1907 Jamestown Exposition Issue

MiniatureArtWorksUSA.com 1907 Jamestown Exposition Issue

Stamp Collecting: 1907 Jamestown Exposition Issue

With the assassination of President McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43, became the youngest President in the Nation's history. He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency, as he vigorously led Congress and the American public toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy. He is remembered as "the first modern president."

Roosevelt took the view that the President, as a "steward of the people", should take whatever action necessary for the public good unless expressly forbidden by law or the Constitution. Roosevelt's beginnings differed sharply from that of the "log cabin Presidents". He was born in New York City in 1858 to a wealthy family. Returning a hero from the Spanish-American War, he was elected Governor of New York in 1898. The state party leadership distrusted him, so they moved him to run for vice president as William McKinley's running mate in the election of 1900. The party leaders believed he would be relatively powerless in that capacity. Roosevelt campaigned vigorously across the country, helping McKinley win re-election by a landslide on a platform of peace, prosperity, and conservatism.

"TR" led his party and the country into the Progressive Era. He championed his "Square Deal" domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts (corporate monopolies), regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs. Making conservation a top priority, he established a wealth of new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve our nation's natural resources. In foreign policy, he focused on Central America, where he fostered construction of the Panama Canal. He greatly expanded the United States Navy, and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to project the United States' naval power around the globe. His successful efforts to end the Russo-Japanese War won him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

By 1907, Americans had learned to embrace action on behalf of their causes: child labor, temperance, women's suffrage, opportunities for better education for all, and more. Industrial capitalism was on the rise in 1907 and with it came lots of jobs. New businesses created a need for more clerical help and a new "white collar" mentality was born. More and more workers received a salary instead of an hourly wage. Retail jobs also flourished, and women were working more than ever before. It was an exciting, energizing time to be a modern American with changes, many of them improvements, occurring in every aspect of life.


-January 23 - Charles Curtis from Kansas becomes the first Native American U.S. Senator.
-February 26 - President Theodore Roosevelt appoints George Washington Goethals as chief engineer of the Panama Canal.
-April 17 - The busiest day (11,747 immigrants received) of the busiest year for immigration at Ellis Island, with 1.1 million immigrants arriving in 1907.
-October 22 - Panic of 1907: A bank run forces New York's Knickerbocker Trust Company to suspend operations.
-October 24 - Several major Wall Street financiers create a $25,000,000 pool to invest in the shares on the plunging New York Stock Exchange. This ends the bank panic of 1907, and ultimately leads to establishment of the Federal Reserve System.
-December 16 - The Great White Fleet departs Hampton Roads, Virginia on a 14-month journey around the world.
-December 31 - The first electric ball drops in Times Square.

Against this background, the Jamestown Exposition of 1907 was staged and held in Norfolk, Virginia, opening on April 26th.


In 1900, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities began planning for a celebration of the tercentenary (300 year anniversary) of the founding of Jamestown and the Virginia Colony by settlers from England. Most people expected the celebration to be hosted by Richmond, the capital of Virginia, but the City of Norfolk began lobbying for that honor in 1901, citing its proximity to Cape Henry, where the Jamestown colonists first made landfall. During the planning phase, virtually no one thought that the original site of Jamestown would be suitable, as it was isolated and long-abandoned. There were no local facilities to handle large crowds and it was believed that the fort housing the settlement had long ago been swallowed by the James River. No rail lines ran nearby.

