Series of 1908-09 5¢ Washington
Issue Date: December 19, 1908
Quantity issued: 330,000,000
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
The Series of 1908-09 5¢ Washington satisfied the foreign letter rate. The original master die for this design had the denomination expressed in words, which was in violation of Universal Postal Union’s regulations. The denomination was changed to numerals before the plate was made.
Early Series of 1908-09 printings were made with plates featuring a standard spacing of 2mm between the stamps, a marginal imprint of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and a plate number. About 10% of the sheets had to be discarded because paper shrinkage caused faulty perforations.
To fix the problem, star plates were introduced with 3mm vertical spacing between the six outer rows on each side of the full sheet of 400 subjects. The rest of the spaces remained at 2mm, since the inner stamps were less impacted by shrinkage. This new process decreased the waste to about 1%.
The 5¢ denomination was the last of the stamps printed on double line watermarked paper to be issued from the star plates. It was almost completely overlooked by dealers and collectors at the time.
Series of 1908-09
When the 1902 series was issued, the Post Office Department received numerous complaints from collectors, as well as the public, concerning the stamps’ poor designs. One particular gentleman, Charles Dalton, even wrote to his senator! He severely criticized the Stuart portrait of Washington currently in use on the 2¢ stamp and suggested the profile, taken from the bust by Jean Antoine Houdon, be put back into use.
He also recommended that this portrait be used on all U.S. issues. To support his idea, he used the example of Great Britain’s stamps, which all carried the profile portrait of King Edward VII. After careful consideration, the Postmaster General and Department officials adopted Mr. Dalton’s suggestions for the new 1908 series. The decision was made to keep Benjamin Franklin on the 1¢ stamp; however, his portrait was also to be in profile, modeled after Houdon’s bust.
A simpler and more modern-looking border design was selected to be used on all denominations. The simplicity and uniformity of the new design greatly reduced production costs and extended the life of the steel printing plates. Due to lower international rates and higher weight limits per unit, the need for the $2 and $5 stamps diminished. When the 1908 was released, these issues were discontinued.
Issued during the American Industrial Revolution, the series of 1908 was released in an age when machines were being developed to do anything man could and more. These inventions ranged from automated manufacturing plants and flying machines to the horseless carriage and slot machines. These slot or vending machines first appeared in the late 1880s to sell chewing gum on New York City train platforms. By the twentieth century, they also dispensed products such as candy, cigarettes, and souvenir postcards.
These vending machines were so successful that the companies that manufactured them were constantly seeking new items to market. Their attention was soon turned to postage stamps. Not only would this venture prove profitable for the manufacturers, it could also save a sizable amount of money of the government.
On November 24, 1905, a committee was appointed to investigate the possibility of using vending machines to see stamps. The committee was to determine whether or not this would be a worthwhile endeavor for the Postal Department to undertake. After examining the merits of these machines they reported, “...that the adoption of automatic machines for the sale of stamped paper would not, for the present, be advantageous.” The idea was abandoned until 1907.
Founding of Alexandria, Virginia
On May 2, 1749, the House of Burgesses approved the creation of a town that would become Alexandria, Virginia. George Washington helped plan the town’s street systems and Alexandria was part of the US capital for several years.
In October 1669, Robert Howsing received a patent for 6,000 acres in the area to bring 120 people to the Colony of Virginia. After the passage of the Tobacco Inspection Law of 1730, a warehouse was established on the upper Potomac River along Hunting Creek. The law required that all the tobacco grown in the colony be inspected at a local warehouse before sale.
In the 1740s, Fairfax County residents formed the Ohio Company of Virginia with the goal of opening trade with areas further inland. They wanted to establish their post at the head of the Potomac River, and the Hunting Creek tobacco warehouse would provide the perfect location for a trading port.
In November 1748, the residents of Fairfax County submitted a petition to the House of Burgesses “praying that a town may be established at Hunting Creek Warehouse on the Potowmack River.” Lawrence Washington introduced the petition and represented Fairfax County. His younger brother George Washington, a novice surveyor, provided a sketch, showing the benefits of establishing a town at that site. The land they wanted for their town was owned by Philip Alexander II, who initially opposed the idea. When the petitioners offered the name the town Alexandria after his family, however, he supported their proposal.
On May 2, 1749, the House of Burgesses approved their petition and ordered “Mr. Washington do go up with a Message to the Council and acquaint them that this House have agreed to the Amendments titled An Act for Erecting a Town at Hunting Creek Warehouse, in the County of Fairfax.” In the coming months, a town surveyor laid out streets. For a time, the town was called Belhaven, likely after Scottish Patriot John Hamilton, 2nd Lord Belhaven and Stenton. The name was never approved by the legislature and the town of Alexandria was officially incorporated in 1779.
Alexandria would see several historic events over the years. In 1755, General Edward Braddock organized his expedition against Fort Duquesne at the Carlyle House. And at Gadsby’s Tavern, George Washington recruited his first command in 1754 and his last military review in 1799.
In 1791, Washington included Alexandria in his plans for the District of Columbia. However, over time the citizens of Alexandria wished to be separated from the nation’s capital. They didn’t have representation or the right to vote at any level of government. On July 9, 1846, Alexandria was retroceded to Virginia.
Some of the first fatalities for both sides of the Civil War were inflicted at Alexandria. On May 24, 1861, Union Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth led a small detachment to the Marshall House Inn. Atop the inn was a large Confederate flag that could be seen from the White House. Ellsworth removed the flag but was killed by the hotel’s owner as he came down the stairs. The hotel owner was then killed by one of Ellsworth’s men. Both men were considered martyrs to their respective causes. Alexandria was under military occupation for the remainder of the war.
By the 1900s, Alexandria’s main industries were glass, fertilizer, beer, and leather. It was home to one of the largest rail facilities in the country as well as a torpedo station during both World Wars. Many of the city’s historic buildings remain as museums and historic sites. Several national associations and corporations are headquartered there. It’s also home to many federal employees. Over the years, several magazines have named the town one of the prettiest, happiest, and best cities in the South.