Arago: Second Bureau Issues (1902-1908)

Second Bureau Issues (1902-1908)

During the final months of 1902, a new series of stamps—the Second Bureau Issue—was introduced. It was the first definitive issue completely designed and produced for the Post Office Department by the craftsmen of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Stamps of the series were released in sheet, booklet pane, and experimental coil formats. They were printed on double-line watermarked paper with gauge 12 perforations.

The series contained sixteen designs in denominations from 1-cent to 5-dollar, including a 10-cent Special Delivery design and a replacement for the original 2-cent design. The stamps were in general use until 1909. However, the 2-dollar and 5-dollar designs, reprinted in 1917 on unwatermarked paper, perforation 10, were produced until 1918. The Special Delivery 'Messenger on Bicycle' design continued in use until 1922 and was also produced on single-line and unwatermarked paper with 10 and 11 gauge perforations.

Only three stamps of the series were actually released during 1902. The 13-cent stamp honoring recently-deceased President Benjamin Harrison was issued in November. It was the first U.S. 13-cent stamp and was intended to pay the 8-cent registry fee plus 5-cent foreign letter rate. The 8-cent Martha Washington, the first to honor an American woman, and 10-cent Special Delivery were issued in December. The remaining stamps of the series were released during the first few months of 1903.

The Second Bureau Issue marks the first time that a U.S. stamp’s design included the name and dates of birth and death of the person portrayed. Each stamp of the series includes the words "Series 1902.” This 'year date' feature, first applied to postage stamps with the 1901 commemorative Pan-American issue, was discontinued with the 1908 introduction of the Washington-Franklin Series (Third Bureau Issue).