Arago: 10-cent Washington

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10-cent Washington

Late in her husband's second term as president, Martha Washington commissioned the well-known portrait artist Gilbert Stuart to paint both her portrait and the president's. She intended them to adorn the walls of their Virginia estate, Mount Vernon.

Stuart was notorious for the length of time it took him to complete a commissioned work, and so neither the president nor his wife ever saw the completed portraits. George Washington died at the age 67 in 1799, and Martha Washington died in 1802. Stuart's delay was probably intentional. The two portraits remained unfinished and tacked to a door in Stuart's Boston studio until his death in 1828. He apparently had used this original work, which had been drawn from life, as the model for most of the portraits of George Washington that he painted during his illustrious career.

The 10-cent Washington of the 1861 Issue was engraved from Stuart's unfinished portrait of the first American president. The 10-cent stamp typically paid the single-weight, cross-border rate to Canada or the transcontinental rate to and from California. The 10-cent stamp could have been used, in combination with other denominations, to fulfill larger weight and foreign destination rates. Approximately 27,300,000 stamps of the 10-cent Washington were printed by National Bank Note Company.


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