On June 9, 1739, the privy council of King George II finalized the corporate charter for the Province of Georgia. This royal charter was granted to General James Oglethorpe on April 21, 1732, for land lying between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers. Oglethorpe envisioned a colony which would serve as a haven for English subjects who had been imprisoned for debt. General Oglethorpe imposed very strict laws that many colonists disagreed with, such as the banning of alcoholic beverages. He disagreed with slavery and thought a system of smallholdings more appropriate than the large plantations common in the colonies just to the north. However, land grants were not as large as most colonists would have preferred. Oglethorpe envisioned the province as a location for the resettlement of English debtors and “the worthy poor.”
Another reason for the founding of the colony was as a “buffer state” (border), or “garrison province” which would defend the southern British colonies from Spanish Florida. Oglethorpe imagined a province populated by “sturdy farmers” who could guard the border; because of this, the colony’s charter prohibited slavery. The Province of Georgia (also, Georgia Colony) was the last of the thirteen original American colonies established by Great Britain in what later became the United States. In the original grant, a narrow strip of the province extended to the Pacific Ocean.
James Edward Oglethorpe was born on December 22, 1696. in Godalming, Surrey, the son of Sir Theophilus Oglethorpe of Westbrook Place, Godalming, and his wife Eleanor Lady Oglethorpe. He entered Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1714, but in the same year left to join the army of Prince Eugene of Savoy. Through the recommendation of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough he became aide-de-camp to the prince, and during the Austro-Turkish War of 1716–18 he served with distinction in the campaign against the Turks.
After his return to England, he was elected Member of Parliament for Haslemere in 1722. He became a leading humanitarian. In 1728 in Parliament, he advocated reform of the terrible conditions experienced by sailors in the British Royal Navy by publishing an anonymous pamphlet, The Sailors Advocate.
In 1728, three years before conceiving the Georgia colony, Oglethorpe chaired a Parliamentary committee on prison reform. The committee documented horrendous abuses in three debtors’ prisons. As a result of the committee’s actions, many debtors were released from prison with no means of support. Oglethorpe viewed this as part of the larger problem of urbanization, which was depleting the countryside of productive people and depositing them in cities, particularly London, where they often became impoverished or resorted to criminal activity. To address this problem, Oglethorpe and a group of associates, many of whom served on the prison committee, petitioned in 1730 to form the Trustees for the Establishment of the Colony of Georgia in America. The petition was finally approved in 1732, and the first ship, led by Oglethorpe, departed for the New World in November.
Oglethorpe and the Trustees formulated a contractual, multi-tiered plan for the settlement of Georgia. The plan envisioned a system of “agrarian equality”, designed to support and perpetuate an economy based on family farming, and prevent social disintegration associated with unregulated urbanization. Land ownership was limited to fifty acres, a grant that included a town lot, a garden plot near town, and a forty-five-acre farm. Self-supporting colonists were able to obtain larger grants, but such grants were structured in fifty-acre increments tied to the number of indentured servants supported by the grantee. Servants would receive a land grant of their own upon completing their term of service. No one was permitted to acquire additional land through purchase or inheritance.
The Oglethorpe Plan was an embodiment of all of the major themes of the Enlightenment, including science, humanism, and secular government. Georgia became the only American colony infused at its creation with Enlightenment ideals: the last of the Thirteen Colonies, it would become the first to embody the principles later embraced by the Founders. Remnants of the Oglethorpe Plan exist today in Savannah, showcasing a town plan that retains the vibrancy of ideas behind its conception.
Oglethorpe developed a town plan in which the basic design unit was the ward. Wards were composed of four tything (residential) blocks and four trust (civic) blocks, arrayed around a central square. The tything blocks contained ten houses, which was the basic organizational unit for administration, farming, and defense. Each tything was assigned a square mile tract outside town for farming, with each family farming a forty-five acre plot within that tract. The tything trained together for militia duty, a necessity on the frontier. Families were also assigned five-acre kitchen gardens near town. Oglethorpe’s town plan was initially developed for Savannah, which grew largely in accordance with the original design. The same basic plan was intended for replication in towns throughout the colony; however, the original design survives in few towns. Recently, Brunswick, Georgia, adopted a version of the design modeled after the Trustee period.
