As Supervising Engineer of the Capitol Extensions, Captain Montgomery C. Meigs approached American-born artist Randolph Rogers to design the House Wing doors of the United States Capitol building. Rogers chose to portray the chronology of Columbus’ voyage to the Americas and completed the models for the door panels at his studio in Rome in 1857. He then shipped them to Munich for casting. Production delays and transportation problems (due to the Civil War) delayed their installation until 1863. Since then the doors have been moved twice, once in 1871 and again in 1961, when they were hung at the east entrance to the Capitol.
Rogers had created eight panels that were ultimately arranged in a confusing order on the doors. One large panel depicting the “Landing of Columbus in the New World” stretched above the doors. The seventh panel in this ordering inspired the 6-cent Columbian Exposition stamp. The image depicts the return of Columbus from his first voyage. He traverses the streets of Barcelona on horseback, heading toward the gates of the city. King Ferdinand stands to the left of the design, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Spanish discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, to the right. The 6-cent stamp is the only Columbian Exposition Issue stamp that reflects Rogers’ creation and the feel of three-dimensional relief in the figures.
Randolph Rogers died in 1892 on the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage. The stamp was not issued with a specific single use in mind, though it conveniently paid the three-times-single-weight rate. In combination with the 4-cent Columbian Exposition stamp, it paid the first-class letter rate and registered fee or the double-weight Universal Postal Union rate. American Bank Note Company printed a total of 4,707,550 stamps of this 6-cent issue.
Alexander T. Haimann, National Postal Museum
May 16, 2006
Scott Catalogue USA: 235
Museum ID: 1980.2493.1621