Postmaster General John Wanamaker

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Painting of John Wanamaker

Appointed by President Benjamin Harrison, John Wanamaker served as postmaster general from 1889 to 1893. During his tenure as postmaster general, the Post Office Department issued the first U.S. commemorative postage stamps. The sixteen-stamp series commemorating Columbus’s voyage was issued to coincide with Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Though an immediate hit with the public and collectors, the stamps met criticism from many businessmen, who disliked their size. Further, Wanamaker faced Congressional criticism over the new program as a waste of funds. Two billion Columbian stamps were sold for a total of $40 million. Since then, the Post Office Department has issued over three thousand different commemorative stamps.