At the heart of Oglethorpe’s plan there was a vision of social equity and civic virtue. The mechanisms supporting that vision, including yeoman governance, equitable land allocation, stable land tenure, prohibition of slavery, and secular administration, were among the ideas debated during the British Enlightenment. Many of those ideals have been carried forward, and are found today in Savannah’s Tricentennial Plan and other policy documents.
Oglethorpe and the first colonists arrived at South Carolina on the ship Anne in late 1732. With Oglethorpe on that ship were cotton seeds provided by the Chelsea Medicinal Garden in London. Originally established by the Apothecaries’ Company in 1673 for the cultivation and study of medicinal plants (many hospitals are nearby, including the Royal Hospital), the Garden’s mission soon expanded to collect and study plants, shrubs, and trees from all over the world. The cotton seeds given to Oglethorpe (and his colony’s success in growing cotton) were instrumental in establishing the cotton industry in the U.S. South.
The following is an historical accounting of these first English settlers sent to Georgia:
“A committee was appointed to visit the jails and obtain the discharge of such poor prisoners as were worthy, carefully investigating character, circumstances and antecedents.”
“Thirty-five families, numbering one hundred and twenty persons, were selected.”
“On the 16th of November, 1732, the emigrants embarked at Gravesend on the ship Anne … arriving January 13th  in the harbor of Charleston, S. C. …”
“They set sail the day following … into Port Royal, some eighty miles southward, to be conveyed in small vessels to the river Savannah.”
Oglethorpe continued up the river to scout a location suitable for settlement. He negotiated with the Yamacraw tribe for land. . On February 12, 1733, Oglethorpe led the settlers to their arrival at Yamacraw Bluff, in what is now the city of Savannah, and established a camp with the help of a local elderly Creek chief, Tomochichi. A Yamacraw Indian village had occupied the site, but Oglethorpe arranged for the Indians to move. The day is still celebrated as Georgia Day.
Georgia was a key contested area, lying in between the English Carolinas and Spanish Florida. It was Oglethorpe’s idea that British debtors should be released from prison and sent to Georgia. Although it is often repeated that this would theoretically rid Britain of its so-called undesirable elements, in fact it was Britain’s “worthy poor” whom Oglethorpe wanted in Georgia. Ultimately, few debtors ended up in Georgia. The colonists included many Scots whose pioneering skills greatly assisted the colony, and many of Georgia’s new settlers consisted of poor English tradesmen and artisans and religious refugees from Switzerland, France and Germany, as well as a number of Jewish refugees. There were also 150 Salzburger Protestants who had been expelled by edict from the Archbishopric of Salzburg in present-day Austria, and established the settlement of Ebenezer near Savannah. The colony’s charter provided for acceptance of all religions except Roman Catholicism. The ban on Roman Catholic settlers was based on the colony’s proximity to the hostile settlements in Spanish Florida.
Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees were granted a royal charter for the Province of Georgia on June 9, 1732. The original charter specified the colony as being between the Savannah and Altamaha Rivers, up to their headwaters (the headwaters of the Altamaha are on the Ocmulgee River), and then extending westward “to the south seas.” The area within the charter had previously been part of the original grant of the Province of Carolina, which was closely linked to Georgia. South Carolina had never been able to gain control of the area, but after the Yamasee War the Georgia coast was effectively cleared of Indians, excepting a few villages of defeated Yamasee, who became known as the Yamacraw to distinguish them from the still-hostile Yamasee in Florida and among the Creek.
The charter contained contradictions. The colonists were entitled to all the rights of Englishmen, yet there was no provision for the essential right of local government. Religious liberty was guaranteed, except for Roman Catholicism and Judaism. A group of Jews landed in Georgia without explicit permission in 1733 but were allowed to remain.
