Arago: Exhibits

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Postmaster Lincoln

On May 7, 1833, Lincoln was appointed postmaster of New Salem, Illinois. In this position, "Honest Abe" would carry letters in his top hat for the chance encounter with their intended recipients. In addition to a salary, his position as Postmaster entitled him to send and receive mail free of charge and receive free delivery of one newspaper. Lincoln worked as New Salem’s postmaster for three years until his election to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1836.

Lincoln was the only president to be appointed and serve as a town postmaster. Harry S. Truman was also appointed to be a town postmaster, but immediately signed over the position's pay and responcibilities to another individual. Documentation of Lincoln's work as postmaster of New Salem exists. The Official Registrar of the United States indicates that Lincoln received $55.70 in pay in 1835, along with $19.48 for a quarter of a year's worth of work two years later.

The cover shown here celebrates the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s appointment as postmaster of New Salem. It was postmarked in Springfield, Illinois, a crucial political center for Lincoln during his political life. The cachet depicts an image of the president with three buildings above his head, his log cabin, the Illinois State Capitol Building, and the White House. A facsimile of Lincoln's signature appears at the far left of the envelope. Scout Richard Holt carried this envelope to Springfield, Illinois, via the Lincoln Trail in New Salem before arriving at its final destination, the office of South Dakota’s Governor Tom Berry.

3c Lincoln coil strip on Lincoln Anniversary Event Cover

An event envelope (cover) commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's appointment as postmaster of New Salem, Illinois.