A 20-cent commemorative stamp honoring the 250th birth anniversary year of pioneer chemist Joseph Priestley was issued April 13, 1983, in Northumberland, Pennsylvania. The First Day of Issue ceremony was held at the Joseph Priestley House, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
Joseph Priestley was born in England in 1733 and immigrated to the United States in 1794 for greater political and religious freedom. He is best known for his discovery of oxygen in 1774. In addition, he discovered several other gases including nitrogen, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydrogen chloride, and sulfur dioxide. In education, Priestley was the first to give formal instruction in modern history and to make advancements in the teaching of science by using the field trip as a tool for learning.
Dennis Lyall, of Norwalk, Connecticut, based this stamp design on a circa 1801 painting of Priestley by Rembrandt Peale. The painting is in the collection of the American Philosophical Society Library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Richard C. Sennett modeled the stamp.
The Joseph Priestley stamp was the sixth to be produced by the private firms American Bank Note Company and J. W. Fergusson and Sons acting in partnership. The plate number system, as with all the stamps printed by the partnership, features the letter A as a prefix.
The stamp was printed in the photogravure process, with fifty stamps per pane.
Postal Bulletin (March 10, 1983).