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Postmaster Lincoln

The list: 5 facts about Honest Abe’s postal career

List Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln, shown in a circa 1860 lithograph, served as New Salem, IL, Postmaster from 1833-1836. Image: Library of Congress

To mark Presidents Day, here are five facts about a Postmaster who later became a commander in chief: Abraham Lincoln.

1. Lincoln was a youthful Postmaster. The future president was 24 when he was appointed Postmaster of New Salem, IL, in May 1833. He served until the office closed in May 1836.

2. His annual salary is public record. The U.S. Official Register, published in odd-numbered years, dutifully records “A. Lincoln” as receiving compensation of $55.70 in fiscal year 1835 and $19.48 for one quarter’s work in fiscal 1837.

3. His job wasn’t without perks. Besides his pay, Postmaster Lincoln could send and receive personal letters free and get one daily newspaper delivered free.

4. He delivered mail, too. Mail arrived at the New Salem Post Office once a week, delivered on a route that ran from Springfield, IL, to Millers Ferry, IL. If addressees didn’t collect their mail at the Post Office, which was customary, Lincoln delivered it personally — usually carrying the mail in his hat.

5. Yes, Abe was honest even then. About $18 was left in the New Salem Post Office’s coffers when it closed in 1836, so Lincoln held onto the money. When a government agent later visited Lincoln to collect the funds, the future president, who was financially strapped at the time, retrieved the money from a trunk and presented it to the agent.

The Postal History page has information on other famous postal workers, including the only other president who also served as Postmaster: Harry Truman. Got ideas for future editions of “The list”? Email them to

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