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Third Bureau Issues (1908-1922)

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13-cent Franklin single

The Third Bureau Issue, commonly known as the Washington-Franklins Head Issue (or simply the Washington-Franklins) appeared in late 1908. Before the last of these stamps was issued in early 1922, approximately two hundred and fifty different stamps were issued, all bearing the likeness of either George Washington or Benjamin Franklin. Just five illustrations are needed for all these different stamps.

To the casual observer, many of these stamps appear identical. However, the subtle differences in watermark, perforation, and method of printing make the series one of the most challenging definitives to collect. All the stamps were printed on flat plat presses with the exception of several coil stamps and experimental sheet stamps printed on the rotary press late in the life of the series. Between 1918 and 1920, several sheet stamps were also produced by offset printing.

The single most notable feature of this series is its use of only two images, those of Washington and Franklin. This was a radical departure from the trend to expand the number of individuals portrayed on stamps. Not since the first two postage stamps of 1847 had only Washington and Franklin appeared on the nation’s definitive stamps.

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

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1-cent Franklin DL watermark single

The first denomination of the Third Bureau Series, the 1-cent Franklin, has the wording "U.S. Postage" at top and "One Cent" at the bottom. The last time a stamp portraying Benjamin Franklin did not have a numeral in the design to depict the denomination was in 1851 with the 1-cent stamp of the Toppan, Carpenter 1851-1861 Issue.

The first 1-cent Franklin of the Third Bureau Issue rolled off the presses in the late fall of 1908. That first printing was of stamps with a double line "USPS" watermark, and the last printing of 1-cent Franklin stamps began in the late fall of 1910. In that short span of two years, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving produced eleven renditions of the stamp. The number is thirteen if one includes booklet panes. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiate the versions.

The 1-cent Franklin most often paid the one-cent card rate. Patrons also used it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 1-cent Franklins were sold, more than 14 billion had been issued.

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

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1-cent Washington SL watermark single

The winter of 1912 saw the first printing of the 1-cent Washington, a single-line "USPS" watermark. This 1-cent stamp marked the first time in American philatelic history that Franklin and Washington appeared on the same denomination.

The 1-cent Washington went through thirty different renditions, including booklets from its first printing in 1912 through its last version in 1922. Among its printings include some of the most sought-after stamps of the entire Bureau Period. These include the Compound Perforation stamps of 1914 and the Rotary Press Sheet Waste of 1922. The 1-cent Washington design was also used in making the one cent denomination American Expeditionary Forces Booklet Pane in World War I.

The 1-cent Washington frequently paid the card rate of one cent. It was also commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. When the last 1-cent Washington was sold in 1925, over 45 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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2-cent carmine Washington DL watermark single

The "Two Cents" Washington of the Third Bureau Issue continued the tradition of George Washington appearing on two-cent denomination stamps, the first having been the 1883 American Bank Note Company Issue.

The "Two Cents" issue is distinguished from the "2 Cents 2" issue. The Bureau of Engraving produced fifteen different renditions of the "Two Cents" Washington design, including booklet panes. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiate the versions.

The "Two Cent" Washington most often paid the two-cent domestic first-class rate. Patrons also commonly combined it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last "Two Cents" Washington stamps were sold, more than 16 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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2-cent carmine Washington Type I SL watermark single

The "2 Cents 2" Washington underwent a remarkable thirty-four renditions between February 1912 and May 1921. It is referred to as "2 Cents 2" because the previous two-cent denomination, the Washington of the Third Bureau Issue, displayed the denomination at the bottom of the stamp as "Two Cents." A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiate the varieties. Engravers also used a wide variety of fonts for the "2 Cents 2" Washington over the course of its many printings.

The World War I American Expeditionary Forces Booklet Pane used the "2 Cents 2" Washington design for its two-cent denomination. This denomination is the most rare booklet pane of all United States stamps.

The "Two Cent" Washington most often paid the two-cent domestic first-class rate. Patrons also commonly combined it other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last "Two Cent" Washington stamps were sold, more than 73 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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3-cent Washington Type I DL watermark single

Issued in 1908, the 3-cent Washington design served no purpose as a single stamp until 1917, when the three-cent domestic first-class rate was instituted as the war rate. Before this increase, the 3-cent Washington presumably would have best been used with a two-cent denomination stamp to pay the Universal Postal Union rate.

The 3-cent Washington went through twenty-three renditions. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations distinguish these versions.

