Postal Service unveils new Lincoln stamps

Bruce Rushton

Abraham Lincoln, once a postmaster, then a president, would have appreciated four commemorative stamps unveiled Thursday at the Old State Capitol.

“Lincoln really recognized the U.S. mail as the glue that held the nation together,” said Harold Holzer, Lincoln scholar and co-chairman of the federal Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, which is organizing observances of Lincoln’s 200th birthday next year.

But Lincoln wasn’t above fiddling with the mail during his duly appointed rounds as postmaster of New Salem, Holzer observed. Newspaper subscribers would often wonder why their papers looked as if they’d already been read when they received them. It was Lincoln, whose ever-inquisitive mind couldn’t resist the temptation of reading as he rode.

The U.S. Postal Service will release four stamps Feb. 9 to celebrate the Great Emancipator’s 200th birthday Feb. 12, and the first ones will be sold in Springfield. The designs depict Lincoln as a rail splitter, a lawyer, a politician and a president. And they are not, by far, unprecedented. Lincoln has already appeared on more than 50 U.S. postage stamps, more than any other person.

“For your parents, your grandparents, it’s going to keep Lincoln’s memory alive, one stamp at a time,” said Marilyn Kushak, chairwoman of the Illinois Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.

The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency is encouraging schoolchildren to use the stamps to mail birthday greetings to Lincoln, whose address — at least for purposes of his 200th birthday — is: Abraham Lincoln, #1 Old State Capitol Plaza, Springfield, IL 62701.

Because of the volume of letters expected, IHPA spokesman David Blanchette said there are no plans to send responses to people who mail birthday cards, even though there are, reportedly, ways that Santa Claus answers letters.

“This isn’t Miracle on 34th Street,” Blanchette said.

Bruce Rushton can be reached at (217) 788-1542