Through his contacts at the Vatican, Italian painter Luigi Gregori learned of a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame, and in 1874 he arrived in South Bend, Indiana, to chair the Art Department. Five years later (1879), a fire destroyed the main administration building. The 1865 structure was subsequently rebuilt, and between 1882 and 1884 Gregori was tapped to paint a series of twelve paintings to adorn the second-floor entrance hall. The theme would be identical to the Randolph Rogers engravings for the U.S. Capitol installed twenty years earlier—the life and voyages of Christopher Columbus. The Post Office Department modeled the engraving for 10-cent Columbian Exposition stamp on one of Gregori's paintings.
As with the 10-cent 1890 Issue, the 10-cent Columbian was created specifically to pay the registered mail fee that had been in place since July 1, 1875. When the fee returned to the pre-July 1, 1875, amount of eight cents on January 1, 1893, the Post Office Department issued a new stamp for that amount to simplify public usage. The 10-cent Columbian Exposition stamp now had a new function: it paid the combined first-class rate and registered mail fee which totaled ten cents. The American Bank Note Company printed a total 16,516,950 stamps of this 10-cent issue.