The image of George Washington was a staple for most Classic Period stamp series. In the 1890-1893 Issue, Washington was depicted on the 'work horse' of the series, the 2-cent stamp, which paid the first-class mail rate. February 22, 1890, the official release date for most stamps in this issue, was Washington’s 158th birthday. Coincidentally, it made this stamp the first to be issued on the subject’s birthday.
The stamp was originally printed and issued in a lake color, but complaints about stamp's quality soon prompted the postmaster general to order the ink color changed. The new carmine ink became the predominant, familiar color for the majority of these 2-cent stamps.
The 2-cent postage rate primarily paid the first-class mail rate. In some situations, in combination with other denominations, it fulfilled higher rates. The American Bank Note Company printed approximately 6,344,719,500 of these stamps, making it the largest printing of any stamp of the Classics Period. The closest competing issue had over one and a half billion fewer stamps in its print run.