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American Bicentennial Issue: The Spirit of '76

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13-cent Old Drummer single

On January 1, 1976, the first day of the American Bicentennial year, the United States Postal Service issued a 13-cent se-tenant, The Spirit of ’76, printed in a continuous horizontal design across three stamps (Scott 1629–1631). Designed by Vincent Hoffman, the stamps depicted an Archibald McNeal Willard (1836-1918) painting created for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876.

The blue violet and multicolored 13-cent issue was printed on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing seven-color Andreotti gravure press (601) as sheets of two hundred subjects, tagged, perforated 11, and distributed as panes of fifty. Mr. Zip, “MAIL EARLY IN THE DAY,” electric eye markings, and five plate numbers, one in each color used to print the sheet, are printed in the selvage.

Willard created four versions of the painting. When completed, it was known as "Yankee Doodle." It later became known as "The Spirit of '76." General John Devereux bought the painting displayed at Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876 and gave it to his hometown of Marblehead, Massachusetts, where it is now displayed at Abbot Hall.


Doug D'Avino

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