The 13-cent stamp of the Second Bureau Issue, which features an image of Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901), was the first stamp of the series issued. The stamp memorialized the twenty-third president, who had died the previous year. Harrison, a lawyer and grandson of William Henry Harrison, the nation's ninth president, became active in Republican politics as a young man. He rose to the rank of brigadier general during the Civil War, and he was elected a U.S. senator from Ohio in 1880. Though he did not win the popular vote, he won the electoral vote and therefore triumphed over Democrat Grover Cleveland to become president in 1888. He lost his bid for re-election in 1892 to Cleveland.
The 13-cent purple black stamp was issued Nov 18, 1902, only in sheet format printed from plates of four hundred and sold in panes of one hundred stamps with gauge 12 perforations. The stamp, designed by R. Ostrander Smith from a photograph supplied by Mrs. Harrison, was engraved by Marcus W. Baldwin (portrait and frame), and Lyman F. Ellis (lettering and numerals).
The Harrison stamp was the first 13-cent denomination issued by the Post Office Department. A single 13-cent stamp could be used to pay the eight-cent registry fee plus the five-cents-per-half-ounce foreign letter rate. The stamp remained as one of the regular denominations as long as the registry fee remained at eight cents, though sales of the Harrison stamp were the lowest of any value below the 50-cent stamp.