Series of 1902-03 $5 Marshall
Issue Date: June 5, 1903
Quantity issued: 49,211
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Color: Dark green
John Marshall – Longest-Serving Chief Justice
John Marshall began his 34-year career as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on February 4, 1801.
The eldest of fifteen children, John Marshall was born in a log cabin near Germantown, Virginia. Marshall joined the Continental Army in 1776, and spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge with General George Washington’s forces. He was promoted to captain in 1778. Although he had little formal education, Marshall studied law at the College of William and Mary and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1780. He quickly established a career defending individuals against their pre-Revolutionary War British debtors.
Marshall served several terms of office in Virginia’s House of Delegates. As a delegate to the constitutional convention, Marshall spoke forcefully in favor of a new constitution to replace the weak Articles of Confederation. After declining several positions in the Washington and Adams administrations, Marshall served briefly in the U.S. House of Representatives and as President Adam’s Secretary of State. Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1800. The Senate confirmed his appointment on January 27, 1801, and he was sworn in on January 31, officially taking office on February 4. Marshall continued to serve as secretary of state as well until Adams’ term was completed one month later.
Marshall believed that the Constitution was the supreme law of the land. As such, any law enacted by a branch of government must adhere to its principles or be struck down as unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Marbury vs. Madison, which determined that an action by a public official violated another’s constitutional rights, reflected this concept of judicial review. Judicial review, which is the practice of reviewing actions of government branches, firmly established the Supreme Court’s powers.
As chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court for 34 years, Marshall participated in more than 1,000 decisions and authored more than 500 opinions. The legacy of the Marshall Court was an increase in the power of the Supreme Court as a branch of the Federal Government. It placed an emphasis on the role of the judiciary in states and led to a stronger Federal Government.
As a close friend of George Washington, Marshall announced his 1799 death, offered the eulogy at his funeral, and led the commission that planned the Washington Monument. At the request of Washington’s family, Marshall wrote a five-volume biography about our nation’s first President, The Life of George Washington. John Marshall died in 1835, ending the longest tenure of any Chief Justice in Supreme Court history.
The primary use for the Series of 1902-03 $2 and $5 stamps was to settle accounts between various post offices and the Post Office Department.
When publishers of newspapers and magazines requested their mail be changed from third to second class mail, an application was filled out at the local post office and mailed to Washington, D.C. At times, the Post Office Department took months to reach a decision. In the meantime, the publisher was allowed to send mail at the lower requested rate – if he placed on deposit the difference between the two rates.
If the request was ultimately granted, the deposit was refunded to the publisher. If it was denied, the local postmaster sent the deposit to Washington, D.C. To do so, the postmaster filled out a special form and the amount owed was sent in the form of postage stamps canceled with ink.
Because the applications often languished in Washington, the amount owed was often considerable, requiring high-value postage stamps for payment. These forms, with the stamps attached, were kept on file at the Post Office Department for a few months and then destroyed (although a few were given away). Because of limited postal use and the destruction of many of these stamps by the Post Office Department, U.S. #313 is quite scarce today.
In 1917, U.S. citizens began sending packages to war-torn Russia. Demand for high-value stamps rose at the very same time the inventory of $2 and $5 Series of 1902-03 stamps was nearly depleted. The stamps were re-issued (becoming U.S. #479 and #480), but with 10 gauge perforations that distinguish them from this issue, which has 12 gauge perfs.
Series of 1902-03
In 1902, the Postmaster General commissioned an entirely new series of general issues. Until this time, the current regular issues had been in use since 1890 with relatively few changes.
The ornate new designs, however, were not the only addition to the 1902 series. The 13-cent denomination was added, and two new faces were introduced – Benjamin Harrison and Admiral David Farragut. For the first time in postal history, an American woman was honored.
A slight change was also made in the format. Each stamp in this series bears the inscription, “Series 1902.” This caused some concern abroad, as many European philatelists wondered whether the U.S. was planning on issuing new stamps each year. Many of the stamps, however, did not even reach post offices until 1903, and the next general issues were not produced until 1908.