In 1853 the United States negotiated the “Gadsden Purchase”—settlement of a boundary dispute with Mexico that resulted in the U.S. acquiring what would become the southern portions of Arizona and New Mexico for 10 million dollars. The following year Commodore Matthew Perry embarked upon his famed expedition to re-open Japan to the Western world and establish trade. Spreading beyond its borders in many ways, a few years earlier the United States had joined the worldwide move to uniform postage rates and printed stamps when the Congressional Act of March 3, 1845 authorized the first U.S. postage stamps, and set the local prepaid letter rate at five cents. This set the stage for a close connection between postal and coinage history.
Exactly six years later, the postage rate was reduced to three cents when New York Senator Daniel S. Dickinson fathered legislation that simultaneously initiated coinage of the tiny silver three-cent piece as a public convenien.... (Expand Text)