Because of considerable dissatisfaction with the original 2-cent Washington 'Flag' stamp, the Bureau produced a new 2-cent stamp featuring Washington’s portrait within a shield of stars and stripes. The new design, referred to as the 2-cent Washington 'Shield' stamp, was issued Nov. 12, 1903. In addition to the bold shield background, the left numeral was enclosed with laurel leaves and the right with oak leaves, symbolizing Washington’s role as president in peace time and as general in war time.
The stamp was issued January 17, 1903, as a sheet stamp and was produced in booklets of twenty-four, forty-eight, and ninety-six stamps in multiple panes of six stamps. In October 1906 the stamps were also made available in imperforate full sheets of four hundred for use by private manufacturers of vending and affixing machines, who applied their own designed perforations. The Washington stamp was one of three experimental endwise coil stamps introduced by the Post Office Department in February 1908. It was later issued as experimental sidewise perforated coils and imperforate endwise and sidewise coils. These experimental coils were issued in limited quantities and are today highly prized twentieth-century rarities.
The 2-cent carmine stamp was designed by Clair Aubrey Huston from a painting by Gilbert Stuart. The stamp was engraved by George F. C. Smillie (portrait), Robert F. Ponickau (frame), and George U. Rose, Jr. (lettering and numerals).
Because the original engraved die had been damaged, a new die exhibiting slight changes was made in mid-1908 to create new transfer rolls for needed plates. The two 'Shield' stamp varieties are referred to as die Type I and Type II. The Washington 'Shield' stamp is recognized for its many shade varieties. Initially issued as a carmine stamp, it has also been cataloged in shades of scarlet, carmine rose, red, and lake.
In addition to paying the domestic first-class letter rate, the 2-cent Washington paid the domestic two-cent drop letter fee (carrier office), the international postcard rate, and the unsealed samples/merchandise rate per four ounces.