1894 5¢ Grant
Issued: September 28, 1894
Issue Quantity: 30,688,840
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The 1894 5¢ Ulysses S. Grant stamp differs slightly from the rest of the series. There is one less horizontal line in the space between the words “United States Postage” and the top of the stamp. The triangle is also smaller.
The ink used to print this stamp wore the plate rapidly, creating a variety known as “worn plate, diagonal lines missing in oval background.”
The stamp was issued nine years after the death of President Ulysses S. Grant.
On March 4, 1849, was David Atchison president of the United States for 24 hours? As president pro-tempore of the Senate, he was arguably the highest-ranking US official…
George Washington’s first inauguration was held on April 30, 1789. Over the next 50-plus years, nearly every president elected to office was inaugurated on March 4. In 1849, March 4 was a Sunday, and incoming President Zachary Taylor didn’t want to hold his inauguration on the Christian Sabbath. Outgoing President James K. Polk signed the final legislation of his term at 6:30 a.m. on March 4, noting in his diary, “Thus closed my official term as president.” His term actually ended at noon.
So between noon on March 4 and noon on March 5, who was president? Some politicians of the day claimed it was David Atchison, a democrat from Missouri. Atchison was popular in the Senate, and was elected president pro tempore 13 times. The president pro tempore is the second-highest ranking official in the US Senate, after the vice president, who is the president of the Senate. The president pro tempore presides over the Senate when the vice president doesn’t attend.
Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1792, the Senate president pro tempore was next in line after the vice president in the line of succession. Since Polk and his vice president ended their terms at noon on March 4, many of Atchison’s friends claimed he was the nation’s highest-ranking official, and president for a day.
However, historians disagree. In fact, Atchison’s term as president pro tempore had ended at noon on March 4 as well. The position wouldn’t be filled until the Senate held a special session on March 5, so that seat was vacant as well. Plus, Atchison was never sworn-in as president. So, who was president during those 24 hours? Historians consider it to have been in-coming president Zachary Taylor, arguing that he only needed to take the oath of office to carry out his duties. But he was effectively president from the time Polk’s term ended on March 4.
But at the time, some people considered Atchison to have been president for the day. The Alexandria Gazette reported he “was on Sunday, by virtue of his office, President of the United States – for one day!” Atchison himself didn’t consider himself president, but was amused by the discussion. Having several late night Senate sessions in the previous days, he said he might have slept through his “term” if his friends hadn’t woken him up to congratulate him and request jobs for their friends. Atchison later recalled that, “It was then canvassed among Senators whether there was an interregnum (a time during which a country lacks a government). It was plain that there was either an interregnum or I was the President of the United States being chairman of the Senate, having succeeded Judge Mangum of North Carolina. The judge waked me up at 3 o’clock in the morning and said jocularly that as I was President of the United States he wanted me to appoint him as secretary of state. I made no pretense to the office, but if I was entitled in it I had one boast to make, that not a woman or a child shed a tear on account of my removing any one from office during my incumbency of the place. A great many such questions are liable to arise under our form of government.” Atchison also joked that his presidency was “the honestest administration this country ever had.”
Despite his own stance that he hadn’t really been president, the story continued to spread and was embellished over the years. By the early 1900s, Atchison’s biographies stated he had served as president and even signed one or two official papers.
When inauguration day fell on a Sunday again in 1877, incoming President Rutherford B. Hayes took his oath of office in private on March 3, with his public inauguration ceremony on March 5. This of course raises the question – did we have two presidents – Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant – from March 3 to March 4? Since that time, in most occasions when inauguration day has fallen on a Sunday, the incoming presidents have taken their oaths in private on Sunday and then in a large public ceremony the following day.
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing
With the issue of the 1894 series, the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) began printing postage stamps for the first time. Until this date, contracts had been awarded to private companies for the production of stamps.
The BEP was established in 1862, following the outbreak of the Civil War. When the firing on Fort Sumter began, the nation was already on the verge of bankruptcy and was in no position to finance a war. This matter, along with other war issues, prompted President Lincoln to call a special session of Congress. During this session, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase suggested issuing non-interest bearing notes that would circulate as money and a system of domestic taxation.
Congress adopted the Chase plan, and as a result the first government-issued paper money came into existence. The notes were printed by the New York Bank Note companies and were then signed by the Treasurer of the United States and the Registrar of the Treasury. This procedure was soon found to be impractical. The designated officers had no time to do much else than sign their names on the notes! Therefore, it was decided that the notes should be imprinted with copies of the required officers’ signatures, as well as the Treasury seal. In addition, it was decided that this printing would be done in the Treasury building. The necessary machines for imprinting were obtained, and on August 29, 1862, the Bureau began its work, which would later lead to the printing of postage stamps.
That same year, the President appointed a commissioner of internal revenue, who was given the authority to assess, levy, and collect taxes. Items such as medicine, perfume, cosmetics, alcohol, and tobacco were taxed, and stamps were provided as proof of collection of the tax. The BEP began by printing only the beer and cigar stamps, but by 1878, nearly all revenue stamps were produced by them.
In 1894, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Bureau submitted a bid for the contract to print the new stamps. Their bid was almost $7,000 less than the lowest bid submitted by the three private companies also competing for the contract. Despite loud protests that the Bureau was not capable of producing the stamps, they were awarded the contract.
Since then, with some exceptions, they have printed most of the U.S. postage stamps. Today, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the world’s largest securities manufacturing firm. Remaining in Washington, D.C., it moved from the attic of the Treasury building and is now located in two specially-built buildings with a total floor space of almost 24 acres. The BEP has over 3,300 employees and is in operation 24 hours a day.