1870-71 6¢ Lincoln
National Bank Note Printing
I or H Grill
Issued: April 1870
Quantity issued: 1,562,000 (estimate)
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
The 1870-71 6¢ stamp pictures Abraham Lincoln. Prior to serving in Congress and becoming President, Lincoln had a variety of jobs. He helped manage a country store, was an assistant county surveyor, and served as the postmaster of New Salem, Illinois.
Bank Notes 1870-1888
Due to the unpopularity of the 1869 Pictorial series, the Postmaster General found it necessary to issue new stamps. Among the public’s many complaints were that the stamps were too small, unattractive, and of inferior quality. Thus, the new issues were not only larger and better quality, but they also carried new designs. Heads, in profile, of famous deceased Americans were chosen as the new subject matter.
Nicknamed the “Bank Note” stamps, this series was printed by three prominent Bank Note printing companies – the National, Continental, and American Bank Note Companies, in that order. As the contract for printing passed from company to company, so did the dies and plates. Each company printed the stamps with slight variations, and identifying them can be both challenging and complex.
Because the pictorials were to be printed for four years, but were withdrawn from sale after a year, the National Bank Note Company still had three years remaining in their contract. The stamps they printed were produced with and without grills.
In 1873, new bids were submitted and a new contract was awarded to the Continental Bank Note Company. So-called “secret marks” enabled them to distinguish their plates and stamps from earlier ones.
The American Bank Note Company acquired Continental in 1879 and assumed the contract Continental had held. This firm, however, printed the stamps on a soft paper, which has different qualities than the hard paper used by the previous companies.
Color variations, in addition to secret marks and different paper types, are helpful in determining the different varieties. These classic stamps are a truly fascinating area of philately.
Death Of President Lincoln
On April 15, 1865, President Lincoln died less than 12 hours after being shot by John Wilkes Booth.
By early April 1865, the Civil War was drawing to a close. The Union Army had taken the Confederate Capitol at Richmond and Robert E. Lee had surrendered his troops at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
As hope for the war’s end grew nearer, President Lincoln was as cheerful as anyone had seen him in years. His widow later recalled how he “was almost boyish in his mirth… free from care, surrounded by those he loved so well and by whom he was idolized… I never saw him so supremely cheerful – his manner was even playful.”
In spite of his good mood, Lincoln had admitted to his close friends that he’d had a troubling nightmare two weeks before about what would be his last day. He’d dreamed that he was wandering the White House, following the sounds of sobs, only to discover his family and friends mourning his death.
Despite the ominous dream, Lincoln remained positive and joyful, even attending a play with his wife on April 14. It was there, at Ford’s Theater, while watching Our American Cousin, that President Lincoln was given the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first assassinated US President. Reportedly, Lincoln’s bodyguard had left the theater during intermission to join friends for a drink, leaving the president unguarded when John Wilkes Booth arrived to shoot him.
A well-known actor, Booth entered the President’s box about 10:25 p.m. Knowing the play by heart, he waited for one of its most famous lines to be uttered, and used the audience’s laugh to muffle the sound of his gunshot. He’d shot President Lincoln in the back of the head. Booth was immediately pursued by one of Lincoln’s guests, Major Henry Rathbone. Booth leaped from the box and crossed the stage, which lead the audience to believe he was part of the play. He then shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (Thus always to tyrants!) and “The South is avenged!” and escaped the theater.
Meanwhile, in the Presidential Box, three doctors who had been in the audience attended to Lincoln. They realized he could not be saved, but moved him across the street to the Petersen House, where he died at 7:22 on the morning of April 15. But the news of his assassination had already begun to spread across the country just moments after the shooting.
Booth went on the run, traveling to Maryland to collect weapons. He remained in hiding at a tobacco farm for several days before Union soldiers discovered him. They surrounded the barn and warned that they would set it on fire unless Booth gave himself up. When he responded, “I will not be taken alive!” they set the barn on fire. Then, one of the men shot and paralyzed Booth. He was carried outside and told a solider “Tell my mother I die for my country.” Looking at his hands, Booth spoke his last words, “Useless…Useless” before dying two hours later.