With the exception of Benjamin Franklin, only those who had served as president had been honored on United States stamps prior to the 1870-1871 Issue. In order of ascending denominations, the first non-president to be honored was Edwin M. Stanton (1814-1869). Stanton served as Abraham Lincoln's attorney general and then as Secretary of War, a position he held into the Johnson administration. On December 20, 1869, President Grant appointed him to the United States Supreme Court. Unlike nominees today, Stanton was confirmed the day he was nominated.
The 7-cent stamp honoring Stanton was the only stamp issued in 1871. Circumstances made it very useful as the stamp used to pay a full rate. In 1870, while the stamp was being designed, it was intended as the seven-cent direct mail rate to several European countries. In early 1871 the European-destination direct mail rate was reduced to six cents, making the Stanton 7-cent stamp effectively useless. Fortuitously, when the rate for mail sent through England into Prussian closed mails was set at seven cents, down from ten cents, the Stanton stamp became functional.
Between 1872 and 1875, the 7-cent Stanton stamp paid an increasing number of single rates. The rate to Denmark was made seven cents in 1872, and in 1873 the rate to Hungary and Luxembourg was the made the same. With the adoption of the Universal Postal Union standard international single-weight rate of five cents in 1875, the Stanton stamp was no longer available. The 7-cent Stanton had two variations, as did all the 1870-1871 Issues. One had a grill; the other did not. National Bank Note Company printed approximately 2,945,000 7-cent stamps of both variations.