Arago: Exhibits

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The Quest for Royal Acclaim

Postmaster General Wanamaker felt strongly that the Columbian stamps used most frequently should depict the events most familiar to Americans, and so the lowest denominations of the Columbian series—1-cent, 2-cent, 3-cent, and 4-cent—highlight aspects of the story that occurred in the “New World.” The other issues depict scenes that occurred in Spain.

Columbus Soliciting Aid of Isabella, the 5-cent Stamp

A painting titled “Columbus at the Court of Ferdinand and Isabella,” executed in 1884 by Bohemian artist Vacslav Van Brozik, served as the model for the 5-cent stamp. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, owned the wall-size work of art at the time the stamp was issued. Queen Isabella agreed to fund the adventurous Columbus’s journey on April 17, 1492, soon after Spain had recaptured the country’s southern region from the Moors. An earlier appeal from Columbus had been denied, but ending the battle for the south freed the Spanish monarchs to reconsider backing Columbus’s venture. Charles Skinner engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the lettering and frame.

Columbus Welcomed at Barcelona, the 6-cent Stamp

The 6-cent stamp features an image of Columbus making his way to the Palace of the Counts of Barcelona in 1493, where King Ferdinand awaited and where Columbus received his Coat of Arms. King Ferdinand appears to the left of the central vignette, and Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Spanish discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, appears on the right. The design of the seventh panel on the bronze doors in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, designed by Randolph Rogers, inspired the image appearing on this stamp. Robert Savage engraved the vignette, and G.H. Seymour engraved the lettering and frame.

Columbus Restored to Favor, the 8-cent Stamp

The Columbian series, originally intended to include fifteen stamps, went on sale on January 2, 1893. Since the registered mail rate had changed the previous day, a sixteenth stamp—the 8-cent value—was added, and it appeared on March 2. The first 8-cent stamp issued by the United States (the 8-cent value of the 1890 series was not issued until March 21, 1893), it paid the recently-reduced registered mail fee. Based on a painting by Francisco Jover y Casanova, the stamp is titled “Columbus Restored to Favor.” Columbus, accused of administrative misconduct during his third voyage, was transported to Spain as a prisoner, but Queen Isabella forgave his crime and restored his position of authority. Charles Skinner engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the lettering and frame.

Columbus Presenting Natives, the 10-cent Stamp

Italian artist Luigi Gregori, commissioned to paint several murals at Notre Dame University, painted the original mural upon which the 10-cent Columbian stamp was modeled. The painting hangs in Notre Dame’s Administration Building. It has been discovered that the stamp’s title—“Columbus Presenting Natives”—was re-entered on one or more of the original plates because the engraving did not match that of the other values. Originally included in the series to pay the ten-cent registered mail fee, this stamp ultimately paid the registered mail fee plus the two-cent first-class rate, the registered mail fee having dropped to eight cents the day before the series went on sale, January 2, 1893. Robert Savage engraved the vignette, and D.S. Ronaldson engraved the lettering and frame.

Master Collection, United States Scott 234P, Columbian Exposition

5c plate proof single

6c Columbian Die Proof

6c large die proof (cropped scan)

Master Collection, United States Scott 236P, Columbian Exposition

8c plate proof single

Master Collection, United States Scott 237P, Columbian Exposition

10c plate proof single