1898 Trans-Mississippi Issue
Hardships of Emigration
10¢ - Gray violet or blackish violet
Scott #290 - 1898
No postmark with gum (MH): $35-$85
Full perfect gum, no postmark, no trace of stamp hinge mark (MNH): $110-$175
Introduced on June 17th, 1890. Earliest documented use,
a first day cover from June 17th 1898
Sheets of 100 subjects (2 panes of 50)
A full pane of #290
The Bureau of Printing and Engraving
Double lined USPS watermark.
Quantity Issued: 4,629,760
What you should look for
The 10¢ was used mostly for registered mail or for heavy letters. As
a result it rarely had the first class mail cancel, it is more likely it
had a heavy handstamp, and most 10¢ Trans-Mississippi stamps are
marred with an ugly blurred cancel or obliterated by a thick registry
cancel, such as the one shown below.
A typical heavy registry cancel
The Inspiration for the Design
The inspiration for the design is now lost to us. It originated from a 1892 painting by
Augustus Goodyear Heaton, there is no known photograph of this painting. The painting
has been stored in a tin roof barn in the Black Mountains of North Carolina, which in the hot
NC summers turned out to be an oven. The painting peeled so badly that it was burned.
A wagon train in the 19th Century
Emigration was via Wagon Train, and as you can imagine the horse was vital.
Without the horse, you walked, well you would, but the reason you went in a
train, and not on your own, is that if your horse dropped dead (most did) or
was eaten by Coyotes, you could hitch a ride on someone else's wagon. Those
well enough to afford it started off with a team of ten or more horses,
reducing the number as they dropped dead. Although with ten, it would be
reasonable to assume that you would make it all the way. Although the smarter
folks used Oxen, not so easy to find on the Eastern US starting point, but a lot hardier.
Once into the dry arid areas of the west, water and fodder became hard to find, you
fed yourself before you fed your horse. The rockies were particularly hard as the
horses would tire with the terrain (1 mph was the average over the Rockies, whilst
2 mph was the average for the whole journey) and it was difficult to find forage for
them. Once over the Rockies, both forage and water became hard to find.
On the Oregon Trail
The pioneers of the Oregon trail wrote books with advice on how to travel in a wagon train.
One piece of advice was not to load up the Conestoga Wagon with stuff. Ideally it was
there to carry hay for the horses, not for furniture. But folks took their worldly
possessions anyway, only to find out that once past Iowa they had to start ditching
items. If one of the horses died on the way, the other horse that belonged to the
wagon would be hitched on the back of another wagon, it became the property of the
other wagon, and in exchange the family that was in the now, disabled wagon, would
ride in that wagon.
An equine victim of the Oregon Trail
One horse would quickly die pulling a wagon, so after it was hitched to another
wagon, the wagon would be abandoned o the trail, minus its wheels and axle, they
were kept as they were hard to replace, and if the train had a wagon with a broken
wheel or axle, they now had a spare. In fact most of the wagon would later be
cannabolized for spare parts by wagon trains that were behind.
The dead horse was another matter. the trail was not littered with dead horses,
rather horse skin and bones. The flesh was good meat and in the barren plains it
was going to be your dinner for as long as it would last. A dead horse could be
expected to feed fresh meat for a few families for two days and then after salting
another week. In fact if food got real scarce and folks were going hungry, they did
not wait for the horse to die, it would be supper that night, with the spare horse
replacing the main ingrediant of the dish. If no spare horse then it was the lottery
to see who would lose their wagon (the origination of the short straw) as there
was plenty of that in the wagons.
Once the horse reached it's destination it would either be the farm horse,
dragging a plough, or the families, buggy horse. And the wheels from the
Conestoga Wagon? My, they make mighty fine cart wheels for that farm cart.
So next time you see this stamp, remember, its a tribute to what our forefathers endured.
Varieties to look for
Provisional "I.R." Manuscript Overprint, due to the shortage of revenue stamps caused
by the Spanish American War some post offices, in this case Chicago, resorted to writing
on the stamp the letters IR. Price range $400-$600 with clear manuscript writing and
contemporary fiscal cancel.
The Essay's and Proofs
Die essay on india
Die sunk on card
Die essay on india
The original bi-color design (violet and black)
Die sunk on card
The bi-color design had to be dropped as the bi-color printing process
was taxed to the max printing revenue stamps for the Spanish-American
war that had broken out.
Large Die Proof on India
Roosevelt Album proof mounted on original gray card