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Commemorative Bicentennial Stamps

Commemorative Bicentennial Stamps
Lincoln Bicentennial Stamp Images


Commission Worked Closely with Postal Service

Abraham Lincoln appears on more than 50 U.S. postage stamps – more than any other person.  Four more were added to his tally in 2009, in celebration of his 200th birthday.  The ALBC joined the U.S. Postal Service in the 16th president’s hometown - Springfield, IL - to unveil the designs of the four commemorative stamps honoring Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. 

On February 9, 2009, three days before Lincoln's 200th birthday, Springfield, IL hosted the official First Day of Issue ceremony for the new stamps.   

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and ALBC Co-Chair hailed Lincoln’s “everyman” appeal and said the new stamps have allowed people everywhere to take home a small – but important – part of the Bicentennial. 

The ALBC worked closely with the USPS and the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, which recommends topics for each year’s stamp series, to ensure Lincoln stamps in the Bicentennial year.

In September 2003, the ALBC co-chairs, which also includes widely published Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer and former U.S. Congressman Ray LaHood, now U.S. Secretary of Transportation, wrote to the Postal Service urging the agency to consider Lincoln stamps in 2009.  A follow-up letter in 2006 suggested two design concepts for the stamps.  In addition, ALBC and USPS officials met several times to discuss the stamps’ progress.

“For a President who is so remembered for his writing—especially the letters he sent to families of soldiers—honoring Lincoln through our nation’s postage stamps is a fitting tribute,” said LaHood. 

The block of four commemorative stamps illustrates aspects of Lincoln’s life:

  • Rail Splitter.  The stamp showing Lincoln as a rail-splitter includes the earliest-known photograph of Lincoln, taken in 1846 by N. H. Shepherd, and depicts Lincoln as a youth splitting a log for a rail fence on the American frontier. When he was a candidate for President in 1860, the Republican Party used the image of Lincoln as a “rail-splitter” to enhance his appeal to the workingman.
  • Lawyer.  The stamp featuring Lincoln as a lawyer includes a photograph of Lincoln, taken May 7, 1858, by Abraham Byers, and shows Lincoln in a courtroom in Illinois, where he practiced law for nearly 25 years, riding a circuit of courthouses across Central Illinois.
  • Politician.  The stamp of Lincoln as a politician includes a photograph of Lincoln, dated February 27, 1860, by Mathew Brady, and shows Lincoln debating Stephen A. Douglas during their 1858 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.
  • President.  The stamp featuring Lincoln as President includes a photograph of Lincoln, dated November 8, 1863, by Alexander Gardner, and depicts Lincoln conferring with generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman toward the end of the Civil War. The depiction is based on “The Peacemakers” (1868), a painting by George P. A. Healy.

The stamp art was created by Mark Summers, who is noted for his scratchboard technique, a style distinguished by a dense network of lines etched with exquisite precision.  His drawings are regularly featured in the New York Times Book Review and other publications.  Some of his best known work was done for Barnes & Noble bookstores where his drawings appear on shopping bags, banners, and vans.

“Everyone agrees the final images are enormously appealing,” said Holzer.  “The onetime village postmaster likely would be astonished that he has inspired no doubt more postal tributes around the world than any other American.  But never has it been more fitting and proper to re-enshrine Abraham Lincoln as the face of our remarkable, enduring postal system than on the occasion of his 200th birthday.  Both as President-elect and as President, Lincoln vowed that the U.S. mails would never be interrupted.  Thanks to him, their safe passage became a symbol of the enduring strength of the Union itself.  In honoring him on his bicentennial, we take grateful notice of this often overlooked accomplishment.”

The stamps are currently available in post offices across the country.