Ben Franklin on Stamps
By Craig Whitford, NCSA Member #101
Benjamin Franklin. His name alone stirs our imagination as to the time in which he lived and the wonder of his many accomplishments. During his lifetime he enjoyed various trades and professions. He was a printer, publisher, scientist, diplomat, author and inventor. His imprint "Printed by Benjamin Franklin," in various formats, exists on newspapers, almanacs and colonial paper money.
On the last page of certain issues of the Pennsylvania Gazette, you will find an imprint which reads: "Printed by B. Franklin, Post-Master." Postmaster Franklin. Today Benjamin Franklin is referred to as the Father of the United States Postal System which brings us to the subject of this article: Philately & B. Franklin, The Man.
On July 26, 1775, at the age of 68, the Continental Congress appointed Franklin the first Postmaster General of the ever expanding and soon to be independent American Colonies. In July of 1847 the United States issued its first postage stamp. Fittingly it features Benjamin Franklin. This five-cent stamp was valid for a letter carried under 300 miles. Known as an imperforate (without perforations) issue, it was produced by the gravure printing method on wove paper by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson. Since that first issue in 1847, Benjamin Franklin's likeness has appeared on numerous United States regular issue or definitive stamps and on several U.S. and foreign commemorative stamps. Only President George Washington has appeared on more postage stamps.
On the centenary of the first postage stamp in 1947, the post office issued a commemorative stamp featuring Franklin and Washington as well as a souvenir sheet reproducing the first United States postage stamps. These are the first U.S. commemorative issues to feature Franklin.
In 1956, Benjamin Franklin was again honored with a stamp commemorating the 250th anniversary of his birth. This three-cent issue depicts an elder Franklin, assisted by youth, in his famous kite and key experiment. During 1960 the post office issued a set of six commemorative stamps known as the American Credo series. This series featured quotations of famous Americans. The Franklin stamp features a line of wit and wisdom from Poor Richard's Almanac -- "Fear to do ill, and you need fear Nought else." Nuff said.
The rise of the American Revolution Bicentennial in 1976 brought forth several commemorative stamps honoring Franklin. A souvenir sheet of stamps as well as a commemorative strip of four, feature the famous painting by John Trumbull -- Signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 1978, continuing with the bicentennial theme, a thirteen-cent stamp was released commemorating Franklin's part in the French Alliance. In 1983, Franklin was honored on two stamps: one commemorating the U.S.-Sweden Treaty and one commemorating the end of the American Revolution with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.
Benjamin Franklin's accomplishments have been captured and preserved on numerous United States and foreign postage stamps.
In this the 200th anniversary of the death of the man who chose for his own epitaph to be remembered simply as Benjamin Franklin, Printer, enhance your newspaper collection with a collection of postage stamps which capture the essence of Benjamin Franklin, the man.
It is interesting to note that as Postmaster of the American Colonies, Benjamin Franklin had use of what is known as a "franking privilege." This privilege allowed him to mail letters free of charge like Congressmen. What is unique about Franklin's frank is that he signed his franking signature on out going mail as "B. Free Franklin." Historians believe that this alludes to his commitment to gaining freedom and independence from the English government.
In Philadelphia on July 26, 1975, the United States Postal Service celebrated its 200th anniversary with the opening of the B. FREE FRANKLIN Post Office and Museum. The post office and museum occupy a house once owned by Franklin at 316 Market Street. If you are ever in Philadelphia, make a side trip to the post office and museum and the area walked by Benjamin Franklin.
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