The charter created a corporate body called a Trust and provided for an unspecified number of Trustees who would govern the colony from England. Seventy-one men served as Trustees during the life of the Trust (1732-1752). Trustees were forbidden by the charter from holding office or land in Georgia, nor were they paid. Presumably, their motives for serving were humanitarian, and their motto was Non sibi sed aliis (“Not for self, but for others”). The charter provided that the body of Trustees elect fifteen members to serve as an executive committee called the Common Council, and specified a quorum of eight to transact business. As time went on, the council frequently lacked a quorum; those present would then assume the status of the whole body of Trustees, a pragmatic solution not envisioned by the framers of the charter. Historian John McCain counted 215 meetings of the Common Council and 512 meetings of the corporation.
Twelve Trustees attended the first meeting on July 20, 1732, at the Georgia office in the Old Palace Yard, conveniently close to Westminster. Committees were named to solicit contributions and interview applicants to the new colony. On November 17, 1732, seven Trustees bade farewell to Oglethorpe and the first settlers as they left from Gravesend aboard the Anne. The Trustees succeeded in obtaining £10,000 from the government in 1733 and lesser amounts in subsequent years. Georgia was the only American colony that depended on Parliament’s annual subsidies.
On February 21, 1734, Oglethorpe established the first Masonic Lodge within the British Colony of Georgia. Now known as Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. it is the “Oldest Continuously Operating English Constituted Lodge of Freemasons in the Western Hemisphere”. For a period in 1736, Oglethorpe’s secretary was Charles Wesley, later well known as a hymnwriter of Methodism.
He built a home outside the walls of Fort Fredrica that is marked by a small historical marker.
Owing to the colony’s primary role as a military buffer between English and Spanish-held territories, the original model for the colonization of Georgia excluded the use of slave labor, fearing that runaway slaves could internally weaken the colony and assist the enemy at St. Augustine, Florida. But, instead of slaves defecting southwards to the Spanish, runaways from the Carolinas found refuge in Georgia, thus irritating its northern neighbor. The banning of slavery also reduced the work force, and this was felt to be a constraint on Georgia’s early economic growth. Many settlers thus began to oppose Oglethorpe, regarding him as a misguided and “perpetual dictator”. Many new settlers soon set their eyes on South Carolina as a less restrictive and, they hoped, a more profitable place to settle. In 1743, after Oglethorpe had left the colony, the ban on slavery was lifted. Various forces united including the English who always urged it and as a result large numbers of slaves were soon imported.
Oglethorpe returned to England in June 1734 aboard HMS Aldborough with a delegation of Creek Indians as goodwill ambassadors including Yamacraw chief Tomochichi, his wife Senauki, their nephew Toonahowi, and six other Lower Creek tribesmen. The Indians were regarded as celebrities, feted by the Trustees, met King George II and his family at Kensington Palace, entertained by the archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, and were made available to meet the public. All but two of them posed with a large number of Trustees at the Georgia office for the painter William Verelst. One of the absent Indians died of smallpox, despite the ministrations of the eminent physician Sir Hans Sloane, and was buried by his grieving comrades in the burial plot of St. John’s in Westminster. After performing their social obligations, the Indians became tourists, visiting the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Oglethorpe’s Westbrook Manor, and Egmont’s Charlton House, and enjoying a variety of plays, from Shakespearean dramas to comic farces.
The Duke of Newcastle, who directed British foreign policy, had tried to restrain James Oglethorpe’s efforts in the colony for fear of offending the Spanish, whom Newcastle wished unsuccessfully to court as an ally. Newcastle eventually relented, and became a supporter of the colony admitting “it will now be pretty difficult to give up Georgia”. The colony’s existence was one of several disputes which worsened Anglo-Spanish relations in the late 1730s.
The Indians departed England on October 31, 1734. With them went fifty-seven Salzburgers to join the forty-two families already in Georgia at Ebenezer. In 1734 and 1735, two groups of Moravians went to Georgia. As pacifists they opposed doing military duty and left Georgia by 1740. After delivering the Indians and Salzburgers to Georgia, Captain George Dunbar took his ship, the Prince of Wales, to Scotland. Dunbar and Hugh Mackay recruited 177 Highlanders, most of them members of Clan Chattan in Inverness-shire. In 1736, the Highlanders founded Darien on Georgia’s southern boundary, the Altamaha. Dunbar subsequently served as Oglethorpe’s aide in Georgia and in Oglethorpe’s campaign against the Spanish in 1745.
