Prior to 1869, postage stamps only depicted portraits of dead statesmen.
The first stamp issue of the U.S. was offered for sale on July 1, 1847, in New York City, with Boston receiving stamps the following day and other cities thereafter. They consisted of an engraved 5-cent red brown stamp depicting Benjamin Franklin (the first postmaster of the U.S.), and a 10-cent value in black with George Washington.
In 1869, the Pictorial Issue was released during the first weeks of the Grant administration. Ten stamps in denominations between one cent and ninety cents were initially offered in the series.
Statesman-portraits appeared on only three values in the pictorial issue: the 1-cent Franklin, the 6-cent Washington and the 90-cent Lincoln. The other seven denominations contained a variety of images. Three stamps illustrated means of postal transportation: delivery on horseback (2 cent), by locomotive (3 cent) and by steamship (12 cent). Two others presented historical tableaux drawn from famous paintings of crucial national events: John Vanderlyn’s Landing of Columbus (15 cent) and John Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence (24 cent). The remaining values (10 cent and 30 cent) were variants of a patriotic eagle-and-shield design.