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1847 - Stamps by Year

Regular Issue of 1847

Five Cent - Benjamin Franklin
Issued July 1, 1847

#1 is the five cent issue of the Regular Series of 1847.

Scott #1 - 1847 5 cent FranklinScott #1 - 1847 5 cent Franklin


- Stamp Design Subject -

The design features Benjamin Franklin, who was among many other things one of the United State's founding fathers; a statesman, an inventor and our first Post Master General.

Andrew Jackson, not Benjamin Franklin was selected for the first design for this issue as an excerpt of a letter dated March 20, 1847 written by the security printers of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson (RWH&E) clearly explains:

"We beg to submit for your approval, the enclosed design, wich we have prepared for the new stamps for the Post Office Department. In accordance with your suggestion, we have substituted the Head of Franklin for that of Genl. Jackson, which our Mr. Rawdon was requested to use by the Post Master General; should the P.M.G. still desitre the head of Jackson, it can be used."

- Technical Data -
Scott #:
Benjamin Franklin
Series of 1847.
Issue Date:
July 1, 1847 - July 2, 1847 (NYC), July 3, 1847 (Boston)
New York City
Size (design):
18½ x 23¼ mm
Red Brown
Printing Method:
Thin, bluish, woven, gummed
200 subject plates in 2 panes of 100 in a 10x10 format
Rawdon, Wright, Hatch, and Edson Bank Note Company of New York City
Known Plate #s:
It is believed that only one plate was used.
No. Issued:

3,712,000 (1847-1851)
Per Geo. Brett, 4,400,000 5¢ stamps were printed in five press runs. 688,000 stamps were destroyed when the stamps were demonetized in 1851.

Earliest Documented Use:
July 7, 1847
.Asher B. Durand
Major variants:

#s 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, (Varients),
# 3 (reprint),
"Dot" in "S"; Cracked plate at position 69R1
Several double-transfers are known as well as one double impression

A four year contract was issued to The New York City bank note engraving firm of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch, and Edson to print the first American postage stamps. Note the initials: "RWH&E" are engraved at the bottom of both stamps. It is apparent that the firm did creat new designs for the stamps. They reused engravings by Asher Brown Durand. According to Brazer, the identical Durand engravings of Franklin on the five-cent stamp, Scott #1, was used for a $2.00 bank note (Chemical Bank of New York), and Washington on the ten-cent stamp, Scott #2, was used for a $5.00 bank note (Fairfield County Bank of Connecticut). The vignettes from the dies used to make these bank notes were reused to make the dies for the stamp designs.

The 5 and 10 cent 1847 issue stamps were originally proposed as bi-color stamps. As a security measure, early submissions from RWH&E show the denominations overprinted in red. At the time, this measure was used to thwart counterfeiters of paper money but the government determined that it would be too expensive so the stamps were issued in one color. The five-cent in various shades of brown and the ten-cent in black.

Since the paper was hand made there will be some variation in thickness. Variations can even be found on a single stamp.

The five-cent stamp has a variety of shades, from red browns to a bright orange brown, from pale brown to a very (almost black) dark brown, from olive browns to violet browns, and full orange. A reference work coivering the color varieties of the five-cent stamp was, written by Calvet M. Hahn, available through the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society.

In 1851, when the contract with Rawdon, Wright, Hatch, and Edson came to an end, the government issued a request for proposals for the next series of stamps. At that time the stamps of 1847 were demonetized. As of July 1, 1851, the stamps of 1847 were no longer accepted for use as postage.

There is some confusion as to whether more than one plate was used to print the five-cent stamp. Elliott Perry by proving that only one plate of 200 subjects for the ten-cent was used. Stanley Ashbrook, stated that identifying plates for the five-cent stamp would be impossible, as many of the printings are indistinct. The ten-cent stamps are predominantly sharp and crisply printed, but most of the five-cent stamps appear dull, muddy and fuzzy. This has been blamed on poor quality of the brown ink used, or the way the ink was handled. However, as technology catches up to philately, this may become possible by use of enhanced images from high quality scanners overlaid for comparison. I might contact a hand full of collectors and take this project on myself if I ever have the free time to attempt it.

It is uncertian if RWH&E destroyed the dies and plates used. In 1875, the re-issues of all of the previous U.S. stamps were made, new dies weremade for the stamps of 1847. These "Special Printings" are easy to itentify. Many collectors contend that they should not have been assigned the Scott catalog numbers of #3 and #4, as "special printings of 1875, they were not the third and fourth postage stamps produced for the US Post Office.

- Identification guides for this issue -

  Identifying Scott #1, varients, reprints and special printings

- Related Stamps of interest -

#3   #948   #1474   #3139a

- Regular Issues -


- Other Stamps of 1847 -

None were issued in 1847
The first Postage Due Stamps were issued in 1879
The first Special Delivery Stamps were issued in 1885

-Articles -

The First U.S. Issues: #1 and #2

- Literature Of Interest -

2010 Scott U.S. Specialized The 1847 U.S. Issue Stamps, by Frank Goodwin (1913)
A Historical Catalog of U.S. Stamp Essays & Proofs - The 1847 Issue, by Clarence W. Brazer (1947)
Ten Decades Ago, 1840-1850: A Study of the Work of Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson, by Winthrop Boggs (1949)
The 1847 Issue, by Harvey Mirsky - The U.S. Specialist (March 2006)
The 5¢ 1847 Issue, Mekeel's Reference Manual
The 5¢ and 10¢ General Issue of 1847, by Wade Saadi - American Philatelist (March 1997)
The First United States Issue, by John F. Dunn - U.S. Stamp News (May-Jun, 2000)
The Postage Stamps of the 19th Century, Volume 1, by Lester Brookman (1966)
The United States 1847 Issue - A Cover Census, by Thomas J. Alexander (2001 USPCS)
United States Letter Rates to Foreign Destinations - 1847 to GPU - UPU (1872) by Charles J. Starnes (1982)
Reexamining the 1847 Colors by Calvet Hahn (1986)
The Encyclopedia of the Colors of United States Postage Stamps - Volume 1 Issues of 1847-1868, by Roy H. White (1981)
Design dimensions:
The Postage Stamps of the United States, John Luff (1902 and 1937)
Identification Guide to US Postage Stamps - Regular Issues 1847-1934, By Charles N. Micarelli (1979, 2006)
Postal History:
Great Covers: The 1847 Issue, by John F. Dunn - U.S. Stamp News (Jan-Feb, 2001)
The United States 1847 Issue: A Cover Census by Thomas J. Alexander (2006)
Notes on the plating of the 10¢ stamp - Published by Elliott Perry in the Collector's Club Philatelist from 1924-1926.
Quantities issued:
Updating the U.S. 1847's on Their 150th Anniversary: Beginning, Production, Ending, by George Brett - 63rd American Philatelic Congress

- Links -

Photo Gallery - Photos of additional examples, conditions and variants of this stamp



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