In 1735, the Trustees proposed three pieces of legislation to the Privy Council and had the satisfaction of securing the concurrence of king and council. An Indian act required Georgia licenses for trading west of the Savannah River. Another act banned the use of rum in Georgia. A third act outlawed slavery in Georgia. South Carolina protested the Indian act vehemently and objected to the Trustees’ order to restrict the passage of rum on the Savannah River. The Board of Trade sided with South Carolina, and a compromise was reached, allowing traders with Carolina licenses to continue their traditional trade west of the Savannah River. The Trustees objected to the Board of Trade’s tampering and refrained from proposing any additional legislation requiring approval of the Privy Council.
Oglethorpe returned to Georgia in 1736, with the approval of his fellow Trustees, to found two new settlements on the frontiers, Frederica on St. Simons Island and Augusta at the headwaters of the Savannah River in Indian country. Both places were garrisoned by troops. In 1737, Oglethorpe returned to England to demand a regiment of regulars from a reluctant Walpole. Not only did he get his regiment and a commission as colonel, but Egmont persuaded Walpole to pay for all military expenses.
In 1739, during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, fought between British Georgia and Spanish Florida as part of a larger conflict, the War of Austrian Succession, Oglethorpe was responsible for a number of successful raids on Spanish forts, as well as the unsuccessful Siege of St. Augustine in 1740. Oglethorpe showed poor military leadership but he received little help from South Carolina or from his Indian allies, from the Ordnance Board, or from the Royal Navy, despite his best efforts to gain their support.
Among Oglethorpe’s most valuable Indian allies in this siege were the Creeks, influenced by Mary Musgrove. Her Indian name was Coosaponakeesa (lovely fawn), and she was married to John Musgrove, a trader. Following the failed attempt to strike against Florida, Oglethorpe commanded British forces during the Spanish invasion of Georgia, defeating them at the Battle of Bloody Marsh on July 7, 1742, and forcing them to withdraw.
Continual complaints by the colonists and the near abandonment of Georgia during the war with Spain discouraged all but the most dedicated of the Trustees. Especially embarrassing was the list of grievances presented on the floor of Parliament by Thomas Stephens, son of the Trustees’ agent in Georgia, William Stephens. A committee went through the motions of looking into the complaints and then exonerated the Trustees. Stephens was made to kneel in apology on the floor of Parliament. However, the prestige of the Trustees had been wounded, and their influence in Parliament weakened. Walpole lost office in 1742, and the new administration declined the Trustees’ request for funding. Egmont resigned in protest, but not all the Trustees gave up. Under the leadership of Vernon and Shaftesbury, the Trustees conciliated the administration, and the government renewed the annual subsidies until 1751, when the Trustees’ request was again denied.
Oglethorpe returned from Georgia in 1743 and never again showed the same enthusiasm for the work of the Trust. He disagreed with the relaxation of the ban on rum in 1742 and with the admission of slavery in 1750. He engaged in an unfortunate argument with the Trustees over expenses. The accountant claimed that he owed the Trust £1,412 of funds used for military purposes for which he had been compensated. Oglethorpe countered that the Trustees owed him far more than that amount. No agreement was reached. Oglethorpe attended his last meeting on March 16, 1749.
During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, Oglethorpe and his troops joined with government troops led by the Duke of Cumberland at Preston, Lancashire, and attempted to harry the retreating Jacobite army as they tried to escape back to Scotland. He fought a skirmish at Shap Fell in Westmorland, but he was forced to break off the engagement by the intense weather and take shelter for the night. Overnight the Jacobites managed to withdraw and escape over the fell. Because of this Oglethorpe was court-martialed on the accusation of not pursuing the invaders more aggressively. He was acquitted, attained the rank of General, but never again given a command.