Norfolk subsequently won out, and the Jamestown Exposition Company was incorporated in 1902. The Company decided to locate the international Exposition on a mile-long frontage at Sewell's Point in an area of salt marsh and farmland. While hard to reach by land, it was much more favorably accessible by water, which ultimately proved a great asset. New roads had to be built and two existing streetcar lines extended a considerable distance to reach the site. The eastern portion of the new Tidewater Railway was rushed into service, and the local Norfolk Southern Railway added substantial passenger capacity to move the thousands of daily attendees anticipated. On the shore, new piers had to be constructed for moving supplies to Exposition buildings. Hotels must be raised to handle the millions of anticipated Exposition visitors. Bad weather slowed everything. The Exposition Company had initially lobbied the federal government for $1,640,000, and later received a loan for an additional $1 million, to be repaid with 40% of the gate receipts. When crowds failed to appear as expected - the Exposition was attracting about 13,000 visitors daily, only 7,400 of whom paid entrance, almost half receiving complimentary or "comped" entrance - the Company was able to repay only $140,000 of the $1 million loan. The Fair began attracting negative attention in the press as early as January, 1907 before it opened, as a divisive split between members of the planning committee became public. The press who arrived for opening day found the grounds unfinished, the hotels overpriced, and the transportation between the Fair and nearby towns.

The first day of the Exposition had its share of difficulties. Only 20% of the electric lights could be turned on, and the Warpath recreation area (midway) was far from ready. Construction of the government pier left much of the ground in the center of the Exposition a muddy soup. Of the 38 principal buildings planned, only14 had been completed by opening day - the Fire Engine House and the waterfront boardwalk having been completed only in the preceding two days. Unlike the structures at prior U.S. Expositions, the buildings at Jamestown were permanent, costing more and taking longer to build. The Exposition Company failed to complete two planned buildings, the Historic Art and Education buildings, by the Exposition's end. President Theodore Roosevelt opened the Exposition and presided over the Naval Review. After opening day, attendance dropped sharply, and never again achieved projections. But in time, things improved somewhat and portions of the event became spectacular.

Major exhibits at the Exposition included a scale model relief map of the Panama Canal, the Ferrari Wild Animal Show, a full-scale recreation of the Battle of the Merrimac and the Monitor, and a full-scale reproduction of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. The Smithsonian Institution exhibit included life-sized figures of Captain John Smith trading with Indians. There were replicas of Eskimo villages, as well as displays of automobiles, autoboats, electric and steam traction engines, and other innovations. Visitors could enjoy parades, competitions and contests of all kinds, rides, and a Wild West show. Celebrity guests and speakers included President Roosevelt, Booker T. Washington, Mark Twain and others. Although Exposition organizers wanted all 45 of the U.S. states to participate, only 21 chose to erect buildings. Special days were set aside during the Exposition to honor each state and territory individually, including the ones that chose not to actively participate.

The most controversial exhibit was the Negro Building, which was intended to showcase the progress of African-Americans but which also attracted criticism for exhibiting "Jim Crowism" more than black accomplishment. All African-American exhibits were confined to the Negro Building, which many felt simply perpetuated racial segregation.


Fair Japan and the Japanese Tea Garden (40 geisha girls and 40 Japanese maidens); Princess Rajah greeting visitors to Akoun's Beautiful Orient and Streets of Cairo; Pharaoh's Daughter (illusion); a reproduction of the Crystal Palace that housed the Great Exhibition of 1851; the Swiss Village; the International Beauty Show (25 young maidens of all nations); Chute-the-Chutes; Streets of Seville; Spanish Theatre; Revolving Tower and Parachute; Figure Eight and Toboggan Slide; and Hell Gate. Infant incubators continued to be a curiosity as they had in some previous Expositions. There were also the Miracle Painting, "In the Shadow of the Cross"; Captain Sorcho and His Deep Sea Divers; Colonel Francis Ferrari's Trained Wild Animals; and the 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

As with previous Expositions, visitors could bring their own boxed lunches or find fare ranging from a quick and easy sandwich to fine dining in many restaurants and hotels, including the Inside Inn located right on the fairgrounds.The Exposition offered musical entertainment of every variety, both outdoors and inside the beautiful concert hall auditorium.

