Released ca. January 1909, the first 15-cent Washington head stamp was part of the original Washington-Franklin emission. Pale ultramarine in color, the first of the stamps was printed on paper with the double-line watermark. Later in 1909, the Bureau issued another variety, printed on the experimental blue paper, which are very rare. The third and last variety appeared around March 1911, printed on paper with the single-line watermark.
When first issued, the 15-cent Washington filled no specific demand, but in November 1909, when the registry fee was raised from eight to ten cents, the denomination proved useful. It then fully prepaid the five-cent U.P.U. rate to foreign destinations plus the ten-cent registry fee. A relatively large number of covers showing this usage still exist.
When released, just over 41 million of the 15-cent Washington stamps were delivered to postmasters. They remained in use until the release of the 15-cent Franklin head stamp in February 1912.