1959 1¢ Abraham Lincoln
US #1113 pictures Lincoln in 1860 shortly after he was elected president.

On May 7, 1833, future President Abraham Lincoln took a job as postmaster for New Salem, Illinois.

In 1831, 22-year-old Lincoln joined with a couple of friends in floating a flatboat down the Sangamon River to New Orleans.  He was working as a bow hand, ferrying surplus farm products to the South.

1965 4¢ Prominent Americans: Abraham Lincoln
US #1282 – from the Prominent Americans Series

Along the way, the boat got stuck on a milldam near New Salem, Illinois.  A crowd of people gathered by the water to watch the men free their boat.  Some took notice of the tall, thin man who took charge and successfully got the boat free.  Upon hearing of his leadership in freeing the boat, Denton Offutt, who’d hired Lincoln to man the boat, offered him a job as a clerk in his store there.  But when Lincoln returned from New Orleans, the shop wasn’t open yet, so he took on a variety of other jobs.

Lincoln Stamp & Coin Collection w/Album
Item #M10385 – Mystic’s Exclusive Abraham Lincoln Silver Proof Coin and Mint Stamp Collection with Custom-Designed Album.

While he was in New Salem, Lincoln briefly served as a captain in the militia during an uprising by Chief Black Hawk.  Also in New Salem, he ran for the legislature, stating, “Fellow citizens, I presume you all know who I am.  I am humble Abraham Lincoln.  I have been solicited by many friends to become a candidate for the legislature.  My policies are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance.  I am in favor of a National Bank, I am in favor of the internal improvement system, and a high protective tariff.  These are my sentiments and political principles.  If elected I shall be thankful; and if not, it will be all the same.”

Lincoln lost the election but the experience gave him an interest in politics that he would always keep with him.  By early 1833, he was out of a job.  But on May 7th, he was appointed postmaster of New Salem.  It’s unknown exactly how Lincoln was selected, but one source claimed that the women of New Salem were upset that the current postmaster spent more time serving the men whiskey than he did attending to his postal duties.

2009 42¢ Abraham Lincoln
US #4380-83 pictures Lincoln at different stages in his life.

Lincoln enjoyed his time as postmaster and was popular among his customers for his habit of going out of the way to keep them happy.  If he knew one of his customers was waiting for an important letter, he would walk several miles to deliver it as soon as possible.  Even though he had to work several jobs to make ends meet, Lincoln would help out the people that couldn’t afford to pay their mail bills.  In one case, a friend turned him in for delivering unpaid mail.  Lincoln had to pay a $10 fine for this.

2015 $3.15 Abraham Lincoln - 150th Memorial Anniversary, Mint Sheet of 6 Stamps, Grenada
Item #M11968 was issued for the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death.

Lincoln remained in his post until May 30, 1836, when the post office closed.  At the time, the Post Office Department didn’t request the balance of about $16 that Lincoln had left over from his postal services.  A few months later, they finally requested it.  And even though Lincoln had been struggling financially, he provided the exact amount in the same coins it had been paid in by his customers, proving his nickname, “Honest Abe,” to be quite true.

1984 20¢ Great Americans: Harry S. Truman
US #1862 – from the Great Americans Series

In 1914, Harry Truman was appointed postmaster of Grandview, Missouri.  He held the position only in title, handing the work and its pay over to Ella Hall, the widow of a Civil War veteran who needed the money.  He remained in the post for less than a year.  Because he didn’t personally carry out the tasks of postmaster, Lincoln is generally considered the only future president to truly serve as a postmaster.

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7 responses to "Postmaster Lincoln"

7 thoughts on “Postmaster Lincoln”

  1. If only we can find a person with President Lincoln’s traits of honesty and leadership; President Reagan’s traits of Reaganomics and The Great Communicator we would have a Great President once again that people from all over the world would look up to: that person needs to step forward. Only time will tell. Love the stamp of the Day: learning history more interesting then in school. stamps should be introduced in History classes; stamp of the day should be learned by all American students starting in the early grades especially because of the Disney characters on many country’s Stamps: Little children would be captivated by the cartoon characters. How fun would that be. I inherited a fabulous stamp collection from my Dad 4 years ago. He would be turning 100 this December.collection is very organized: I love the hobby and planning to join a Local Stamp Club.
    Cindy

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  2. Now I know how close to the facts was the movie, we always watch around Lincoln’s birthday. “Abe Lincoln In Illinois” with Raymond Massey Since I was a young girl this has always been my favorite Lincoln stamp

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  3. Even though the last paragraph is about Truman, because only Lincoln is mentioned in the final sentence, it could be assumed that he and not Truman didn’t actually serve as postmaster.

    Reply
  4. The author didn’t recognize that President James Buchanan also served as the postmaster of Baltimore for eight years and during the term of James K. Polk. His signature was used on a postmaster’s provisional stamp.

    Reply
  5. The author didn’t recognize that future president James Buchanan also served as the postmaster of Baltimore for eight years and during the term of James K. Polk. His signature was used on a postmaster’s provisional stamp.

    Reply

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