Despite great expectations and hopes on the part of organizers, the Jamestown Exposition never enjoyed great popularity at the gate and the Exposition Company was left with a massive debt. The site on which the Exposition was held is now part of Norfolk Naval Station, and some of the original Exposition buildings are still in use today. The Exposition closed on December 1, 1907 as a financial failure, losing several million dollars. Attendance had been 3 million, a fraction of the numbers promised by the promoters. But, it had other benefits for the United States and for Norfolk and Hampton Roads.One of the most impressive displays was a Naval Review featuring all 16 U.S. battleships, along with warships from several other nations. The battleships later became the core of Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet," which visited ports around the world in order to promote the glory and might of the United States.

Nearly every Congressman and Senator of prominence had attended the Exposition, which showcased Sewell's Point. Of naval importance in the early Civil War, it had been virtually forgotten since shortly after its bombardment and return to Union hands in 1862. Navy leaders urged redevelopment of the Exposition site as a Naval Base, to use the infrastructure which had already been built.

Nearly ten years would elapse before the idea, given momentum by World War I, would become a reality. The new Naval Base was aided by the improvements remaining from the Exposition, the strategic location at Sewell's Point on Hampton Roads, and the large tract of vacant land in the area. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson set aside $2.8 million for land purchase and the erection of storehouses and piers for what was to become the Navy Base. Three-quarters of the land had been the old Jamestown Exposition grounds; the military property was later expanded considerably. The base now includes more than 4,000 acres and is the largest Naval facility in the world.


Conditions in England during the 16th and 17th centuries reflected great changes taking place in both rural and urban areas. Economic changes centered on sheep and the demand for woolen cloth. Through a series of legal actions, known as the "Enclosure Acts", English landowners were allowed to enclose their farms and fence off large areas as grazing lands for sheep. This made available large amounts of wool which merchants sold throughout Europe. It also meant that farmers who had rented their small plots of land from large landowners were uprooted and drifted from the countryside to towns and cities looking for work. While landowners, wool manufacturers and merchants amassed great wealth, many of the migrants were reduced to begging or stealing to survive. Migrating to a new world seemed a hopeful choice for many of these people, as it did for English leaders who saw colonies as a way to solve the problems of the growing numbers of displaced and poor people. England was looking at the settlement of colonies as a way to fulfill its desire to sell more goods and resources to other countries than it bought. If colonies could send raw materials, such as lumber, from their abundance of natural resources, then England would not have to buy these commodities from other countries. At the same time, colonies could be markets for England's manufactured goods. England knew that establishing colonies was an expensive and risky business. The organization of business ventures by merchants, blessed by the crown, served both the economic and political interests of the country.

All of these factors were at play when a group of merchants formed a joint-stock company called the Virginia Company of London. In 1606, King James I granted the Virginia Company its first charter, which included the right to establish colonies in Virginia and extended all rights of Englishmen to colonists. Under this charter, wealthy men invested money to finance ships and supplies needed for the voyage to Virginia. A royal council made up of 13 members was appointed by King James to govern the enterprise. The area designated was between 34 and 41 degrees latitude, generally referred to today as the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Another branch of the company, the Virginia Company of Plymouth, was granted the right to settle another area between 38 and 45 degrees latitude, an area we now refer to as New England.

On December 6, 1606 a journey from England to Virginia began for three ships: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. The following April, about 104 English men and boys arrived in North America to start a settlement. On May 13, 1607 they picked a site, naming it Jamestown after their King, James I. The settlement became the first permanent English settlement in North America.

The site for Jamestown was picked for several reasons: it was surrounded by water on three sides (it was not fully an island yet) and was far inland; both meant it was easily defensible against possible Spanish attacks. The water was also deep enough that the English could tie their ships at the shoreline. The site also was not inhabited by the Native population.

The Virginia Company in London instructed that the first President of the new colony was to be Edward Maria Winfield (or Wingfield). The other six council members were: Bartholomew Gosnold, Christopher Newport, John Martin, John Ratcliffe, George Kendall, and John Smith. By June 15, a fort was completed. It was triangle-shaped with a bulwark at each corner, holding four or five pieces of artillery. The settlers were now protected against any attacks that might occur from the local Powhatan Indians, whose hunting land they were living on. Relations had already been mixed between the newcomers and the Powhatans. On June 22, Captain Newport left for England to get more supplies for the new settlement.

