Arago: 2-cent Washington Overprint

2-cent Washington Overprint

The 2-cent Hawaii commemorative stamp, along with a 5-cent Hawaii stamp, was issued to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Captain James Cook in 1778. The stamps, issued August 13, 1928, were placed on sale only in Honolulu, Hawaii, and at the Philatelic Sales Agency in Washington, DC.

Postmaster General Harry S. New initially resisted the Hawaii issue as not of broad national significance. By offering a clever and economical solution, however, Governor Wallace Farrington and Victor S.K. Houston, delegate to the House of Representatives from the Hawaiian Territory, induced New to issue two stamps. The Hawaii stamps, unlike previous commemorative issues, were actually regular issued designs of 5-cent Theodore Roosevelt and 2-cent George Washington stamps of the 1922 Fourth Bureau definitive issue. These were then overprinted with a novel "commemorative overprint" in black: "Hawaii" and the dates 1778-1928.

The stamps created problems because, though commemoratives, they looked like precancel stamps to be used only at the post office that issued them. Even though the third assistant postmaster general called attention to their legitimate national use in the Postal Bulletin of October 12, 1928, postal clerks frequently refused letters with the "Hawaii" stamps, noting the need for additional postage. The 2-cent stamp paid the first-class letter rate for one ounce.

Clair Aubry Huston, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, designed the stamp's vignette and frame. Marcus Baldwin engraved the original vignette, and Edward M. Hall and Joachim C. Benzing engraved the frame and lettering. A total of 5,519,897 stamps were printed on the BEP Stickney rotary press and overprinted "HAWAII 1778-1929" on the precancel letterpress station. The stamp web paper had no watermark, and the stamps were perforated gauge 11 horizontally and 10.5 vertically.


Griffith, Gary. United States Stamps 1927-32. (Sidney, Ohio: Linn's Stamp News, 2001), 131-8.

King, Beverly and Max G. Johl. The United States Postage Stamps of the Twentieth Century. (New York: H.L. Lindquist, 1937), 1:122-5.

Kloetzel, James E., ed. 2008 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers. 86 ed. (Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing Co., 2007), 84.

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