Trans-Mississippi Issue

"Black Bull redirects here, for the F-Zero machine, see F-Zero Racers"

The Trans-Mississippi Issue, or "Trans-Miss" for short, is a set of nine commemorative postage stamps issued by the United States to mark the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition held in Omaha, Nebraska. The finely-engraved stamps depict various scenes of the West and are today highly prized by collectors.

Edward Rosewater, then-publisher of the "Omaha Daily Bee" and in charge of publicity for the Exposition, suggested the special stamps on December 13, 1897, and 10 days later Postmaster-General James A. Gary agreed. The announcement was met with protests from stamp collectors, who were still unhappy about the high price of the Columbian Issue of 1893 (over $15, a princely sum at the time), but Gary was unmoved, saying he decided on the issue "because I wanted to help the people of the West."

The original plan was to produce stamps with colored frames and black centers, but in April 1898 the Spanish-American War broke out, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was required to produce large numbers of revenue stamps, so the designs were all single-color. They were also late, the first day on sale being June 17, over two weeks after the Exposition opened.

Philatelic protests notwithstanding, they were received favorably by the general public. They went off sale at the end of the year, and postmasters were directed to return unsold stock, which was then incinerated. (Although the numbers printed are known, the numbers returned were not recorded, and so the numbers of existing stamps are unknown.)

The stamps themselves all have the same shape of frame (a legacy of the bicolor plan); the numerals of value and "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" at the top, and "POSTAGE" with a spelled-out value at the bottom. Ears of wheat and corn appear in odd corners of the frame. Each center design is inscribed with its title:

* 1¢ dark green - "Marquette on the Mississippi"
* 2¢ copper red - "Farming in the West"
* 4¢ orange - "Indian Hunting Buffalo"
* 5¢ dark blue - "Fremont on Rocky Mountains"
* 8¢ violet brown - "Troops Guarding Train"

* 10¢ slate - "Hardships of Emigration"
* 50¢ olive - "Western Mining Prospector"
* $1 black - "Western Cattle in Storm"
* $2 orange brown - "Mississippi River Bridge"

The designs were adapted from various photographs, drawings, and paintings.While all have been praised for their quality, the $1 value, commonly called the "Black Bull", stands out from the rest.

In 1998, to mark the 100th anniversary of the issue, the United States Postal Service issued a miniature sheet of the nine, each printed in the originally-intended two colors, and a sheet of nine of the "Black Bull". The designs are reproductions; they have a small "1998" worked into the frame.

See also

* Trans-Mississippi

External links

* [http://www.stamp-site.com/US/1870_1898/trans_miss.htm Philipps' Stamp Site] showing images of all nine stamps of the original issue.
* [http://www.deskpicture.com/DPs/Art/Stamps/TransMississippiStamp_2.html Image of the bi-color re-issue of 1998] .

References

* Lester G. Brookman, "The Nineteenth Century Postage Stamps of the United States" (Lindquist, 1947) pp. 207-228


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