Although a strong supporter of the British war effort in the Seven Years War, Oglethorpe took no active role in the conflict.
In March 1750, the Trustees called upon Georgians to elect delegates to the first representative assembly but cautioned them only to advise the Trustees, not to legislate. Augusta and Ebenezer each had two delegates, Savannah had four, and every other town and village had one. Frederica, now practically abandoned, sent no delegate. Sixteen representatives met in Savannah on January 14, 1751, and elected Francis Harris speaker. Most of the resolutions concerned improving trade. The delegates showed maturity in requesting the right to enact local legislation, and they opposed any annexation effort on the part of South Carolina. The Trustees intended to permit further assemblies, but the failure of Parliament to vote a subsidy in 1751 caused the Trustees to enter into negotiations to turn the colony over to the government a year before the charter expired. Only four members of the Trust attended the last meeting on June 23, 1752, and which they submitted a deed of reconveyance to the crown. Of the original Trustees, only James Vernon persevered to the end.
On January 7, 1755, Georgia officially ceased to be a proprietary colony and became a crown colony. The earl of Halifax, the new president of the Board of Trade, secured broader powers and infused new life into the administration of the board. He regretted that the colonies had been neglected for so long, and he intended to make Georgia a model colony and an example to others. Thus Georgia passed from the control of one set of gentlemen of Parliament to another.
From 1732 until 1758, the minor civil divisions were districts and towns. On March 15, 1758, without Indian permission, the Province of Georgia was divided into eight parishes by the Act of the Assembly of Georgia. The Town and District of Savannah was named Christ Church Parish. The District of Abercorn and Goshen, plus the District of Ebenezer, was named the Parish of St. Matthew. The District of Halifax was named the Parish of St. George. The District of Augusta was named the Parish of St. Paul. The Town of Hardwick and the District of Ogeechee, including the island of Ossabaw, was named the Parish of St. Philip. From Sunbury in the District of Midway and Newport to the south branch of Newport, including the islands of St. Catherine and Bermuda, was named the Parish of St. John. The Town and District of Darien, to the Altamaha River, including the islands of Sapelo and Eastwood and the sea islands north of Egg Island, was named the Parish of St. Andrew. The Town and District of Frederica, including the islands of Great and Little St. Simons, along with the adjacent islands, was named the Parish of St. James.
Following Britain’s victory in the French and Indian War, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763. One of its provisions was to extend Georgia’s southern boundary from the Altamaha River to the St. Marys River. Two years later, on March 25, 1765, Governor James Wright approved an act of the General Assembly creating four new parishes — St. David, St. Patrick, St. Thomas, and St. Mary — in the recently acquired land, and it further assigned Jekyll Island to St. James Parish.
The Georgia colony had had a sluggish beginning. James Oglethorpe did not allow liquor, and colonists who came at the trustees’ expense were not allowed to own more than 50 acres (0.20 km2) of land for their farm in addition to a 60 foot by 90 foot plot in town. Those who paid their own way could bring ten indentured servants and would receive 500 acres of land. Additional land could neither be acquired nor sold. Discontent grew in the colony because of these restrictions, and Oglethorpe lifted them. With slavery, liquor, and land acquisition the colony developed much faster. Slavery had been permitted from 1749. There was some internal opposition to slavery, particularly from Scottish settlers, but by the time of the War of Independence, Georgia was much like the other Southern colonies.
In 1777, during the American Revolutionary War, the original eight counties of what became the state of Georgia were created. Settlement had been limited to the near vicinity of the Savannah River; the western area of the colony remained under the control of the Creek Indian Confederation.
In 1785, Oglethorpe visited John Adams (the first U.S. minister plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James’s, i.e., the first US ambassador to Britain) shortly after the latter arrived in London. The meeting included an expression by Oglethorpe of his sadness at the ill-will that had existed between the countries.
James Edward Oglethorpe died at Cranham, Essex, on June 30, 1785, and was buried at the center of All Saints’ parish church which immediately adjoins Cranham Hall (rebuilt circa 1790, but sketched prior by John Pridden in 1789). Elizabeth survived him a few years and was subsequently buried at his side. The site was lost until re-discovered by Thornwell Jacobs in 1922.
