3c Washington die essay
Original engraved steel die for the 1851 essay (Scott Catalogue 11-E2).
Philatelist Clarence W. Brazer attributed this die to the original engraving/printing firm federally contracted to produce postage stamps, Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson. But correspondence between that firm and Postmaster General N. K. Hall confirms that this was not the case.
Research by Roy Weber et al. concludes that Henry Benner of Washington, D.C. was the actual engraver. He was one of the seven competitors for the 1851 contract cited in John Marron's 1857 documentation of the bidding process.
Not only does Benner stand out as the obvious candidate because the background shading was produced by a ruling machine, rather than the typical geometric lathe used by bank note engravers. [The remaining competitors were all bank note engraving firms whose work never featured this vignette of George Washington and whose archives — especially that of the American Bank Note Company — never held the die.] But meticulous geneological research has proved the family relationship of all names associated with this collection of objects [Henry and Edwin Benner, Samuel Tiller] and the provenance of the die.
Sequence of owners:
Henry C. Benner (c. 1813-1863)
Samuel Tiller (1798-1880)
Edwin Benner (1828-1920)
Andrew Penrose Benner (1840-1920)
Henry Lewis Benner (1883-1961)
Frances Alice Vanderslice Benner (1891-1965)
Franklin Fisher Vanderslice (1893-1975)
Willard Snyder (1908-1999)
National Postal Museum
The die's authenticity as a period piece is supported by the 2mm thickness of the steel plate, consistent with dies created in the mid 1800s; the hand engraving; and ruling machine work.