Arago: Exhibits

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Washingon Bicentennial: 2-cent Postage Stamp

United States Master Collection, Scott 707

The 2-cent Washington Bicentennial Issue stamp was released January 1, 1932.

United States Master Collection

The 1-cent Stuart stamp was issued September 5, 1940.

United States Master Collection, Scott 720

The design of the 2-cent Washington Bicentennial Issue was used for a 3-cent Washington regular issue released to the public June 16, 1932. This stamp was issued to pay the new 3-cent first class rate, which went into effect on July 5, 1932.

As is typical with stamp design, the creators of the 1932 Washington Bicentennial Issue proposed using a variety of images for their stamps. One proposal included a depiction of Washington's birthplace at Wakefield, Virginia. In the end, the design team decided to portray Washington at different points in his life. Gilbert Stuart's 1796 "Athenaeum" portrait featuring Washington in the final years of his life was chosen for the 2-cent stamp of the bicentennial series. The portrait is part of a set of two works depicting the President and his wife. Commissioned by Martha Washington, the pieces were intended for her home at Mount Vernon, however, the artist never finished them.

Gilbert Stewart, shown in the green stamp, is one of America's greatest portrait painters. He was born in America, but moved to Europe as a young man. While there, he painted portraits of leaders such as Charles I and Louis XVI. He returned to the United States where he created some of the most iconic images of George Washington. He often depicted the president as an ideal head of state. Since 1923, the US government has used Stuart's image of Washington on the one-dollar bill.