On January 2, 1788, Georgia became the fourth state to be admitted to the Union. On April 24, 1802, Georgia ceded to the U.S. Congress parts of its western lands. These were incorporated into the Mississippi Territory and later (with other adjoining lands) the states of Alabama and Mississippi.
Oglethorpe County and Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, as well as the town of Oglethorpe, Georgia, are all named in James Oglethorpe’s honor. Also, The James Oglethorpe Primary School in Cranham is named after him. In 1986, the Corps of Cadets at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, Georgia officially adopted the name of the unit as the “Boar’s Head Brigade”. The name came from the Boar’s Head on the Department Crest approved by the U.S. Army Adjutant General on August 11, 1937. The Boar’s Head was a part of the family crest of James Oglethorpe, and is a symbol of fighting spirit and hospitality so deeply a part of Georgia’s heritage and the spirit of the Corps of Cadets at the University of North Georgia.
All Saints’ was rebuilt circa 1871. However, the new church stands on the same foundations as the old one, and Oglethorpe’s poetic marble memorial is on the south wall of the chancel, as before. In the 1930s, the president of Oglethorpe University Thornwell Jacobs excavated the Oglethorpe family vault in the center of the chancel at All Saints’, although permission to translate the General’s relics to a purpose-built shrine at Oglethorpe University (Atlanta) had been refused by the Archdeacon.
There is a bronze statue in Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia, created by sculptor Daniel Chester French and unveiled in 1910. Oglethorpe faces south, toward Georgia’s one-time enemy in Spanish Florida, and his sword is drawn. Oglethorpian anniversaries have since led to the donation of the altar rail at All Saints’ by a ladies charity in Georgia. In 1996, then Georgia Governor Zell Miller attended Oglethorpe tercentenary festivities in Godalming and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford.
In 1932, as the 200th anniversary date of the founding of the Province of Georgia approached, plans were made for a bicentennial celebration to run from February 12 until Thanksgiving Day in November. A request was made to the United States Post Office Department (USPOD) for a stamp to commemorate the event. Moina Mitchel of Athens, Georgia, made the first suggestion for this stamp on April 12, 1932, and shortly afterwards A. H. Rogers who was in charge of the Georgia Bicentennial organization visited Washington, D.C. and formally requested that such a stamp be issued. The initial requests were for a singe 3-cent stamp but there were also efforts for a 5-cent denomination for foreign mail and an 8=cent Air Mail stamp. The demand for the two higher values was sponsored by the Atlanta Constitution.
Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown felt that the decision for any further commemorative stamps should be left to the incoming administration and thus didn’t act on the requests. This didn’t deter efforts in Georgia to have a stamp issued in time for the start of the celebrations on Founder’s Day, February 12, 1933. On January 20, the entire Georgia Congressional delegation called on Postmaster General Brown and obtained his approval. It seemed hardly possible, however, that a stamp could be issued in time for the actual 200th anniversary date. Full effort was applied and the USPOD made an official announcement on January 24, 1933:
“Postmasters and employees of the Postal Service are notified that the Department is preparing to issue a special postage stamp in the 3-cent denomination to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the settlement of Georgia, and in honor of General Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony.
“The stamp is of the same size as the regular issue, 75/100 inch by 87/100 inch in dimension, without border, and is printed in purple ink. In a horizontal line across the top of the stamp in solid Roman letters are the words UNITED STATES POSTAGE. The central subject of the stamp is the likeness of General Oglethorpe, wearing a coat of armor. In each lower corner, within an upright rectangular panel with tinted face and narrow white line border is the large number 3 in white Roman. In a narrow panel at the bottom of the stamp is the word CENTS in white Roman. On a white ribbon directly above the base panel is the name GENERAL OGLETHORPE in dark Gothic letters. On either side of the head, arranged perpendicularly, are the dates 1733 at the left and 1933 at the right.
