1898 Trans-Mississippi Issue
Farming in the West
2¢ - Copper red, brown red or light brown red
Scott #286 - 1898
No postmark with gum (MH): $2-$9
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $9-$24
Issued: Introduced on June 17th, 1890. Earliest documented use, a first day cover from June 17th 1898 (an example shown below)
Plate Size: Sheets of 100 subjects (2 panes of 50)
A full pane of #286
Printer: The Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Watermark: Double lined USPS watermark.
What you should look for
Plate numbers 672-3, 675 and 679 are particularly worn, so much so that distinguishing the front men from the rear men becomes difficult. These are interesting examples but do not add to the value of the stamp.
The Inspiration for the Design
The original photograph
The original photograph in greater detail
The source for this design has one of the most interesting stories in US Philately.
The design was intended for use on the $2 Trans-Missippippi, however as this scene was so representative of the West at the time it was decided to use this on the wider circulation of the 2¢.
The photograph from which the design was made was taken a few miles from the town of Amenia, North Dakota. The men depicted in the photograph are the first living men to be shown on a postage stamp.
It was taken in 1893 on the Amenia & Sharon Land Company's Fargo, North Dakota 'bonanza farm'. A line of plows drawn by mule teams going into the distance, are apparently plowing a stubble field. In the foreground, Ed Nybakken is seated on a two-bottom plow drawn by four mules. His hand is in the air, touching the brim of his hat, and blocking his face. Behind him seated in a two-wheel buggy with a dog beside him, is field boss Elihu Barber. Behind Barber is foreman Sam White. He is standing in a buggy hitched to two horses, and is looking away from the camera. Ed for years bemoaned the puff of the wind that hid his face from the camera, on the other hand the firm, very proud of the stamp, purchased thousands and used them on their mail well into the 20th century.
The team photographed included 61 horses and their drivers, many farmers, on seeing this stamp, were incredulous as to the amount of equipment, however this was the practice of the bonanza farms of North Dakota.
It was hoped that the stamp would attract the business of agriculture to the west.
The Essay's and Proofs
Ariel view of the Trans-Mississippi Exibition - Omaha NB.