Not long after Captain Newport left, the settlers began to succumb to a variety of diseases. They were drinking water from the salty, slimy river, which caused a high death toll. They were dying from swellings, fluxes, fevers, by famine, and sometimes by wars. Food was running low, although then-Chief Powhatan sent gifts of food to help the English. If not for the Powhatan Indians' help in the early years, the settlement would most likely have failed, as the English would have died from the various diseases or simply starved.

By late 1609, the relationship between the Powhatan Indians and the English had soured as the English were demanding too much food during a drought. That winter of 1609 - 10 is known as the "Starving Time." During that winter the English were afraid to leave the fort, due to a legitimate fear of being killed by the Powhatans. As a result they ate anything they could: animals, leather from their shoes and belts, and sometimes fellow settlers who had already died. By early 1610 most of the settlers, perhaps as many as 80-90%, had died due to starvation and disease.

In 1612, John Rolfe, one of those formerly shipwrecked on Bermuda, helped turn the Jamestown settlement into a profitable venture. He introduced a new strain of tobacco from seeds he brought from his travels. Tobacco became the long awaited cash crop for the Virginia Company who wanted to make money from their investment in Jamestown.In May, 1610 shipwrecked settlers who had been stranded in Bermuda finally arrived at Jamestown. Part of a party sent the previous fall, the survivors used two boats built on Bermuda to get to Jamestown. Sir Thomas Gates, the newly named governor, found Jamestown in shambles with the palisades of the fort torn down, gates off their hinges, and food stores running low. The decision was made to abandon the settlement. Less than a day after leaving, however, Gates and those with him, including the survivors of the "Starving Time," were met by news of an incoming fleet. The fleet was bringing the new governor for life, Lord Delaware. Gates and his party returned to Jamestown.

On July 30, 1619 newly appointed Governor Yeardley called for the first representative legislative assembly, under direction by the Virginia Company. This was the beginning of representative government in what is now the United States of America. In that same year, the first documented Africans were brought to Virginia as slaves. The English settlers needed added human resources for cultivating and harvesting the labor-intensive tobacco. Also in 1619, the Virginia Company recruited and transported about 90 women to become wives and start families in Virginia, something needed to establish a permanent colony. More than 100 women, who brought or started families, had arrived in prior years, but 1619 was when establishing families became a primary focus.

Peace between the Powhatan Indians and the English ended in 1622. In March of that year the primary then-Chief, Opechancanough, planned a coordinated attack against the English settlements. He was tired of the English encroachment on Powhatan lands. Jamestown escaped being attacked, due to a warning from a Powhatan boy living with the English. During the attack 350 - 400 of the 1,200 settlers were killed. After the attack, the Powhatans withdrew, as was their way, and waited for the English to reassemble or pack up and leave. Once the English regrouped, they retaliated and there was fighting between the two peoples for ten years. A tenuous peace was reached in 1632.

In April, 1644 Opechancanough planned and carried out another coordinated attack, which resulted in the deaths of another 350 - 400 of the 8,000 settlers. The attack ended when Opechancanough was captured in 1646, taken to Jamestown, shot in the back by a guard - against orders - and killed. His death brought an eventual end to the Powhatan Chiefdom; it was reduced to tributary status. His successor signed the first treaties with the English, which made the Powhatans subjects of the English.On May 24, 1624 the Virginia Company's charter was revoked by King James I due to overwhelming financial problems and politics. Virginia became a royal colony, which it remained until the Revolutionary War. This shift in control did not change the English policy towards the Powhatans. Despite peace being declared in 1632, English encroachments on Powhatan lands continued undiminished as more settlers arrived in the Colony.

