It seems odd today, where U.S. stamps honor seemingly everyone and everything, that the practice of dedicating stamps to specific events and people started only in 1893. Aside from an unpopular pictorial set in 1869, the normal practice was to publish definitive issues, limited to images of presidents and famous people. But in 1893 it was decided to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s of the New World as well as the World’s Columbus’s Exposition in Chicago.
For some this was pandering on the part of the Post Office in order to profit off of philately. After years of increasing numbers of stamp issues, there might be a point in that argument. But one thing that is for certain is that the first commemorative set was a good one. Filling the Columbian spaces in a stamp album is a major accomplishments for the U.S. collector, one that is getting more difficult as their values rise.