The fifth group of the Famous Americans Issue honors five famous American composers — Stephens Collins Foster, John Philip Sousa, Victor Herbert, Edward A. MacDowell, and Ethelbert Nevin. Each composed music now familiar across America. A spray of laurel leaves and the pan flute serve as this group's unifying design element. The Post Office Department issued the group between May 3 and June 10, 1940.
Since many special-interest groups pressured the Post Office Department for the distinction of having their cities as locations for First Day of Issue ceremonies, selection could be difficult. A change, for example, moved the first day of sale for the 5-cent MacDowell stamp to Peterborough, New Hampshire, from New York City. This was a distinct honor to MacDowell's widow, Marian, who was residing there at the time.