The Famous Inverted Jenny Frame

We all know about the Inverted Jenny…Right? But a few days ago I learned that the Jenny airplane really isn’t inverted!

What??? That’s right, it’s the red frame image on the stamp that’s upside down.

Hand-operated Spider Press
Hand-operated Spider Press

I’m not playing with you (and perhaps you already knew this), but here’s what I learned. The stamp’s two colors (red and blue) were intaglio printed one-at-a-time on a hand-operated Spider Press by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). The red stamp frame design was printed first. That created stacks of paper sheets filled with red frames, but no blue airplanes. When the ink had dried on those sheets, they were reprinted in blue, again one-sheet-at-a-time, which added the Jenny airplane (a standard Curtiss JN-4) to the stamp image. It’s generally believed that mistakenly one of the red frame sheets was put on the press inverted. Voilà! A sheet of stamps with a plane apparently flying upside down was created. In reality, however, it was the frame design standing on its head. SO…we have either the famous ‘Inverted Frame’ stamp or the ‘Inverted Jenny.’ You, of course, know which name stuck.

A detailed (and interesting) history and analysis of the design and printing of this stamp has been published online by Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. Definitely worth checking out.