Bacon's Rebellion, in 1676, saw more struggles in Jamestown. The settlers were unhappy about their tobacco being sold only to English merchants due to the Navigation Acts, high taxes, and attacks on outlying plantations by American Natives on the frontiers. Nathaniel Bacon got about 1,000 settlers to join him to take care of the "Indian Problem." Bacon forced Governor Berkeley to give him an official commission to attack the Indians. Bacon and his followers, however, did not differentiate between those tribes responsible for the attacks and those who were loyal to the English. Governor Berkeley declared Bacon a rebel and civil war erupted in the colony. In September, Bacon and his followers set fire to Jamestown, destroying 16 - 18 houses, the church and the statehouse. Not long after, in October, the Rebellion began its decline with the death of Nathaniel Bacon of the "bloody flux." Eventually, many of the rebels were captured and 23 were hanged by Governor Berkeley.

As a result of Bacon's Rebellion, another treaty was signed between the English and the Virginia Indians. More tribes were party to this treaty than the one of 1646. The treaty set up more reservation lands and reinforced a yearly tribute payment of fish and game that the tribes had to make to the English.

In 1698, fire struck Jamestown again. The fire was evidently started by a prisoner awaiting execution in the nearby prison. The fire destroyed the prison and the statehouse, though many of the public records were saved. In 1699, the government and capital were moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation, later renamed Williamsburg. People continued to live on Jamestown Island and owned farm lands, but it ceased to be a town.

Today, Jamestown Island is a historic site, though there is still a private residence on the island. It is preserved by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia for visitors to learn about the importance of Jamestown and what was born out of its being the first permanent English settlement in North America.


Born about 1596, Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, Chief of more than 30 tribes in coastal Virginia. Pocahontas was a nickname meaning "playful one." Her formal names were Amonute and Matoaka. Pocahontas was Powhatan's "most deare and wel-beloved daughter," according to Captain John Smith who wrote extensively about his experiences in Virginia. Powhatan had numerous wives, and Pocahontas had many half-brothers and half-sisters. Her mother's name is not mentioned by any 17th century writers. As a child, Pocahontas probably helped her mother with daily chores, learning what was expected of her as a woman in Powhatan society. Even the daughter of a chief would be required to work when she reached maturity.

In late 1607, Pocahontas, then about age 11, met John Smith in an event he described years later. Smith wrote that he had been captured by Indians and brought before Powhatan at Werewocomoco, the Chief's capital town on the York River. After the Indians gave Smith a feast, they laid his head on two stones as if to "beate out his braines," when Pocahontas "got his head in her armes, and laid her owne upon his to save him from death."

Smith left Virginia in 1609, and Pocahontas was told by other colonists that he was dead. Sometime later, she married an Indian named Kocoum. In 1613, while hungry colonists searched for corn, Pocahontas was found in the village of the Patawomekes and kidnapped for ransom. Powhatan waited three months after learning of his daughter's capture to return seven English prisoners and some stolen guns. He refused other demands, however, and relinquished his daughter to the English, agreeing to a tenuous peace.Some scholars today believe the incident was a ritual in which Powhatan sought to assert his sovereignty over Smith and the English in Virginia. In 1608, Pocahontas assisted in taking food to the English settlement at Jamestown to persuade Smith to free some Indian prisoners. The following year, according to Smith, she warned him of an Indian plot to take his life.

Thereafter, Pocahontas lived among the settlers. The Reverend Alexander Whitaker, living up the James River near Henrico (Henricus), taught her Christian principles, and she learned to act and dress like an English woman. In 1614, she was baptized and given the name Rebecca. Soon after her conversion, Pocahontas married John Rolfe, the planter who had introduced tobacco as a cash crop in the Virginia Colony.

