US Stamps

A long wait for a stamp for the first chief justice of the Supreme Court

May 3, 2021, 10 PM

U.S. Stamp Notes – By John M. Hotchner

How long does it take to get a stamp issued for your favorite subject? The answer varies, but if our example today is any guide, patience is definitely called for.

John Jay (1745-1829), lawyer, statesman, Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1784-89), and the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1789-95), made the grade  Dec. 12, 1958, on a 15¢ stamp in the Liberty series.

At the time of issuance, it paid the airmail rate to Europe. And, after July 1, 1966, it paid the airmail rate to South America.

As originally issued, the 15¢ stamp was untagged (Scott 1046); a tagged version was issued July 6, 1966 (1046a).

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The John Jay stamp was replaced by the Oliver Wendell Holmes stamp (Scott 1288) issued March 8, 1968.

The John Jay stamp is not scarce, but try finding a solo usage on cover. It is by no means an easy task, especially to a South American country.

When was a John Jay stamp requested? The first instance I found was on a postcard sent May 27, 1935, by Rice’s Weekly Postal News ($1 for 52 issues!).

The news item on the postcard reads: “Representative Charles D. Millard of N.Y. has written the Postmaster General, requesting a stamp honoring John Jay, first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, appointed by Washington. The stamp would be issued the day the new Supreme Court Building in Washington is dedicated.”

The ceremony came and went later in 1935, but went philatelically unrecognized. The Supreme Court Building was first shown on a U.S. stamp in 1950 (Scott 991), as part of the National Capitol Bicentennial set, while Jay waited another eight years.