The 1890-1893 Issue was the American Bank Note Company’s first and only original definitive stamp series. The contract for the issue was originally awarded to Charles F. Steel in mid-1889. Steel, who was based in Philadelphia, had never engraved or printed a stamp or banknote. When he submitted his bid, he intended to create the means to fulfill the contract after successfully receiving it. Steel’s complete lack of equipment and facilities should have alarmed the Post Office Department more than it did. The American Bank Note Company certainly realized the potential problem and lodged a complaint, but the Post Office Department disregarded it and gave Steel a chance to fulfill his side of the contract.
When in September 1889 Steel had not produced any of the necessary requirements of the contract, the Department issued a new request for bids. The delay required the Department to request an additional three-month supply of the then-current issue to be printed. American Bank Note Company submitted another bid for the contract and successfully secured it for another four years. The stamps of the 1890-1893 Issue were the smallest in surface size of any Classic Period stamps, and they included the portraits of more presidents than any previous series.