Although Pocahontas was one of Powhatan's favorite children, she probably had little influence over her father's actions toward the English colonists. However, after she married and traveled to England, she was able to bring the Virginia Colony to the attention of prominent English men and women.In 1616, the Rolfes and their young son, Thomas, traveled to England to help recruit new settlers for Virginia. While there, Pocahontas had a brief meeting with John Smith, whom she had not known was alive, and told him that she would be "for ever and ever your Countrieman." As the Rolfes began their return trip to Virginia, Pocahontas became ill and died at Gravesend, England, in March, 1617. John Rolfe sailed for Virginia, where he had been appointed secretary of the colony, but left Thomas in England with relatives. Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia in the 1630s. By that time, Powhatan and John Rolfe were dead, and peace with the Indians had been broken in 1622 by a bloody uprising led by Pocahontas' uncle, Opechancanough.

Pocahontas is represented in many paintings of her day and her image varies to a great degree. Some artists depicted her as a European-looking woman. Some feature her dressed in European fashions and others painted her wearing what they deemed to be "Indian clothing". There is no contemporary written description of her features that is relied upon as authentic.


Organizers of the Jamestown Exposition requested that the Post Office Department issue a set of commemo-rative stamps, as it had done for other fairs since the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Postmaster General George B. Cortelyou at first refused, stating that the Post Office did not issue special postage stamps in commemoration of expositions. When President Roosevelt expressed his desire that the stamps be issued, however, Cortelyou quickly changed his mind.

At the outset, the Post Office Department planned two denominations, a 1¢ and a 2¢, to meet the domestic postcard and letter rates, respectively. The stamps were to feature images of the ruins of the historic Jamestown church and the arrival of the English ships. Post Office officials, however, anticipated public disappointment should portraits of Captain John Smith, the colony's military commander and civil leader, and Indian princess Pocahontas not be included.

Further, when the Department of the Navy confirmed that there would be a vast assemblage of foreign war ships in Hampton Roads for the Exposition, postal officials saw the need for a 5¢ stamp to meet the foreign postage rate. As a result, new designs were created in a 1¢ John Smith, a 2¢ Founding of Jamestown, and a 5¢ Pocahontas stamp.

The three engraved stamps were printed from plates of two hundred subjects in four panes of fifty each. The first day of issue for the two lower values coincided with the first day of the Exposition, April 26, and the 5¢ first day followed less than two weeks later. The Norfolk, Virginia, Post Office opened a branch on the Exposition site, called "Exposition Station." It used a special cancel until the closing of the fair on November 30, 1907.

1¢ Stamp: John Smith

Clair Aubrey Huston, Bureau of Engraving and Printing artist, designed the 1¢ stamp with a portrait of Captain John Smith inspired by an engraving by Crispin Van de Passe the Younger. In addition, the design includes medallions in the upper corners of Pocahontas and her father, Chief Powhatan. The 1¢ stamp paid the domestic card rate of the day, but it was also used in combination with other stamps to fulfill large weight and destination rates. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced about 78 million of the 1¢ denomination.

2¢ Stamp: Founding of Jamestown

The 2¢ stamp, designed by Marcus W. Baldwin, depicts the landing at Jamestown in 1607 flanked by a tobacco plant and stalk of Indian corn. One colonist, with a sword in one hand and a flag in the other, leads the men in rowboats as they disembark. The fleet lies at anchor behind them and includes the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. The 2¢ stamp paid the first class domestic rate and was also commonly used in combination with other stamps to fulfill large weight and destination rates. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced about 149 million of the 2¢ denomination.

5¢ Stamp: Pocahontas

The 5¢ stamp, designed by Clair Aubrey Huston, features Pocahontas in an oval frame and is based on a 1616 engraving by Simon Van de Passe (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution collection). According to legend, Pocahontas saved John Smith's life after the Powhatan people had taken him prisoner. Following a Christian baptism, she married John Rolfe, who took her to England in 1616. There she enchanted her husband's countrymen and came to symbolize the New World's exoticism. The 5¢ stamp was commonly used in combination with other stamps to fulfill large weight and destination rates. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced about 8 million of the 5¢ denomination.

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