American artists Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) and John Trumbull (1756-1843) studied for a time in London under Benjamin West (1738-1820). Trumbull, who had served under George Washington during the American siege of Boston in 1776, resigned his commission in 1777. Determined to develop his artistic abilities, he set-out for London in 1780 with an introductory letter for West from Benjamin Franklin. Under West's tutelage, Trumbull shared a studio with Gilbert Stuart. Their portraits have since inspired countless stamp designs for a country then barely four years old.
The last and highest denominated stamp of the 1851-1861 Issue—the 90-cent Washington—drew its inspiration from a Trumbull painting of a young George Washington in military dress. Because there were fewer postal rates for it to fulfill during its limited time of use, the 90-cent Washington is one of the few stamps of the Classic Period that is more collectible in genuine used condition. There are only six 90-cent Washington covers known. Toppan, Carpenter & Co. printed approximately 29,000 stamps of the 90-cent issue.