The rarest 3-cent Washington is the Bluish Paper issue, released in 1910. After 1917 the 3-cent Washington paid the first-class domestic rate. Patrons also used the stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 3-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 10 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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4-cent Washington DL watermark single

The 4-cent Washington of the Third Bureau Issue has the same design as the 3-cent Washington stamp. From its first printing in 1908 to the last, the 4-cent Washington underwent thirteen renditions. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations distinguish the versions. The rarest 4-cent Washington was the Bluish Paper issue, released in 1910. The 4-cent Bluish Paper is also considered one of the rarest stamps of the entire Bureau Period.

As a single stamp, except during the war rate of 1917-1919, the 4-cent Washington most often paid the double weight first-class domestic rate. Patrons also combined this stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 4-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 2 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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5-cent Washington DL watermark single

Blue with a double line "USPS" watermark, the first 5-cent Washington was printed in 1908. Over time it underwent seventeen renditions, differentiated by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations. The two rarest 5-cent Washington stamps are the Bluish Paper issue, released in 1910, and the Compound Perforations stamps of 1914. Also rare, two 5-cent Washington renditions were printed in error with the 2-cent Washington stamps in 1917.

As a single stamp, the 5-cent Washington most often paid the Universal Postal Union international rate. Patrons also used the stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 5-cent Washington stamps were sold, over 2.6 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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6-cent Washington DL watermark single

Issued to combine with other stamps to pay multiple rates, the 6-cent Washington underwent six renditions, differentiated by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations. The rarest 6-cent Washington is the Bluish Paper issue, released in 1909.

As a single stamp, the 6-cent Washington could have paid the three-time domestic first-class rate. Patrons also combined the stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 6-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 1.2 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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7-cent Washington single line watermark single

The 7-cent Washington stamp was issued to pay multiple rates. It was the first United States 7-cent stamp issued since the 1870-1871 Issue 7-cent Stanton. The 7-cent Washington underwent four renditions, differentiated by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations.

This stamp was commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 7-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 550 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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8-cent Franklin unwatermarked single

The 8-cent Franklin stamp was not issued to address any specific rate. Rather, it was issued to pay multiple rates. This stamp underwent four renditions, differentiated by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations.

As a single stamp, the 8-cent Franklin could have paid the four-times domestic first-class rate. Patrons also combined it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 8-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 800 million had been issued.

Paul Bourke

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8-cent Washington bluish paper single

The 9-cent Franklin, the first 9-cent stamp issued by the U.S., was issued to pay multiple rates. It underwent four renditions, differentiated by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations.

The 9-cent Franklin stamp was commonly combined with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 9-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 300 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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10-cent Washington double line watermark single

Initially issued in January 1909, the first 10-cent Washington stamp of the Third Bureau Issue underwent four renditions by the year of its last printing. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiated the varieties. The rarest 10-cent Washington was the Bluish Paper issue, released in 1909.

As a single stamp, the 10-cent Washington paid the domestic registered mail fee. Patrons also commonly used it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 10-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 220 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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10-cent Franklin single line watermark single

The Post Office Department issued the first 10-cent Franklin stamp of the Third Bureau Issue in January of 1912. By its last printing, the 10-cent Franklin had witnessed five renditions, differentiated by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations.

As a single stamp, the 10-cent Franklin paid the domestic registered mail fee. Patrons also used the stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 10-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 1.8 billion had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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11-cent Franklin single line watermark single

The Post Office Department issued the 11-cent Franklin to pay multiple rates rather than a single rate. The first eleven cent stamp issued by the United States, it underwent three renditions over the course of its use. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiated these versions.

Patrons used the 11-cent Franklin stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced more than 169 million of the 11-cent Franklin stamps.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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12-cent claret brown Franklin SL watermark single

The Post Office Department issued the first 12-cent Franklin stamp in April 1914. At the time of its last printing, it had been issued in three versions. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations distinguish the renditions.

As a single stamp, the 12-cent Franklin could have been used to pay the domestic first class rate and the registered mail fee. It was also commonly coupled with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 12-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 380 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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13-cent Washington bluish paper single

The Post Office Department issued the first 13-cent Washington stamp of the Third Bureau Issue in January 1909. By its last printing, the 13-cent Washington had gone through two renditions. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiated the versions. The rarest 13-cent Washington was the Bluish Paper issue, released in 1909.

