Arago: 2-dollar Madison

2-dollar Madison

An image of James Madison (1751-1836), the nation's fourth president, appears on the 2-dollar stamp of the Third Bureau Issues. Born in Virginia, Madison attended the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University. A leader in the Virginia Assembly, he participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776. At the age of 36, he was a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, during which he helped frame the Bill of Rights and enact the nation's first revenue legislation.

As secretary of state under Thomas Jefferson, Madison protested the seizure of American ships by Britain and France as contrary to international law, and he supported the unpopular Embargo Act of 1807. He was elected president in 1808. The British impressments of American seamen and the seizure of cargoes forced him to declare war on Great Britain on June 1, 1812.

While regularly used to pay intra-Post Office Department funds transfers, the 2-dollar Madison stamp also franked large foreign letter-rate parcels.

The stamp was originally issued June 5, 1903, as a dark blue sheet stamp on unwatermarked paper with gauge 12 perforations, printed from plates of 200, and sold in panes of 100 stamps. On March 22, 1917, the 2-dollar Madison stamp was reprinted in a lighter blue with gauge 10 perforations.

These stamps met a sudden demand for high value postage during World War I. They were used to mail machine parts to Russia by parcel post as well as valuable shipments of Liberty Bonds.

The stamp, designed by R. Ostrander Smith from a painting by an unknown artist, was engraved by George F. C. Smillie (portrait), Robert F. Ponickau (frame), and George U. Rose, Jr. (lettering and numerals). The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced a total of 305,380 of the 2-dollar Madison stamps.


King, Beverly and Max G. Johl. The United States Postage Stamps of the Twentieth Century. (New York: H.L. Lindquist, 1937), 1:303-5.

Kloetzel, James E., ed. 2008 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers. 86th ed. (Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing Co., 2007), 72.

United States Stamp Society, ed. Encyclopedia of United States Stamps and Stamp Collecting. (Minneapolis: Kirk House Publishers, 2006), 77.

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