1894 4¢ Lincoln
Issued: September 11, 1894
Issue Quantity: 16,718,150
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Color: Dark brown
Happy Birthday Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809.
Accustomed to hard work, Lincoln was always large and strong for his age. He received little formal education, but read whatever books he could borrow from his neighbors. When Abe was seven, the Lincoln family moved to Spencer County, Indiana, and then to Illinois when he was 21. Lincoln’s first experience with slavery came at the age of 22, while he was working as a deck hand on a Mississippi River flat boat. He witnessed slaves being beaten, chained, and mistreated on that journey. It was then that he formed his opinions about the institution that, over 30 years later, would lead to the Civil War.
By 1847, Lincoln had been both a prominent lawyer in the Illinois Circuit Courts, and a four-term member of the Illinois legislature. He felt that it was time to make the jump into national politics, and ran for an open U.S. Congressional seat. Lincoln was elected, and on December 6, 1847, he began what would be an uneventful term. When his term was up, Lincoln returned home to Illinois to practice law again. By the mid-1850s, Abraham Lincoln was one of the leading lawyers in his state.
A bill introduced by Stephen Douglas in 1854 led Abraham Lincoln back into national politics. The 1820 Missouri Compromise outlawed the spread of slavery in the United States north of Missouri’s southern border. Douglas’ proposal called for the establishment of the Kansas and Nebraska territories. It further stated that the settlers of the territories could decide for themselves whether to permit slavery or outlaw it. Although Lincoln felt that abolishing slavery would be dangerous to the American economy, he felt that over time slavery would die off. By extending slavery, the Kansas-Nebraska Act strengthened the institution that Lincoln despised so much.
In the years following the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln acted feverishly in opposition to the legislation. He made several speeches against the act and even challenged Douglas to a series of debates. As a result, Lincoln was chosen to run against Douglas in the Senatorial election of 1858. Although Lincoln lost the election, the debates and speeches made him a well-known national politician, and an able Republican Presidential candidate in 1860.
By the time Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America. Four more states would soon follow. President Lincoln chose not to force the states to rejoin the Union – until Confederate artillery fired on Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor. This single act started a conflict that would last four long years.
By the following summer, President Lincoln felt it was necessary to change the policy toward slavery once and for all. He drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in the rebelling states. However, because the law only applied to rebel states, it could not be enforced by Federal troops. So, in actuality, it didn’t free any slaves at the time. It did shift public opinion in favor of the war effort by making it more of a moral struggle than a political one. It also paved the way for the thirteenth amendment, which ended slavery in the entire United States.
By the time Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office for the second time, the war was nearly over. On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. President Lincoln ordered Grant to issue generous terms of surrender.
The United States had barely begun the difficult task of Reconstruction when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while attending a play at Ford’s theater on April 14th, 1865. President Lincoln died early the following morning without ever regaining consciousness. Vice-President Andrew Johnson assumed the office of President the next day.
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With the issue of the 1894 series, the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) began printing postage stamps for the first time. Until this date, contracts had been awarded to private companies for the production of stamps.
The BEP was established in 1862, following the outbreak of the Civil War. When the firing on Fort Sumter began, the nation was already on the verge of bankruptcy and was in no position to finance a war. This matter, along with other war issues, prompted President Lincoln to call a special session of Congress. During this session, Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase suggested issuing non-interest bearing notes that would circulate as money and a system of domestic taxation.
Congress adopted the Chase plan, and as a result the first government-issued paper money came into existence. The notes were printed by the New York Bank Note companies and were then signed by the Treasurer of the United States and the Registrar of the Treasury. This procedure was soon found to be impractical. The designated officers had no time to do much else than sign their names on the notes! Therefore, it was decided that the notes should be imprinted with copies of the required officers’ signatures, as well as the Treasury seal. In addition, it was decided that this printing would be done in the Treasury building. The necessary machines for imprinting were obtained, and on August 29, 1862, the Bureau began its work, which would later lead to the printing of postage stamps.
That same year, the President appointed a commissioner of internal revenue, who was given the authority to assess, levy, and collect taxes. Items such as medicine, perfume, cosmetics, alcohol, and tobacco were taxed, and stamps were provided as proof of collection of the tax. The BEP began by printing only the beer and cigar stamps, but by 1878, nearly all revenue stamps were produced by them.
In 1894, with the approval of the Secretary of the Treasury, the Bureau submitted a bid for the contract to print the new stamps. Their bid was almost $7,000 less than the lowest bid submitted by the three private companies also competing for the contract. Despite loud protests that the Bureau was not capable of producing the stamps, they were awarded the contract.
Since then, with some exceptions, they have printed most of the U.S. postage stamps. Today, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is the world’s largest securities manufacturing firm. Remaining in Washington, D.C., it moved from the attic of the Treasury building and is now located in two specially-built buildings with a total floor space of almost 24 acres. The BEP has over 3,300 employees and is in operation 24 hours a day.