Given World War I rates, the 13-cent Washington could have paid domestic registered mail fees and the first class rate. Patrons also commonly used it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 13-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 2.9 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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13-cent Franklin single

The United States issued only one 13-cent Franklin in 1919. Given the World War I rates, the stamp could have paid domestic registered mail fees and the first class rate. Patrons also used the stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 13-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 32 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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15-cent Washington double line watermark single

Released ca. January 1909, the first 15-cent Washington head stamp was part of the original Washington-Franklin emission. Pale ultramarine in color, the first of the stamps was printed on paper with the double-line watermark. Later in 1909, the Bureau issued another variety, printed on the experimental blue paper, which are very rare. The third and last variety appeared around March 1911, printed on paper with the single-line watermark.

When first issued, the 15-cent Washington filled no specific demand, but in November 1909, when the registry fee was raised from eight to ten cents, the denomination proved useful. It then fully prepaid the five-cent U.P.U. rate to foreign destinations plus the ten-cent registry fee. A relatively large number of covers showing this usage still exist.

When released, just over 41 million of the 15-cent Washington stamps were delivered to postmasters. They remained in use until the release of the 15-cent Franklin head stamp in February 1912.

Paul Bourke

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15-cent Franklin single line watermark single

The Post Office Department issued the first 15-cent Franklin in February 1912. It appeared in four renditions throughout its years of use. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiate one version from another.

As a single stamp, the 15-cent Franklin could have paid the three-times weight of the Universal Postal Union international rate. In addition, patrons often combined it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 15-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 382 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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20-cent Franklin single line watermark single

The Post Office Department issued the first 20-cent Franklin stamp in April 1914. By its last printing, the 20-cent Franklin had gone through four renditions. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiate the versions.

Patrons often used the 20-cent stamp to pay the four times weight of the Universal Postal Union international rate. They also used it with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 20-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 466 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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30-cent Franklin SL watermark single

The first 30-cent Franklin stamp was issued in April of 1914. It eventually underwent three renditions, each distinguished by a variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations.

Patrons commonly combined the 30-cent Franklin stamp and other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 30-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 181 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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50-cent Washington double line watermark single

The first and only 50-cent Washington stamp was issued in January 1909. Throughout its use, patrons used this stamp with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 50-cent Washington stamps were sold, more than 1.8 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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50-cent Franklin DL watermark single

Issued initially in February 1912, the 30-cent Franklin underwent five renditions. A variety of papers, coils, watermarks, and perforations differentiate these versions.

The 50-cent Franklin stamp was commonly used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and foreign destination rates. By the time the last 50-cent Franklin stamps were sold, more than 125 million had been issued.

Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum

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$1 Washington double line watermark single

Issued on January 29, 1909, the 1-dollar Washington Head stamp was the last of the first issue of Washington-Franklin stamps to appear. The Post Office Department originally intended to print this stamp in a shade called 'pink'—actually a dark rose shade—and 'pink' proofs of the stamp exist. It was decided, however, that the shade resembled the color of the current 2-cent stamps too closely, and so the Bureau printed the stamp as violet brown. The stamp was current for more than three years and probably was intended for use on heavy items. That the stamp is difficult to find suggests low demand. Postmasters received 313,590 copies of the stamp.

Paul Bourke

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$1 Franklin double line watermark single

First issued February 12, 1912, the 1-dollar Franklin stamp can be found in four combinations of watermark and perforation guage, appearing in this order: double line watermark, perforated 12; double line watermark, perforated 10; without watermark, perforated 10; and without watermark, perforated 11. The last of the combinations—without watermark, perforated 11—is by far the most plentiful. There was substantial demand for the 1-dollar stamps, especially during and after the Great War. Many of the stamps were used to pay postage on heavy parcels and also to pay indemnity on valuable registered mail. A total of 21,954,774 of the stamps were issued through fiscal year 1924.

Paul Bourke

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$2 Franklin single

The 2-dollar Franklin was bi-colored, as was its 5-dollar companion. Though planned to be printed with a red frame and black vignette, the earliest printings had a distinctly orange frame. These were available on August 19, 1918. The Bureau quickly remedied the situation and issued the appropriate red frame on November 1. It printed 791,380 of these stamps through fiscal year 1924.

The 2-dollar Franklin's obvious usages included postage on heavy items and on registered items that had substantial value and required high indemnification. The earliest stamps with the orange frame are very scarce.

Paul Bourke

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$2 Madison single

An image of James Madison (1751-1836), the nation's fourth president, appears on the 2-dollar stamp of the Third Bureau Issues. Born in Virginia, Madison attended the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. A leader in the Virginia Assembly, he participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776. At the age of 36, he was a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, during which he helped frame the Bill of Rights and enact the nation's first revenue legislation.

