Celebrating Lincoln through Stamps and Postal History

The 1860 Presidential Election

3-cent Washington stamp on 1860 Lincoln Campaign Cover
New York based envelope manufacturer S. Raynor produced this 1860 campaign cover.

Four men ran for president in 1860: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, John Bell, and John Breckinridge. Lincoln’s Republican Party was more united in comparison to his competitors, and he ran a vigorous campaign filled with parades and other activities.

Lincoln received almost 40 percent of the popular vote with over 1.8 million votes. This resulted in Lincoln receiving 180 votes in the Electoral College. His main national competitor in terms of votes in the Electoral College was the Southern Democrat candidate John Breckenridge, the incumbent Vice President under James Buchanan. Breckenridge received 18 percent of the popular vote and 72 votes in the Electoral College. Stephen Douglas, the Northern Democrat nominee received the second highest percentage of popular votes, 29.5 percent, but finished last in the number of votes in the Electoral College at 12. Douglas and Lincoln competed against each other intensely trying to win the votes of populations in northern states. Unfortunately for Douglas, Lincoln took the majority of the states they each heavily contested.

Many different northern companies printed stationary for the campaigns during 1860. Typically, Lincoln was depicted more often than his competitors. This cover postmarked in Utica, New York was used to promote Lincoln’s presidential campaign. It portrays the “beardless Lincoln” surrounded by wreaths and an eagle. The image of a log cabin refers to the presidential candidate’s humble roots in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Lincoln is chopping wood for a rail fence on the envelope, proclaiming him as a “rail-splitter.” Such representations showed that he was strong and energetic, characteristics that the candidate wanted the public to observe. The cover also gives the names of both Lincoln and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin. These campaign covers were very popular during the campaign. Only small pins worn on clothing with the names of the candidates had a wider distribution.