In contrast to the triumphant images which adorn previous denominations of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue, the 10-cent stamp portrays the hardships of the expansion and emigration westward. The stamp depicts the pain of a dying horse with its desperate owners on their way westward. Augustus Goodyear Heaton did the painting that inspired the image for the 10-cent stamp. Several years earlier in 1892, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing used another one of Heaton's paintings for the 50-cent Columbian Exposition Issue stamp. The image used for the Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue 10-cent stamp was painted by Heaton around the same time his Recall of Columbus Painting was adopted by the Bureau for the Columbian Issue.
The stamp could have been used to pay the domestic registered mail fee and the first class rate in one stamp. In some cases it was used with other denominations to fulfill large weight and destination rates. A total of 4,629,760 stamps were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.