Between 1847 and 1870, three different companies engraved and printed United States stamps. The image on the first stamp in every series printed by all three companies was of Benjamin Franklin. There are several possible reasons for this, one being the tradition of the first stamp of each series depicting Franklin, and another being that Franklin was the first postmaster general of the United States.
National Bank Note would print four different 1-cent Franklin designs. Interestingly, all four portraits, engraved over a ten year period at the appropriate times to coordinate with each issue, were engraved by the same person, Joseph Pease. Pease engraved not only all the Franklin portraits for National, he is also credited with engraving the portraits for all the stamps Toppan, Carpenter & Company printed for the United States from 1851-1861.
The 1-cent Franklin stamp had two variations, one with a grill, the other without. This is true of all the stamps of this issue. The stamp could have been used for some third-class mail, drop letters, or in combination with other denominations to fulfill larger rates. National Bank Note Company printed a total of approximately 143,000,000 1-cent stamps of both variations.