Series of 1902-03 5¢ Lincoln
Issue Date: January 20, 1903
Quantity issued: 550,000,000 (estimate)
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Method: Flat plate
Watermark: Double line
Designed with the idea of conveying a message of patriotism, Lincoln’s careworn and despondent portrait was modeled after a wartime photograph. A united country is represented by the two figures – the Confederate and Union armies – clasping an olive branch of peace.
The 5¢ denomination paid the foreign letter rate. Traditionally, Lincoln had appeared on the 4¢ denominations and Ulysses S. Grant on the 5¢. That practice was changed with this issue.
President Abraham Lincoln
Two hundred years after his birth, Abraham Lincoln is still honored as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
Lincoln was a complex man whose legacy is often overshadowed by the Civil War. Indeed, he ably led the Union throughout the War Between the States, but he did much more. Lincoln made millions of acres in the West available to the public inexpensively, allowed grants for agricultural universities, and signed bills that funded the first transcontinental railroad. Lincoln introduced the first U.S. paper currency and income tax, and reformed the national banking system.
President Lincoln controlled the border slave states as the Civil War loomed. He rallied public opinion for the war effort within the Union states. A gentle man who neither hunted nor fished because he couldn’t bear to kill, Lincoln believed the nation could be peacefully reunited at the end of the bitter war. Then, just days after the war ended, Lincoln became the first U.S. President to be assassinated.
Today, the rail-splitter from Kentucky is one of America’s greatest heroes. Self-educated, honest, and hardworking, Lincoln embodies the notion that a common person can work their way to the nation’s highest office and become one of America’s most admired Presidents.
Series of 1902-03
In 1902, the Postmaster General commissioned an entirely new series of general issues. Until this time, the current regular issues had been in use since 1890 with relatively few changes.
The ornate new designs, however, were not the only addition to the 1902 series. The 13-cent denomination was added, and two new faces were introduced – Benjamin Harrison and Admiral David Farragut. For the first time in postal history, an American woman was honored.
A slight change was also made in the format. Each stamp in this series bears the inscription, “Series 1902.” This caused some concern abroad, as many European philatelists wondered whether the U.S. was planning on issuing new stamps each year. Many of the stamps, however, did not even reach post offices until 1903, and the next general issues were not produced until 1908.
Death Of President Lincoln
On April 15, 1865, President Lincoln died less than 12 hours after being shot by John Wilkes Booth.
By early April 1865, the Civil War was drawing to a close. The Union Army had taken the Confederate Capitol at Richmond and Robert E. Lee had surrendered his troops at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
As hope for the war’s end grew nearer, President Lincoln was as cheerful as anyone had seen him in years. His widow later recalled how he “was almost boyish in his mirth… free from care, surrounded by those he loved so well and by whom he was idolized… I never saw him so supremely cheerful – his manner was even playful.”
In spite of his good mood, Lincoln had admitted to his close friends that he’d had a troubling nightmare two weeks before about what would be his last day. He’d dreamed that he was wandering the White House, following the sounds of sobs, only to discover his family and friends mourning his death.
Despite the ominous dream, Lincoln remained positive and joyful, even attending a play with his wife on April 14. It was there, at Ford’s Theater, while watching Our American Cousin, that President Lincoln was given the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first assassinated US President. Reportedly, Lincoln’s bodyguard had left the theater during intermission to join friends for a drink, leaving the president unguarded when John Wilkes Booth arrived to shoot him.
A well-known actor, Booth entered the President’s box about 10:25 p.m. Knowing the play by heart, he waited for one of its most famous lines to be uttered, and used the audience’s laugh to muffle the sound of his gunshot. He’d shot President Lincoln in the back of the head. Booth was immediately pursued by one of Lincoln’s guests, Major Henry Rathbone. Booth leaped from the box and crossed the stage, which lead the audience to believe he was part of the play. He then shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (Thus always to tyrants!) and “The South is avenged!” and escaped the theater.
Meanwhile, in the Presidential Box, three doctors who had been in the audience attended to Lincoln. They realized he could not be saved, but moved him across the street to the Petersen House, where he died at 7:22 on the morning of April 15. But the news of his assassination had already begun to spread across the country just moments after the shooting.
Booth went on the run, traveling to Maryland to collect weapons. He remained in hiding at a tobacco farm for several days before Union soldiers discovered him. They surrounded the barn and warned that they would set it on fire unless Booth gave himself up. When he responded, “I will not be taken alive!” they set the barn on fire. Then, one of the men shot and paralyzed Booth. He was carried outside and told a solider “Tell my mother I die for my country.” Looking at his hands, Booth spoke his last words, “Useless…Useless” before dying two hours later.