Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue depicts Jacques Marquette on the Mississippi. In fact the young French priest (attached to a Jesuit mission in Canada) and other members of his small exploration party who crossed Lake Superior headed towards the Mississippi in spring 1674 would never discover the great river. Instead the cabin along the Chicago River in which they passed the winter of 1674-75 would eventually become the site for the city of Chicago. By spring 1675, Marquette (then in his mid-twenties) was dead of an unknown illness.

A painting by William Lamprecht that hung in Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was chosen as the model for the one-cent stamp. Bureau of Engraving and Printing officials paid only three dollars to have it professionally photographed. The resulting 9 x 10-inch image was used by the Bureau vignette engraver, G. F. C. Smillie, to engrave the stamp design.

The 1-cent Marquette stamp was most often used to pay the one-cent card rate. It was also commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large-weight and foreign destination rates. A total of 70,993,400 stamps of the 1-cent Marquette were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
2-cent Trans-Mississippi Farming in the West single

The image on the two-cent stamp of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue was a real scene captured by camera in 1888 - ten years before the stamp was issued. Bureau officials considered it the most representative 'western' image of the series and had planned to use it on the two-dollar denomination. Members of the Congressional Postal Committee suggested that the image would have the greatest exposure (widest use and greatest printed quantity) on the two-cent stamp; and so the subjects of the two-cent and two-dollar stamps were reversed.

This image that is commonly called 'Farming in the West' shows sixty-one horses and their respective drivers. Evan Nybakken, the driver in the foreground with his left hand up as if to say hello, was actually grabbing his hat so that it would not blow away. When he died in 1934, his obituary cited the stamp as his major claim to fame.

A total of 159,720,800 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the 2-cent Western Farming stamp. It was the largest printing of any stamp in the Trans-Mississippi Issue because it paid the two-cent domestic first-class rate.

Roger S. Brody and Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
4-cent Trans-Mississippi Indian Hunting Buffalo single

The 4-cent stamp of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue is probably the most dramatic of the entire series. The original image from which the stamp was engraved included a large scene of a valley and another Indian and buffalo in the foreground. The stamp's design focused just on the central subject of the original image. The original engraving appeared in a multi-volume book, "Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the Untied States" published in 1854. This engraving appears in the fourth volume of the set. G. F. C. Smille, the vignette engraver of the 1-cent stamp also engraved the 4-cent Indian Hunting Buffalo. The 4-cent stamp was often used to pay the double weight domestic first class rate. It was also commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and destination rates. A total of 4,924,500 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Roger S. Brody and Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
5-cent Trans-Mississippi John Charles Fremont on the Rocky Mountains single

The 5-cent stamp of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue depicts Captain John C. Fremont placing the United States flag on a peak in the Rocky Mountains. He accomplished this at the age of thirty in 1843. By the time Fremont died in 1890, he had been a Senator from California, one of the principle founders of the Republican Party, the Republican presidential candidate in 1856, and the territorial governor of the Arizona Territory. To top it all off, during the California Gold Rush, he found gold on his land and became a millionaire. Unfortunately, by his death he had lost most of his fortune in bad business investments.

The 5-cent stamp still symbolizes an exciting moment in the history of the west. The stamp was intended to be used to pay the Universal Postal Union international rate. In some cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and destination rates. A total of 7,694,180 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Roger S. Brody and Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
8-cent Trans-Mississippi Troops Guarding Wagons single

When people think of the old west one image which comes to mind is the wagon trains of settlers heading west. The 8-cent stamp of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue proudly portrays Federal troops guarding one such wagon train. The original image used was painted by Frederick Remington and published in a book of his works the year before the Trans-Mississippi Exposition. Remington largely shaped the American vision of the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through his painting, sculpture and writing. When Remington died in 1909 at the age of forty-eight, he had authored thirteen books and his images adorned some seventy-three books.

This stamp was intended to pay the domestic registered mail fee. In some cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and destination rates. A total of 2,927,200 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Roger S. Brody and Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
10-cent Hardships of Emigration single

In contrast to the triumphant images which adorn previous denominations of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue, the 10-cent stamp portrays the hardships of the expansion and emigration westward. The stamp depicts the pain of a dying horse with its desperate owners on their way westward. Augustus Goodyear Heaton did the painting that inspired the image for the 10-cent stamp. Several years earlier in 1892, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing used another one of Heaton's paintings for the 50-cent Columbian Exposition Issue stamp. The image used for the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue 10-cent stamp was painted by Heaton around the same time his Recall of Columbus Painting was adopted by the Bureau for the Columbian Issue.

The stamp could have been used to pay the domestic registered mail fee and the first class rate in one stamp. In some cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and destination rates. A total of 4,629,760 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Roger S. Brody and Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
50-cent Trans-Mississippi Western Mining Prospector single

Like the 8-cent of this issue, a Frederick Remington painting was used for the design of the 50-cent stamp of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue. The image is simple, just a man with a white beard and two mules searching for gold. The stamp's official title describes the man as a "Western Mining Prospector." Remington titled his original image "The Gold Bug." The two, four and fifty-cent stamps of this issue all share the same vignette engraver, G. F. D. Smille.

The stamp could have been used to pay the five times rate for the domestic registered mail fee and the first class rate in one stamp. In most cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and destination rates. A total of 530,400 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Roger S. Brody and Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
$1 Western Cattle in Storm single

The 1-dollar Cattle in the Storm stamp is considered by many philatelists to be the most beautiful stamp of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue. Others deem it the most intricate and beautiful stamp ever issued by the United States. The breed of cattle that were meant to represent the ruggedness of the American West and that inspired the original painting actually derive from the West Highlands of Scotland.

Prior to the issuance of the 1-dollar Cattle in the Storm, only two other 1-dollar U.S. stamp designs had been printed and released to the public - the $1 Columbian and the $1 Perry. There are instances of philatelic use of the 1-dollar stamp on mail originating from the Trans-Mississippi Exposition, even though it overpaid the postage rate. In many other cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large-weight and foreign destination rates. A total of 56,900 stamps of this denomination were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

refer to caption
$2 Trans-Mississippi Mississippi River Bridge single

The highest value stamp in the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue is the 2-dollar Mississippi River Bridge. The Farming [or Harvesting] in the West design that was originally chosen for this denomination was instead assigned to the two-cent stamp. The Bridge design was the perfect ending for the progressive history of the West that the Trans-Mississippi Issue was trying to portray. The 1,500-foot Eads Bridge (completed in 1874) and the city of St. Louis are pictured in the vignette.

There are instances of this stamp's philatelic use on mail originating from the Exposition, even though it overpaid the postage rate. In many other cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large-weight and foreign destination rates. A total of 56,200 stamps of this denomination were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

About U.S. Stamps

Back to Top
Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue | National Postal Museum

Error

The website encountered an unexpected error. Please try again later.