With a new series of stamps, the U.S. Postal Service is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, who rose from humble, frontier origins to become a prominent lawyer and politician and ultimately President of the United States.
The four First-Class commemorative 42-cent stamps, available nationwide now, were dedicated at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., by Postmaster General John Potter and Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Illinois.
"When Americans are asked to pick our greatest president, two names are always at the top of the list: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln," Potter stated in a press release. "In Washington, D.C., that opinion is carved in stone. The Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol stand out in single file along the National Mall. They are enduring symbols of the power of the people and of the two leaders who first protected that power and then perfected it. Abraham Lincoln's greatest desire was to earn the respect and esteem of his fellow man. In fact, he has earned the esteem of all mankind. Now it is our privilege to show our respect."
The stamp art was created by Mark Summers under the direction of art director Richard Sheaff. Summers is noted for his scratchboard technique, a style distinguished by a dense network of lines etched with exquisite precision. Each stamp features a different aspect of Lincoln's life.
The stamp showing Lincoln as a rail-splitter includes the earliest-known photograph of Lincoln, dated 1846, by N.H. Shepherd, and depicts Lincoln as a youth splitting a log for a rail fence on what was then 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 working man.
The stamp featuring Lincoln as a lawyer includes a photograph of Lincoln, dated May 7, 1858, by Abraham Byers, and shows Lincoln in a courtroom in Illinois, the state where he was a practicing attorney for nearly 25 years.
The stamp of Lincoln as a politician includes a Mathew Brady photograph of Lincoln dated Feb. 27, 1860, and shows Lincoln debating Stephen A. Douglas during their 1858 campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois.
The stamp featuring Lincoln as president includes an Alexander Gardner photograph of Lincoln, dated Nov. 8, 1863, 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.