Beginnings[edit | edit source]
Initiated by South Carolina's secession from the United States in December 1860, the Confederate States of America (CSA) came into existence on February 4, 1861 when seven seceding states came together to form a central government (4 other states joined later in the year). Each seceded first, then joined the CSA, yielding a short period, sometimes only days, in which the state was technically independent of both USA and CSA.
President Jefferson Davis had appointed John Henninger Reagan on March 6, 1861 to head the new Confederate States of America Post-office Department. However, the United States Post Office Department continued to handle the mail of the seceded states as usual until June 1, 1861, when the Confederate postal service took over. Reagan was an able administrator, presiding over the only CSA cabinet department that functioned well during the war. It established new rates: 5¢ per half-ounce under 500 miles, 10¢ per half-ounce over 500 miles, 2¢ for drop letters and circulars. Later the under-500-mile rate was raised to 10¢ also. There was a 50¢ rate for express mail, and after 1863 a 40¢ rate for Trans-Mississippi mail to cover the costs of smuggling the mail through a Federal blockade that operated along the entire length of the lower Mississippi River.
Although the Confederate government had contracted for the printing of its own stamps, they were not yet available on June 1, forcing postmasters all over the South to improvise. Most of the time they simply went back to the old practice of accepting payment in cash and applying a "PAID" handstamp to the envelope. However, a number of postmasters, particularly those in the larger cities, could not afford to be handling long lines of cash customers, and developed a variety of Postmaster's provisionals. These took a variety of forms, from envelopes prestamped with a postmark modified to say "paid" or an amount, to regular stamps produced by local printers. Some are today among the great rarities of philately.
Stamps[edit | edit source]
Regular Confederate stamps finally appeared on October 16, 1861. The first two stamps were a 5¢ green depicting Jefferson Davis, and a 10¢ blue with Thomas Jefferson, both lithographed by Hoyer and Ludwig of Richmond, Virginia. Like almost all Confederate issues, these stamps were imperforate.
In 1862, a 2¢ stamp of Andrew Jackson appeared, in green, and in turn the 5¢ and 10¢ stamps were reprinted in blue and rose, respectively. A new 5¢ stamp of Davis was also issued in large quantities, with 12,000,000 produced by De La Rue in London, and over 36,000,000 by Archer and Daly in Richmond. The Archer and Daly stamps were initially printed on paper supplied by De La Rue and later on Confederate paper. Later printings tend be quite coarse and individual examples may exhibit blank areas in the design from plate damage or filled in areas due to plate wear. (Today they can be had for US$10 or so.)
In 1863, a new design of the 2¢ Jackson appeared, engraved in steel and printed in pale red with the second printing being in brown red, along with 10¢ profile of Davis, engraved in either copper plates or steel plates. Many shades of blue exist for these stamps from light milky blue to cobalt blue as well as many shades that tend toward greenish blue and green. There are four similar designs of engraved ten cent stamps. The easiest to distinguish from the other three has the value expressed as "TEN".
The next easiest to distinguish is the one with the value expressed as "10" and has straight lines enclosing the design in a rectangle. This same design, without the rectangle enclosing it, is the third variety. The last variety also has the value expressed as "10". The corner ornaments are filled and it shows a faint line that follows the outside of the design and encloses it. All of these were printed by Archer and Daly of Richmond. The last two varieties were also printed, from late 1864 on, by Keatinge and Ball of Columbia, South Carolina. A small number of the third and fourth varieties were perforated and released for use by the Confederate Post Office Department.
De La Rue also printed a 1¢ orange depicting John C. Calhoun, but they were never put into use. A 20¢ stamp with George Washington also came out in 1863 and saw limited use, but genuinely used copies are today worth 10 times more than mint copies.
Covers[edit | edit source]
A considerable number of Confederate covers have been preserved. Special categories of interest include covers to and from soldiers, patriotic covers, prisoner-of-war covers, flag of truce and through-the-lines mail, mail carried by blockade runners to and from Europe, and others. All of these specialties have been intensively studied, although contemporary official records are often fragmentary or missing, and many details remain unclear. Much forging of material went on in the late 19th century, and authentication is a challenge for experts.
Adversity covers are also widely collected. These include covers created from pieces of wallpaper or reused forms or other printed matter, as well as turned covers, which are envelopes used once and then turned inside out for reuse, such as to reply to the sender.
Sources[edit | edit source]
- Stanley Gibbons Ltd: various catalogues
- Encyclopaedia of Postal History
- Stuart Rossiter & John Flower: The Stamp Atlas
- August Dietz, Postal Service of the Confederate States of America (1929) - the standard work on Confederate philately
- Dietz Confederate States Catalog and Hand-Book (1931-1986)
See also[edit | edit source]
- August Dietz, publisher of Confederate States of America postal history
- Lawrence L. Shenfield, author of Confederate States of America: The Special Postal Routes (1961)
- U.S. Presidents on U.S. postage stamps