In April 1965 Postmaster General John A. Gronouski announced plans for a new series of definitive postage stamps, the Prominent Americans. The series would recognize men and women who made important contributions to the growth and development of America. Thirteen different individuals produced the diverse designs of the series which was introduced on November 10, 1965, with the issuance of the 4-cent Lincoln stamp. Over the next nine years a total of twenty-five stamp designs would be issued. The Prominent American stamps were in general use into the late 1970s while a few continued to be produced until the mid-1980s, gradually being replaced by the Great Americans Issue.
All of the designs were issued as sheet stamps with the exception of the deep claret 8-cent Eisenhower booklet stamp. Six denominations were produced as booklet panes for a total of twelve single and combination booklets. Nine denominations were released in coil rolls. In addition, the 6-cent Eisenhower would be reissued as an 8-cent stamp and the 5-cent Washington would be redrawn.
The series was in production when the Post Office Department (POD) was reorganized into the United States Postal Service (USPS). This was a period of numerous postal rate changes that resulted in several denomination changes. Two stamps were replaced while the series was current; Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced both Franklin D. Roosevelt on the 6-cent value and Albert Einstein on the 8-cent value, both when the First Class postage rate was increased to those denominations. Rate changes also factored into the 15-cent Oliver Wendell Holmes stamp being produced with three different designs types.
All of the stamps were intaglio printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. All but one of the sheet stamps were printed on the Bureau’s Huck-Cottrell presses. The exception was the black, red, and blue-gray 8-cent Eisenhower stamp, which was printed on the three-color Intaglio Giori press. The Prominent American stamps were in general use into the late 1970s while a few continued to be produced until the mid-1980s, gradually being replaced by the Americana and Great Americans Issues.