“The Gen. Oglethorpe commemorative stamp will be first placed on sale February 13, 1933, at the post office in Savannah, Georgia. The stamp will be on sale at other post offices as soon as production will permit. For the benefit of stamp collectors, the Gen. Oglethorpe stamp will be available for sale at the Philatelic Agency, Post Office Department, Washington, D.C. on February 14, 1933. The Agency will not, however, prepare covers.…”
It had originally been intended to print these stamps on the rotary press but as time was an element and as it is a slightly longer operation to make curved plates than flat plates, the Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) finally decided on the latter. The plates prepared contained 400 subjects each and were divided into panes of 100 by the customary horizontal and vertical guide lines. The full sheets were then cut along these lines into the conventional post office panes. There were four plate numbers, one to each pane, over and under the fifth vertical row of the left panes and the sixth row of the right. In the past, the upper right number had been preceded by an “F” which, while it did not signify the word “finished” as generally assumed, did mean that the plate was certified and ready for use. In this issue, the Bureau adopted a new type of plate marking by placing over the fourth stamp of the upper right pane the initials “C.S.” about 3 millimeters high, which meant “Chromed steel.” The Georgia Bicentennial plates were the first flat postage stamp plates to be chromium plated.
On February 3, the USPOD issued the following press release:
“Announcement was made today by Frederick A. Tilton, Assistant Postmaster General that special arrangements have been made to first offer for sale the General Oglethorpe Commemorative stamp at Savannah, Ga., on February 12, instead of February 13, as originally announced. The reason for this change is that the fact of the true anniversary of the founding of the Georgia Colony by General Oglethorpe falling on February 12, 1733, when he landed at Savannah on that date, has outweighed the consideration of that day this year falling on Sunday….”
Scott #726, the 3-cent violet stamp commemorating the bicentennial of James Edward Ogelthorpe’s landing with his Georgia settlers as Savannah, was printed without a watermark and perforated 11. The likeness of Oglethorpe was engraved from a photograph furnished to the USPOD by the Georgia Bicentennial Commission. In submitting the photograph, the Commission stated that:
“This photograph was made in London from a painting, the only authentic one known, and which has lately been purchased by Oglethorpe University at London. The painting is now in their possession and will be one of the important features of the celebration. The only other painting known was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds and was destroyed by fire several years ago. The artist who painted this portrait, a photograph of which is herewith, is unknown, but its authenticity is undisputed by the art critics of Europe.”
The unusual design of the William Penn stamp issued on October 24, 1932, (Scott #724) had met with such an enthusiastic reception that the Post Office Department had requested the Bureau to prepare a stamp of similar design featuring Oglethorpe. Three sketches were prepared on which the outside frame line was omitted and the drawing by C. A. Huston was accepted with slight modifications made. The vignette was engraved by John Eissler and the lettering was executed by E. M. Hall and W. B. Wells, all of the BEP.
Sixteen plates were made and all went to press — 21096, 21097, 21098, 21099, 21100, 21101, 21102, 21103, 21104, 21105, 21106, 21107, 21108, 21109, 21110, 21111. The last four plates did not have as long use as the others and the plate numbers from these are somewhat scarcer. A total of 61,719,200 copies of the stamp were ultimately issued. There was only a slight variation in shades (reddish violet, deep reddish violet, violet, bright violet, and deep violet). Many copies seem to have a strong offset on the back.
The use of “C.S.” on the upper right panes caused new problems to plate block collectors. It meant that the top plate number blocks must either be collected with the number at the extreme right and the “C.S.” over the extreme left stamp in blocks of six, or as was generally done in blocks of ten (5 x 2) with the plate number and “C.S.” one stamp removed from each end of the block. This also meant that those who collected all positions were obliged to take the upper left in blocks of ten to show them without the “chromium plated steel” marking. The demand for upper right blocks became such a nuisance to post offices that it was decided to omit any such markings adjacent to the plate numbers in the future.
On February 12, 1933, at Savannah, Georgia, there were over 300,000 first day covers mailed and over 450,000 stamps sold. There were numerous plate varieties in this issue, most of these being heavy spots of color easily seen without a magnifying glass. None, however, were of major importance.