The Washington Bicentennial Issue of 1932

Large Rotary Press – Perf 11 x 10½.
400 Subject Plates – FDC: January 1, 1932 in Washington, D.C.

The year 1932 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Washington. A wide variety of events celebrating this bicentennial was planned throughout the nation and the Post Office planned a series of stamps to commemorate the anniversary as well. Early ideas had the series being a set of bi-colored large frame pictorial stamps including among other things, Washington’s home at Mt. Vernon, the crossing of the Delaware, Washington at Valley Forge, George and Martha Washington, Washington on horseback, the U.S. Capitol, Washington’s tomb, the Wakefield, Virginia homestead where Washington was born, the inauguration of Washington, Washington resigning his commission and the Washington monument. This may have led to a very attractive set of commemoratives had the concept of using various portraits of Washington not won out.

In another early proposal, the Postmaster suggested an issue of as many as eighteen stamps through the $5 value, most likely to replace the Series of 1922 designs. Congress even got into the act with a bill proposing that all postage stamps issued in the United States and its possessions for the entire year of 1932 would bear the portrait of Washington. The bill never passed.

Ultimately the stamps were issued in single colors in the same size as the regular issues, most certainly as a cost-cutting measure, after all 1932 was in the heart of the Great Depression.

It was no accident that the two cent stamp bears the popular Gilbert Stuart portrait, the same portrait, although reversed, as the one that appears on the one dollar bill. The two cent was the most common stamp, being the rate for the first class letter. Later that year, when the rate was raised to three cents, the same Stuart design was used on the new three cent stamp to pay the single letter rate.