1997 Benjamin Franklin (Single) – Pacific ’97
- Commemorates the 150th anniversary of the first US postage stamps
- Modeled after US #1, the 1847 5¢ Franklin
- Never available at any post office
- Only on sale for 11 days (10 days for the Washington sheet) – the shortest timeframe in US postal history
50¢ International Postcard Rate
First Day of Issue:
May 29, 1997
First Day City:
San Francisco, California
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Panes of 12 (Vertical 4 across, 3 down)
10.5 x 10.3 (Eureka perforator)
Block tagging over stamps
Why the stamp was issued:
To commemorate the 150th
anniversary of the first US postage stamps.
About the stamp design:
A modified replica of US #1, the 5¢ Franklin stamp issued on July 1, 1847. The denomination was changed to 50¢ and the color was changed from red-brown to blue.
Special design details:
Enlarged replicas in the selvage are surrounded by cross-hatched lines copied from the die proofs. No one knows for sure what the purpose of those lines was in 1847. Expert Lester G. Brookman and others speculate the lines were added by the engraver to prevent the siderographer’s transfer roll from slipping when the design was taken up from the die. However, George Brett said in his 1997 Congress Book
(published by the American Philatelic Congress) that it was his opinion “the cross-hatching was for decorative purposes only.” We may never know for sure, making it a fun philatelic mystery.
First Day City:
The stamps were dedicated at the international philatelic exhibition in San Francisco, California, known as Pacific ’97. The show ran from May 29-June 8, 1997.
Not available at any post office:
The souvenir sheets were sold only at Pacific ’97 or by mail order from the Philatelic Fulfillment Service Center. When customers ordered just the souvenir sheets, shipping and handling fees were waived. In addition to not sending the stamps to post offices, the USPS also limited the timeframe the sheets were available.
At first, they were only to be for sale during the 11-day philatelic exhibition, but after complaints from the American Philatelic Society and other sources, they pushed back the start date to March 21 for pre-orders. However, the end date stayed as June 8. After it was all set and done, the period the stamps were actually on sale was just 11 days for the Franklin souvenir sheet and 10 for the Washington – the shortest in US postal history.
History the stamp represents:
Benjamin Franklin was a remarkable man. His many impressive accomplishments, along with his success as the first postmaster general, earned Franklin a place on America’s first postage stamp in 1847. And since that time, he has appeared on dozens of US stamps.
Considered by many historians to be the most influential and successful statesman America has ever had, Franklin was in the forefront of our founding fathers. He was the only individual to sign all four key documents in American history – the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Alliance with France, the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain, and the Constitution of the United States. As a diplomat to France during the Revolutionary War, he greatly aided America’s victory.
Concerned with the happiness, well-being, and dignity of humanity, Franklin continually sought ways to improve life. He established the first subscription library, raised money to build the first city hospital, and founded the University of Pennsylvania. As postmaster, he also introduced many needed reforms, greatly improving the efficiency and speed of colonial mail delivery.
Celebrating 150 years of US postage stamps, America’s first stamps were reproduced with new denominations in 1997. The 50¢ Franklin stamp covered the international postcard rate.