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The Columbian Exposition and the Nation's First Commemorative Stamps

Isabella Pledging Her Jewels- one dollar stamp

The National Postal Museum celebrates the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and the story of Christopher Columbus’s journeys to the New World as told through the nation’s first commemorative stamps, the 1893 Columbians.

five dollar stamp with Christopher Columbus

The Nation's First Commemorative Stamps

The 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s initial landing in the “New World” provided Chicagoans with an occasion to reflect, to celebrate, and to memorialize the adventurous Italian navigator. Though financial and construction problems postponed the celebration for one year, in 1893 city leaders hosted a magnificent international exhibition to commemorate both Columbus and the nation’s progress over those four centuries—the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. In keeping with the exposition’s celebratory theme, the U.S. Post Office Department issued the nation’s first commemorative stamps, the “Columbians”.

1 cent stamp

Columbian Exposition Issues

The World's Columbian Exposition opened on Chicago's lakefront on May 1, 1893. Over the next seven months, twenty-seven million visitors attended the fair. The Columbian Exposition commemoratives keep the fair alive for a small population of stamp collectors.