In the 1860 presidential election, a candidate needed only 152 of the 303 Electoral College votes to win the presidency. In that election, with its eighty percent turnout, Abraham Lincoln received 180 electoral and 1,865,908 popular votes. After Lincoln’s victory, a group of prominent Republicans from Ohio commissioned Thomas Dow Jones to create a sculpture of the new president, which would hold a prominent place in the Ohio Capitol building. Before leaving Illinois—from the end of December 1860 into January 1861— Lincoln sat for one hour every day so Jones could make the necessary observations and measurements to produce the work.
Jones's statue was the first portrayal in any art form of Abraham Lincoln with a beard. The image on the 6-cent stamp of the 1870-1871 National Bank Note Company Issue was engraved from Jones’s sculpture. The stamp was the third to bear an image of Lincoln since his death in 1865. It took almost eighty years before a stamp portrayed Lincoln without a beard. That stamp, the 1-cent stamp of the Lincoln Sesquicentennial Issue, was issued on Lincoln's 150th birthday, February 12, 1959.
The first-class domestic rate for a half-ounce letter was three cents in 1870. The 6-cent stamp of this issue was the easiest way to pay the double-weight rate. The stamp was also used to pay the half-ounce rates to many countries, including Great Britain and Canada, or in combination with other denominations to fulfill higher rates.
The 6-cent Lincoln stamp has two variations, one with a grill, the other without. This is true of all the stamps in the issue. A total of approximately 28,000,000 6-cent stamps of both variations were printing by National Bank Note Company.