1847 Franklin 5c Red Brown

Benjamin Franklin, Postmaster General

1847 Franklin 5c
1847 Franklin 5c

This 5c stamp honoring Benjamin Franklin is one of the first two stamps (the 10c Washington being the other) issued for national use by an Act of Congress in the United States.

It just makes sense that Franklin is the subject of one of the first US stamps, since he was the first Postmaster General back in 1775. The portrait is based on work done by James B. Longacre, who is known for designing the Indian Head penny.

I don’t own a copy of this stamp. It only appears here thanks to the Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

How Was the Franklin Stamp Used?

When prepaid postal services in America began, the cost depended on weight and the distance the correspondence was to travel. 300 miles was the cutoff point. A letter weighing less than an ounce that you wanted to send less than 300 miles cost 5 cents. If your letter exceeded that weight or needed to travel beyond the cutoff, you had to pay 10 cents.

As the efficiency of the postal system increased, Congress lowered postal rates. For a time, the 5-cent stamp and the 10-cent Washington were no longer needed, so Congress declared them invalid for postal use in 1851.

Franklin’s Postal Career in Philadelphia

Twenty-eight years before Benjamin Franklin became the first (United States) Postmaster General, the British Crown Post appointed him as postmaster of Philadelphia, at the age of 31.

Franklin was a printer by trade and had been publishing a newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, in Philadelphia for 9 years (since 1728). Newspaper publishers were often postmasters. This dual role helped them gather and distribute news.

In 1753, Franklin succeeded William Hunter as Postmaster General of the Crown. During his many years of service to the Crown, he surveyed many hundreds of miles of roads in search of the best routes for deliverymen. On some routes, he required carriers to travel both day and night to improve delivery times.

Franklin also implemented a simple accounting method for his postmasters and recommended that they establish a penny post; that is, charge a penny for delivery of mail that was not picked up at the post office.

Franklin served the Crown as Postmaster General until 1774 when he was dismissed for his alliance with the American revolution.

Franklin Made Postmaster General by Congressional Appointment

Mr. Franklin was appointed Postmaster General of the colonies by the Second Continental Congress, a position he held from July 26, 1775 to November 7, 1776.

He was succeeded by Richard Bache who held the position for just over five years.

Franklin’s likeness is found on more U.S. stamps than anyone but George Washington’s.

Benjamin Franklin 5c Statistics
Date Used
7/7/1847Asher B. DurandRWH&E3,712,000