Series of 1857-61 3¢ Washington
Earliest Known Use: September 14, 1857
Quantity issued: 550,000,000 (estimate)
Printed by: Toppan, Carpenter & Co.
Printing Method: Flat plate
Color: Dull red
When the world’s first postage stamps were released, no provision was made for separating the stamps from one another. Post office clerks and stamp users merely cut these “imperforates” apart with scissors or tore them along the edge of a metal ruler. A device was needed which would separate the stamps more easily and accurately.
In 1847, Irishman Henry Archer patented a machine that punched holes horizontally and vertically between rows of stamps. Now stamps could be separated without cutting. Perforations enabled stamps to adhere better to envelopes. He sold his invention to the British Treasury in 1853. That same year, Great Britain produced its first perforated stamps.
The 1857-61 issues were the first perforated U.S. stamps. Their designs were reproduced from the imperforate plates of 1851. Because the same plates were used, the perforate stamp types don’t differ much from the corresponding imperforate stamps. The entire series (U.S. #18-39) is noted for having narrow margins.
On the 3¢ Washington, there was insufficient space for perforations on the imperforate plates, especially at the top and bottom. Perforations cut into the frame lines, so new plates were needed. The top and bottom frame lines were removed to allow more space for the perforations.