Series of 1922-25 $5 America
Flat Plate Printing
Issue Date: March 20, 1923
First City: Washington, DC
Quantity Issued: 1,652,167
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Flat plate
Perforation: 11 gauge
Color: Carmine and blue
U.S. #573 was first issued on March 20, 1923. Only 1.65 million #573 stamps were produced – far less than the quantity for other stamps from this series. In addition to the low quantity, five dollars was a great deal of money in 1923. When adjusted for inflation, $5 in 1923 would be worth over $200 in wages today. Many stamp collectors were unable to invest in such an expensive stamp.
New 1922 Series Subject of Widespread Newspaper Publicity
In 1922, the Post Office Department announced it was considering a new series of stamps to replace the then-current Washington-Franklin stamps, which had been in use with relatively few changes since 1908. Naturally the news resulted in widespread newspaper publicity. Some criticized the change, stating the new stamps were only being produced to satisfy collectors. Postmaster General W. Irving Glover denied the statements and attributed the change to complaints about the striking similarity of the Washington-Franklin stamps.
Only Bi-Color Stamp of the New Series
The $5 America stamp was part of the new series. In addition to creating distinctly different stamps, the Post Office also worked to produce stamps that were interesting and attractive. The new stamps featured prominent Americans, along with scenes of national interest. The high-value $5 stamp pictures the “Statue of Freedom,” also known as “Armed Freedom,” which graces the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building. The stamp was printed in patriotic carmine and blue, making it the only bi-color stamp of the Series of 1922-25. (Bi-color production involves printing the frame and central design in two separate steps. The process made precise alignment of the two elements difficult – so U.S. #573 stamps with fine centering are especially prized.)
Statue Of Freedom Completed
On December 2, 1863, the Statue of Freedom was placed atop the US Capitol to a 35-gun salute.
Construction on the US Capitol Building began in 1793 when George Washington laid the cornerstone. The most famous part of the Capitol is the dome. The first one, erected in 1824, was made of wood covered with copper. Within 30 years, the building had expanded so much the dome was small in proportion. When congressmen saw sketches of a proposed cast-iron dome, they immediately appropriated the money for its construction.
These plans included the monumental Statue of Freedom at the very top of the dome designed by Thomas Crawford. The statue was originally designed in 1855 as wearing a “Phrygian” cap – a historic symbol of freedom from slavery. But Jefferson Davis, then secretary of War and in charge of the construction of the statue, strongly objected. He felt the use of the cap was a commentary against the practice of slavery in the South.
Davis, who later became the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, supported slavery. The Phrygian cap arose from the ancient Roman tradition of slaves who won their freedom being allowed to wear the cap. Davis did not want any symbol of slaves desiring freedom, and ordered the design changed. He refused to allow work to proceed until it was.
Montgomery Miegs, the supervising engineer of the project, told Crawford, “Mr. Davis says that he does not like the cap of Liberty introduced into the composition because American Liberty is original and not the liberty of the free slave.” Crawford changed the design to a Roman helmet with eagle feathers – which from a distance has often been confused with a Native American headdress.
Construction of the dome was incomplete when the Civil War began in 1861. Although resources on both sides of the conflict were strained, President Abraham Lincoln insisted the work continue as a symbol of American unity. Nearly 9 million pounds of ironwork was used to build the famous Capitol dome.
After eight years of construction and $1 million (ten times the original amount allocated), the dome was complete. On December 2, 1863, the Statue of Freedom
was placed on top of the dome. The fanfare included a 35-gun salute – one for every state of the divided Union – and a return salute from 12 forts surrounding Washington, DC. The pageantry, and the Statue of Freedom
, was visible from nearby Virginia – the seat of the Confederate States of America.
The statue features a female symbolizing freedom draped in classical robes. Her left hand holds a laurel wreath of victory and the shield of the US with 13 stripes. She wears a helmet encircled by stars and topped by an eagle’s head and talons. The statue weighs nearly 15,000 pounds and is 19 feet 6 inches tall. Removed for renovation in 1993, Freedom
was returned less than six months later, in time for the Capitol’s bicentennial celebration.
for photos and more about the Statue of Freedom
Click here for more stamps picturing the Capitol and the Statue of Freedom.