1958-59 1¢ Abraham Lincoln
Four stamps were issued for the Lincoln Sesquicentennial Series. George Peter Alexander Healy's painting from life, "Beardless Lincoln," is pictured on U.S. #1113. The painting was completed in 1860, soon after Lincoln's election to the Presidency.
U.S. #1114 is based on a marble sculpture of Lincoln's head, by Gutzon Borglum in 1906. The sculpture sits in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
U.S. #1115 recalls the 1858 political debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas that made Lincoln a national figure.
The final issue in the Lincoln Sesquicentennial Series shows a drawing by Fritz Busse of part of the famous statue by Daniel Chester French, which stands in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Abraham Lincoln – First President with a Beard
U.S. #1113 shows Abraham Lincoln without a beard – different from the more common bearded images. Lincoln was the first U.S. President to have a beard. He grew it after being elected, perhaps on the advice of an 11-year-old girl.
Grace Bedell, of Westfield, New York, wrote a letter to Lincoln on October 15, 1860, during the Presidential election that year, urging him to grow a beard. She told Lincoln he would be “much improved in appearance, provided you would cultivate whiskers.”
Young Grace further promised to convince her brothers to vote for Lincoln if he grew a beard. “You would look a great deal better as your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President,” she explained.
Lincoln was so amused by the letter that he wrote back to her four days later. “As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin now?” he wrote. However, between the election and the time he took office in March 1861, Lincoln grew the suggested beard. Later, as he traveled from Illinois to Washington, D.C., he stopped in Westfield and met Grace Bedell.
Other reasons for Lincoln’s new fashion may include concerns about his youth. At age 51, Lincoln was the youngest person elected President at the time, and may also have added the beard to suggest maturity.
Lincoln Memorial Issue
On February 12, 1909, the US Post Office issued a set of stamps commemorating the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
One year after Lincoln’s assassination, the Post Office issued its first stamp honoring the fallen president. That black 1866 issue is considered to be America’s first mourning stamp. From then until 1907, there was always at least one definitive stamp picturing Lincoln.
Then in 1908, the Post Office introduced the Washington-Franklin Series, a long-running series that would only feature the portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. There was some public outcry in reaction to this, as some felt that Lincoln should always be honored on US stamps.
Luckily for them, they didn’t have to wait long to get a new stamp. On February 12, 1909, the Post Office issued the first three Lincoln Memorial Issue stamps on what would have been his 100th birthday. The stamps all featured the same design, based on a statue of Lincoln located in Chicago’s Grant Park. The stamps didn’t include Lincoln’s name but did include his birth date and birth year and the year of issue.
The stamps were notable for being the first definitive-sized commemoratives. And their two-cent denomination, the rate for a single-ounce, first-class letter, made them the first Lincoln stamps to see usage on regular mail in the US. Additionally, these were the first US commemoratives issued in just one denomination. Previous commemorative issues (such as the Columbians, Trans-Mississippi Exposition, and Pan-American Exposition) were produced in multiple denominations to meet a variety of postal services.
In all, the Lincoln Memorial Issue consisted of three stamps – a perf. 12 stamp, an imperforate stamp, and one printed on experimental bluish-gray paper (also perforated 12). The bluish-gray paper was created due to the BEPs desire to create a better product.
One of the main problems the Bureau was encountering was paper shrinkage. Since the stamps were wet printed they would shrink as the paper dried, causing irregular and “off center” perforations, which resulted in a considerable amount of waste. To combat the problem, the Bureau changed the composition of the paper by adding 35% wool rag to the wood pulp, which gave them a bluish tint.
Lincoln once again returned to definitive stamps on February 12, 1923, after the Post Office ended the Washington-Franklin Series. And he reappeared on commemoratives again in 1959, on a set of stamps issued to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. The first of those stamps, US #1113, was issued on his birthday, February 12.
And 50 years later Lincoln was honored with another set of stamps honoring his 200th birthday in 2009. It’s interesting to note that over the years, several Lincoln definitives were also issued on November 19, the date of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
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