First Stamps

ln 1847, a delighted America got its first stamps: tiny receipts that turn letters and parcels into official mail. (Some “postmaster provisionals” had appeared a few years before, but they could only be used locally.) Just as Great Britain had put Qyeen Victoria on the world’s first postage stamp in 1840, the United States honored Franklin and Washington (based on the Gilbert Stuart portrait) on its five- and ten-cent issues, respectively. At first, the new stamps were mostly available at the larger post offices, but as more were issued, their sales soared along with the volume ofletters and the department’s revenue.