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The Beardless Lincoln Essays

Unadopted Revenue Stamp Designs by the National Bank Note Company

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This one frame exhibit is a showcase of “Beardless Lincoln” essays produced by the National Banknote Company in the 1860s. These colorful essays provide an illustration of printing techniques used by the company. The exhibit includes some examples of the individual parts (vignette, border, text and frame) that make up the completed final design.

Although revenue essays have been recorded in the works of high profile philatelists such as Turner, Brazer and Joyce, they are considered a specialty topic that is not widely known to the average collector. This exhibit is intended to draw attention and interest to the subject of revenue essays and proofs.

Making the Beardless Lincoln Essays

Lincoln's Beard

Lincoln grew his beard during the end of his first presidential campaign. In October of 1860, an eleven-year-old girl named Grace Bedell saw his picture on the National Republican Chart and wrote him a letter suggesting he grow it. She explained that he “would look a great deal better for your face is so thin.” Not long after the election, Lincoln took her advice and began growing his facial hair. By his inauguration in March, he was sporting a full beard.

Lincoln’s beard became a trademark of his appearance. Some photographers and publishers even had artists paint over their existing clean-shaven Lincoln photographs to depict his new look.

Engravings by Currier & Ives

Only a year after Lincoln’s death in 1865, the first postage stamp featuring his portrait was issued – using a bearded photograph as its model. For over ninety years, all issued US stamps bearing Lincoln’s portrait included his beard. The first US stamp to include a portrait of Lincoln without his beard was issued in 1959.