The 90-cent Perry stamp is the highest denomination of the 1870-1871 National Bank Note Company Issue. It depicts Commodore Oliver Perry (not to be confused with his younger brother Matthew, who militarily forced-open trade with Japan), who gained fame by defeating a British squadron at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. The battle was the first in British history at which an entire naval squadron was lost in a single engagement. Perry's famous line in reporting the progress of the battle, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours,” is legendary in naval lore.
In all previous stamp series since 1851, the ninety-cent value always represented a U.S. president. Perry became the first (and remains the only) non-president to appear on a 90-cent stamp on all regular U.S. stamp issues. The stamp was used primarily in combination with other denominations on cover to fulfill expensive postal rates. As with all stamps of the 1870-1871 Issue, the Perry stamp has two variations, one with grill, the other without. Approximately 213,000 stamps of both variations were printed by the National Bank Note Company.