George Washington’s image (1732-1799) has appeared on more U.S. stamps than has that of any other individual. The denomination in a series that paid the first-class domestic letter rate typically featured his image. This was the case with the Second Bureau Issue's 2-cent issue.
The nation's reverence for the Revolutionary War general and first president was captured the eulogy delivered Henry Lee at Washington's funeral, “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Lee was Washington's fellow Virginian and patriot and the father of General Robert E. Lee.
The stamp was issued January 17, 1903, as a sheet stamp and was also produced as booklets of twenty-four, forty-eight, and ninety-six stamps in multiple panes of six stamps.
A painting by Gilbert Stuart which features a one quarter left image of Washington inspired the 2-cent carmine issue. R. Ostrander Smith designed the stamp. The vignette, framed by two American flags, is often referred to as the Washington 'Flag' stamp. The stamp was engraved by George F. C. Smillie (portrait), Robert F. Ponickau (frame), and Lyman F. Ellis (lettering and numerals).
Besides paying the domestic first-class letter rate, the 2-cent Washington paid the domestic two-cent drop letter fee (carrier office), the international postcard rate, and the unsealed samples/merchandise rate per four-ounce.
Though the original engraved die produced one of the most attractive stamps ever printed, production stamps often imparted a red-faced and unattractive appearance to Washington’s portrait. Criticism of the stamp led to its replacement in November 1903 by the 2-cent Washington 'Shield' stamp.