Arago: Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue

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Trans-Mississippi Exposition Issue
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Besides the 1893 Columbian Issue, the only other commemorative stamps issued during the nineteenth century came about when Edward Rosewater, publisher of the Omaha Daily Bee, convinced Postmaster General James A. Gary to issue a set of nine stamps to commemorate the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition being held in Omaha to promote development of the Midwest and West.

Surprisingly, the designs of the Trans-Mississippi stamps have no explicit connection to the Exposition. Unlike the Columbians, they don’t bear dates, and the illustrations on each stamp bear only the caption of the painting or photograph used, without obvious relationship to the others. All the values from one-cent to two-dollars were printed from plates of one hundred subjects and were printed on double-line watermarked paper.

The Trans-Mississippi stamps were originally to be printed in two colors, the borders in various colors, and the vignettes in black. Unfortunately, the Bureau was unable to furnish satisfactorily or in the time desired supplies of the several denominations in two colors, so the stamps were produced in a variety of single colors.

The one-dollar and two-dollar values never had the sales to collectors that were anticipated. Ironically, the stamps, which were on sale from June 17 through December 31, 1898, were available to the public at the same time that the 1893 dollar-value Columbians were still available from the Washington, D.C., post office.

Though it took one hundred years, the U.S. Postal Service eventually released the Trans-Mississippi stamps in two colors, as originally intended. In 1998, on their 100th birthday, the set of nine two-color Trans-Mississippi stamps appeared on two souvenir sheets.