As secretary of state under Thomas Jefferson, Madison protested the seizure of American ships by Britain and France as contrary to international law, and he supported the unpopular Embargo Act of 1807. He was elected president in 1808. The British impressments of American seamen and the seizure of cargoes forced him to declare war on Great Britain on June 1, 1812.

While regularly used to pay intra-Post Office Department funds transfers, the 2-dollar Madison stamp also franked large foreign letter-rate parcels.

The stamp was originally issued June 5, 1903, as a dark blue sheet stamp on unwatermarked paper with gauge 12 perforations, printed from plates of 200, and sold in panes of 100 stamps. On March 22, 1917, the 2-dollar Madison stamp was reprinted in a lighter blue with gauge 10 perforations.

These stamps met a sudden demand for high value postage during World War I. They were used to mail machine parts to Russia by parcel post as well as valuable shipments of Liberty Bonds.

The stamp, designed by R. Ostrander Smith from a painting by an unknown artist, was engraved by George F. C. Smillie (portrait), Robert F. Ponickau (frame), and George U. Rose, Jr. (lettering and numerals). The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced a total of 305,380 of the 2-dollar Madison stamps.

Reference:

King, Beverly and Max G. Johl. The United States Postage Stamps of the Twentieth Century. (New York: H.L. Lindquist, 1937), 1:303-5.

Kloetzel, James E., ed. 2008 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers. 86th ed. (Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing Co., 2007), 72.

United States Stamp Society, ed. Encyclopedia of United States Stamps and Stamp Collecting. (Minneapolis: Kirk House Publishers, 2006), 77.

Roger S. Brody

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$5 Franklin single

The 5-dollar stamp with the image of Benjamin Franklin was the highest value in the Third Bureau Series. Like the 2-dollar stamp, it is bi-color, having a green frame and black vignette. While the stamp was issued for use on heavy items or valuable items that required registration with substantial indemnity, the fact is that $5.00 was a substantial amount of money when the stamp was issued in August 1918 (and throughout its lifetime), and so demand for this stamp was limited. Even though a replacement 5-dollar stamp was issued in 1923, the Franklin stamp remained current and was issued to postmasters through fiscal year 1933. Over 296,650 of the 5-dollar Franklin stamps were issued, and examples are quite scarce.

Paul Bourke

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$5 Marshall single

An image of John Marshall (1755-1835) appears on the 5-dollar denomination of the Third Bureau Issues. Marshall, an American statesman and jurist, served as the fourth US chief justice. He had previously served in a variety of political offices, including in the US House of Representatives and secretary of state in the Jefferson cabinet.

The longest serving chief justice in Supreme Court history, Marshall dominated the Court for over three decades. He played a significant role in the development of the American political system by establishing the Supreme Court's right to judicial review - that is, the right to strike down laws that violate the US Constitution. Marshall is credited with both raising the judiciary to its full potential as an independent and powerful branch of government and with shaping the balance of power between the federal government and the states.

The 5-dollar Marshall stamp was primarily used to pay intra-Post Office Department funds transfers and also franked large foreign letter-rate parcels.

The stamp was originally issued June 5, 1903, as a sheet stamp on unwatermarked paper with gauge 12 perforations, printed from plates of 200, and sold in panes of 100 stamps.

On March 22, 1917, the 5-dollar Marshall stamp was reprinted in light green, with gauge 10 perforations.

These stamps met a sudden demand for high value postage during World War I. They were used to mail machine parts to Russia by Parcel Post as well as valuable shipments of Liberty Bonds. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced 217,167 Marshall 5-dollar stamps.

R. Ostrander Smith designed the 5-dollar Marshall stamp, using a painting by William James Hubard as his model. George F. C. Smillie engraved the portrait. Marcus W. Baldwin, Robert F. Ponickau, and Marcus W. Baldwin engraved the frame, and Lyman F. Ellis engraved the lettering and numerals.

References:

King, Beverly and Max G. Johl. The United States Postage Stamps of the Twentieth Century. (New York: H.L. Lindquist, 1937), 1:303-5.

Kloetzel, James E., ed. 2008 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers. 86th ed. (Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing Co., 2007), 72.

United States Stamp Society, ed. Encyclopedia of United States Stamps and Stamp Collecting. (Minneapolis: Kirk House Publishers, 2006), 77.

Roger S. Brody

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