Arago: 5-cent Washington

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5-cent Washington

George Washington (1732–1799), featured on the 5-cent stamp, has appeared on more U.S. stamps than any individual so honored. The reverence in which he is held was captured in the graveside tribute by Washington's fellow Virginian and patriot Henry Lee, who described Washington as “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Among the many who paid tribute to Washington at his death, Thomas Jefferson eulogized, “His mind was great and powerful . . . as far as he saw, and no judgment was ever sounder. . . .”

The 5-cent blue stamp was issued February 22, 1966, in Washington, D.C., in sheet format, printed from plates of four hundred and sold in panes of one hundred stamps with gauge 11 x 10.5 perforations. In addition, the stamp was produced as a horizontal coil and issued September 8, 1966, in Cincinnati, Ohio. The stamp was designed by Bill Hyde after a portrait by Rembrandt Peale which is displayed at the National Gallery of Art. Charles A. Brooks engraved the vignette, and William R. Burnell engraved the lettering. Brooks’s engraving, while quite true to the Peale portrait, presented an unflattering image of the first president. Criticism of the stamp led to a new engraved version, which was issued November 17, 1967.

The 5-cent Washington stamp was initially used to pay the domestic first-class letter rate in effect from January 7, 1963. The stamp, by itself and in multiples, also paid several other rates and fees in effect over the life of the Prominent Americans Series, including the foreign surface and airmail letter rates, foreign air postcard rate, and certified, return receipt, certificate of mailing, and special delivery fees.