Abraham Lincoln

The very first appearance of Abraham Lincoln on (revenue) stamps.
By Ron Lesher

For those of my generation the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was a life-defi ning event. Every one of us can tell you where we were when we first heard the news. In 1865 the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln was an equally life-defining event. The impact was immediate and pervasive in the lives of the generation of who were alive in 1865. So it is fitting that as we celebrate the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth that we look at the philatelic impact of Lincoln and especially at the almost immediate use of the Lincoln portrait on revenue stamps.

Since the publication of Turner’s (1974) monumental Essays and Proofs of United States Internal Revenue Stamps we have known that the fi ve cent Type P design for revenue stamped paper was approved on May 31, 1865, just 46 days after the death of Lincoln. The American Phototype Company had just obtained the contract to imprint revenues on various kinds of documents and the fi rst deliveries were actually made during June, 1865. Although the delivery records show that two other designs also included the portrait of Lincoln, the ten cent, Type R, and the 50 cent, Type V, we know much more about the June, 1865 delivery of the fi ve cent imprinted revenues, so this article will confine itself to Type P and the instruments which received five cent imprints.

From the American Phototype Archive (Czech, 2003) we know that the five cent design (Scott Specialized Type P) was used to imprint certifi cates of deposit for the American Exchange National Bank and that these certificates of deposit were delivered during June, 1865. Not only was the stamp imprinted by the American Phototype Company, the whole certifi cate of deposit was printed by the company, attested to by the printer’s identification in the lower center. The relationship of both the printer and the bank is easily inferred from their close geographical proximity in New York City and the identity of some of the individuals in the leadership in the two institutions.

The American Exchange National Bank was at 128-130 Broadway, just around the corner from American Phototype (at 87 Cedar St.) in lower Manhattan. The President of American Phototype, William A. Booth, was formerly the President of the American Exchange National Bank. The current President of the bank was George S. Coe; William P. Coe was Treasurer of the American Phototype Company. While we do not know unequivocally the relationship between the two Coes, there is the suggestion that they were brothers.

One should note further that the color of imprinted stamp on the first delivery of certificates of deposit was red, a color favored on many of the early imprints of the American Phototype Company. One sees this again on the scrip certificates of the Panama Rail Road scrip certificates that are dated October 5, 1865.

The scrip certificates were a way of marketing and increasing broader interest in ownership of the railroad. Smaller amounts could be used to purchase these scrip certifi cates, which could be traded for regular shares in increments of $100. Beyond the scrip certificates there are the stock certifi cates, which are known with
two different shades of the imprinted RN-T4 and two different shades of RN-U1 imprinted. There are also a number of checks with imprinted revenues. Together they make a few nice pages in one’s album under the heading of the Panama Rail Road.

Before long, the American Phototype Company abandoned the use of red and settled on orange imprints. One of the more interesting uses of the fi ve cent imprinted stamp with Lincoln’s portrait is on a stock drover’s pass. This was issued to an individual (the drover!) who rode on a train accompanying his livestock to market. There must have been a significant demand for such passes as the Erie Railway, not only had preprinted forms, but also had them imprinted with the five cent stamp. Very few drover’s passes have survived and those which have survived show damage from being carried in the pocket of the stock drover. The five cent stamp is paying the tax on certificates.

Another use of the five cent stamp was on agreements. The next example is also from the Erie Railway, but is on a contract or agreement for the transportation of five bushels of apples. They were offering the shipper a reduced rate for transporting the apples from Warsaw, Illinois to Delavan, Wisconsin in exchange for a release from liability for the safe transportation of the apples. Again, these and similar kinds of agreements have not survived in any significant number.

The five cent stamp saw widespread usage paying a great variety of taxes. The above shows the use of the imprinted stamp on a casualty insurance policy for the safe passage of a cargo of coal being shipped from Newburgh on the Hudson River to Buffalo at the far end of the Erie Canal.

The American Phototype Company used two other colors for imprinting the five cent stamps, brown and green. Perhaps the more interesting of the two is the use of green. The American Phototype Company imprinted stamps on the bonds of the Dubuque and Sioux City Railroad Company. Upon discovering that they had imprinted the wrong denomination on the bonds, they overprinted two new stamps in green, obliterating the improperly applied higher denomination stamps. Shown are both the five cent Type P and the fifty cent Type V in green over the orange $1 stamp Type W on a $1000 bond of the railroad.

There is much more that one could explore in the wide variety of the use of this fi ve cent imprinted stamp, the fi rst U.S. stamp bearing the portrait of the martyred President Abraham Lincoln. This stamp saw use June, 1865 until the end of 1871, a brief six and a half years.