On July 1, 1847, the United States Post Office issued its first general issue postage stampExternal, a five-cent stamp honoring Benjamin Franklin, the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress, and a ten-cent stamp honoring George Washington. The first U.S. postal cards were issued in 1873, the first commemorative stamps in 1893, and the first airmail stamps in 1918.
Stamp collecting became a popular hobby, practiced by a wide variety of people from school children to presidents. Franklin Roosevelt was famous for his stamp collecting, a hobby he began at age eight. He told people he liked stamps for their link with geography and history. In 1946, his collection contained more than a million stamps. As President, he often received stamps from White House visitors.
While many postage stamps commemorate people, they also feature places and events. The image featured on the Homestead Act stamp was derived from a photograph of the John Bakken sod houseExternal in Milton, North Dakota. Bakken was born to Norwegian immigrants in 1871 in Benson, Minnesota.
- To find additional images related to stamps and postal service, search across the collections of photos and prints on terms such as postage stamps, postal service, or letter.
- Search on the term post route in Collections with Maps for maps of postal routes that include rail routes, post offices, and more.
- A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875 contains many bills and resolutions on the U.S. postal service and post offices. Search across all titles on terms such as postal service, postage, post route, and postmaster for such items.
- Search Congress.gov for more recent legislation. Search there on terms such as postal service, postage stamp, postage, and postmaster for such items.
- A search on post office in Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey yields numerous drawings and photographs of post offices throughout the United States.
- Visit the website of the National Postal MuseumExternal, a Smithsonian Institution museum, to learn more about stamps and the history of the postal system in the United States.
- The United States Postal Service: An American HistoryExternal provides a lengthy and informative history of the USPS.
- View an 1889 Postage Stamp AlbumExternal designed for collectors, available through Duke University’s online collection, Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 External.