President during the Civil War and emancipator of the slaves, Abraham Lincoln was shot dead just after the end of the War. Countless stamps have paid tribute.
Abraham Lincoln is considered one of the greatest ever Presidents of the United States. His time in office was spent trying to abolish slavery, save the Union and reunite the country as the American Civil War raged, and his tragic fame was cemented by the fact that he was assassinated within days of the conflict being resolved.
His austere, bearded face remains instantly recognisable today, and the words of his Gettysburg Address are still quoted regularly.
He is also one of the Presidents most honoured on stamp issues; around 100 nations have commemorated him in this way.
A thematic collection of stamps and postal history can be used to reflect many aspects of his fascinating life.
The railroad and the bar
Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a backwoods cabin three miles south of Hodgenville, Kentucky. His family moved to Indiana in 1816, and then to Illinois in 1830.
Young Abraham tried his hand at a variety of occupations, working as a rail-splitter, storekeeper, postmaster and surveyor, mostly in New Salem, Illinois.
He had never had much formal education but he could read and write by an early age. He had a thirst for knowledge and spent much of his free time reading and thinking.
It is said that he had read every book or newspaper he could find, and something else that made a big impression on him was a journey down the Mississippi River by flatboat to New Orleans, where he was horrified by the sight of slaves in chains.
As he grew older his reading increasingly included law books, which inspired him to become a lawyer. By 1836 he had passed the bar examination, and set about making himself one of the most successful lawyers in the state.
In 1842 he married Mary Todd, and in 1844 they bought a house in Springfield, Illinois. Four sons were born to them, although only one survived to adulthood.
Politics and slavery
Aspiring to become a legislator, Lincoln was defeated at first but was later elected four times as a Whig member of the Illinois House of Representatives, and became the leader of the party in the state.
From 1847 to 1849 he sat in Congress in Washington, before returning to Springfield to concentrate on his law practice.
That might have been the end of Lincoln's political career, had not the Democrat Stephen A Douglas introduced a bill in 1854 to allow slavery in all territories of the USA.
In 1858 Lincoln campaigned unsuccessfully against Douglas for a Senate seat. But his performance in a series of seven debates, arguing that slavery should not be permitted to expand beyond the states where it was already institutionalised, helped him win the Republican nomination for President in 1860.
On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States, and the first Republican to hold the office.
War and rhetoric
Lincoln had come to prominence as the result of a growing divide in American society, and his Presidency would be dominated by it.
The first shots of the American Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter in South Carolina soon after Lincoln's inauguration in 1861. Much of his time over the next five years would be spent trying to reunite the country, by waging war on the Confederate States which had seceded from the Union under their President, Jefferson Davis.
Although other states' rights were also issues, the biggest single difference between the two sides was slavery. In 1859 Lincoln had declared 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves,' and in 1863 he made his Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that slaves held in rebel states were free. This paved the way for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, which would formally abolish slavery throughout the USA.
Lincoln's most famous speech was the Gettysburg Address, given at the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. It was brief, at 272 words, and poorly received on the day, but is now regarded as inspirational to the Union cause.
Victory and death
In 1864 Lincoln was re-elected to serve a second term, and on April 9, 1865, after four long years of bitter conflict, the surrender of the Confederate forces brought an end to the war. 'Honest Abe' had high hopes for a brighter future for his country.
Just five days later, on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, President and Mrs Lincoln attended Ford's Theatre in Washington to see a performance of the play Our American Cousin by the English dramatist Tom Taylor. At about 10.15pm, the actor John Wilkes Booth entered the President's box and fired a pistol at his head.
Lincoln never regained consciousness, and died the following morning. It was the first time a US President had been assassinated.
There are memorials to Abraham Lincoln in over half of the US states, and in several other countries.
Most recognisable is the Shrine of Democracy at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, where the monumental heads of four great Presidents (the others are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt) were carved into the granite mountain using dynamite.
Sculptor Gutzon Borglum started the monument in 1927 and it was completed in 1941. The faces are 60ft tall, and each nose is as large as the head of the Sphinx at Giza in Egypt.
The Lincoln Memorial in the capital, Washington DC, was dedicated in 1922 in the presence of Robert Todd Lincoln, the President's son.
In the style of a classical Greek temple, it contains a sculpture of a seated Lincoln by Daniel Chester French, and huge stone tablets inscribed with the words from his Second Inaugural Address and the Gettysburg Address.
Towns and ships
There are communities, towns and cities named Lincoln in around 40 of the United States. Places in states as far apart as Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois and New Mexico are named after the President; most of the other Lincolns already had their names before Abe, although that doesn't prevent them providing collectable postmarks!
A particular challenge to the collector is to find a Lincoln town pre-cancel on a stamp honouring the great man.
Cachets and postmarks can also be found from the naval ships that have been named USS Abraham Lincoln. These include a nuclear-powered submarine of the 1960s and an aircraft carrier used in support of American troops in recent conflicts.
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