The first stamp on which an automobile was pictured is Michel #134 (Scott #296) of the United States from 1901. It was issued for the Pan-American World Exposition, held in Buffalo, New York. The automobile pictured is a so-called Electric Service Vehicle, something we would nowadays call a taxi.
The electric car
In the early automobile era, until the early twentieth century electric cars, like the one pictured on this stamp, were quite popular. This gradually changed by improvements made to combustion engines, increasing their range and power.
The image on this stamp is based on a poster of the Century Baltimore and Ohio Railroads. The taxi is passing the Capitol, carrying two drivers and inside Mr. Samuel P. Hege, representing the railway company.
According to many, this stamp, apart from being the first one picturing an automobile, is also the first to picture a person still alive at the time of issuing.
The stamp was issued in a series of six, picturing technological highlights of those days:
• The passenger vessel ‘City of Alpena’ (1 cent green)
This river boat entered service in 1893 and was powered by steam engine propelling a paddle wheel.
• The ‘Empire State Express’ train (2 cents red)
This train connected Buffalo with New York City, reaching 84 km/h (52 mph)
• The electric taxi (4 cents light brown)
• The bridge over the Niagara Falls (5 cents blue)
Constructed between 1855 and 1897, spanning 251 meters (823 ft)
• The canal locks near Sault Ste Marie (8 cents brown)
Finished in 1895, it was the first electric one of its kind.
• Passenger ship ‘St. Paul’ (10 cents orange)
Built in 1895, it was confiscated by the US Navy to be used in the Spanish-American War.
The Pan-American Exposition
This series was issued on the occasion of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. At this World Exhibition there was a lot of attention for technological achievements. New developments in the field of X-Rays, colour printing, electricity, architecture and many others were displayed here.
Assault on president McKinley
The main reason this exposition gained fame is the assault on president William McKinley during his speech. He passed away eight days later following a gangrene infection caused by the bullets.
While one of the bullets had only grazed the president, the other one was not located by the doctors. The X-Ray machine exhibited at the scene might have helped, but the doctors were afraid to try out this unknown machine on the president.
A bizarre detail is that the operation theatre was badly illuminated, causing the medical staff to use pans to deflect sunlight. This was in sharp contrast with the exhibition grounds, which were completely illuminated by thousands of lamps, fed by power generated by the Niagara Falls. .
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