Arago: 1/2-cent Franklin

1/2-cent Franklin

The first American-born postmaster general of the American colonies, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) is honored on the half-cent Liberty stamp. A portrait in pastel by J.S. Duplessis in the book entitled “The Pictorial Life of Benjamin Franklin, Printer” inspired the stamp's vignette.

Issued on October 20, 1955, this was the last of the half-cent postage stamps issued by the United States Post Office since 1922. As with all of the other half-cent stamps, there was no specific rate for which this denomination could be used as a single stamp to pay the rate. Although the USPS did not use the term 'make-up rate stamp' until the 1990’s, the half-cent Franklin is truly a make-up rate stamp. When it was issued, there were numerous third- and fourth- class postage rates that required a half-cent denomination (e.g., 1.5, 2.5, 4.5 etc), and this stamp was issued to be used to 'make-up' the rate along with another of the Liberty definitives.

Franklin’s portrait has appeared on U.S. stamps many times since 1847. He is remembered as “The Father of the American Postal Service,” and his omnipresence on our definitive stamps is therefore most appropriate. So many famous quotations are attributed to Franklin, including “Fear to do ill, and you need fear nought else.”

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