Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), publisher, scientist, diplomat, and first postmaster general of the American colonies, is honored on the 1-cent stamp. Franklin’s image was inspired by an engraving after a painting by J.B. Longacre that resides in the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The green stamp was initially issued on Feb. 3, 1903, as a sheet stamp, and in 1907 it became the first 1-cent stamp issued in booklet format. In February 1908 the Franklin stamp was one of three experimental endwise coil stamps introduced by the Post Office Department. The sheet stamps were printed from plates of four hundred and sold in panes of one hundred stamps with gauge 12 perforations. In October 1906 the stamps were also made available in imperforate full sheets of four hundred for use by private manufacturers of vending and affixing machines, who applied their own designed perforations. The 1-cent Franklin stamp was also issued as experimental sidewise perforated coils and imperforate endwise and sidewise coils in limited quantities.
R. Ostrander Smith designed the 1-cent Franklin. He incorporated into the frame design symbols of Franklin’s scientific experimentations with electricity. The engravers of the 1-cent stamp were George F. C. Smillie (vignette and frame), Robert F. Ponickau (frame), and Lyman F. Ellis (Lettering and numerals).
The Franklin stamp was primarily used to pay the one-cent first class domestic postcard rate, the third-class (printed matter), and fourth-class (merchandise/samples rate) rates of one-cent per two-ounces and one ounce, respectively.
After George Washington, Benjamin Franklin has been the most honored American on U.S. postage stamps.