3rd April 2018 Postal History of the Confederate States of America – John Walker

On Tuesday April 3rd, Banbury Stamp Society welcomed John Walker who presented on the topic ‘Postal History of the Confederate States of America’.  This is a popular collecting field in the USA and so the breadth and depth of John Walkers material was surprising.

In 1860 South Carolina seceded from the United States and by February 1861, 11 states joined together to create the Confederacy as a republic independent of the Union.  The subsequent civil war was eventually won by the Union army in 1865.

Up until May 31st 1861, Union stamps were the only ones available and John’s first selection of covers showed their usage – one notable cover marked CN was from the then-independent Indian Territory, specifically the Cherokee Nation.

Confederate stamps were due in June 1861 but the Union blockade on the Atlantic seaboard prevented them from reaching the Confederates and a range of ‘Postmaster Provisional’ markings and local stamps were in John’s display. He also explained the rates used by the Confederates: before the war, the United States Postal Service charged a flat rate of 3 cents for mail anywhere in the USA.  The Confederates were unable to match the subsidy and so two rates were introduced: 5 cents for under 500 miles and 10 cents for over.  These stamps arrived in October 1861 and bore the faces of Jefferson Davis and Thomas Jefferson.  Because of the ongoing blockade, the Confederates eventually persuaded de la Rue to ship the printing plates along with security paper. John showed examples of the stamps: de la Rue printed, printed in America on security paper and finally – when the paper ran out – printed on locally sourced paper.  The stamps exist imperforate, perforated 12.5 as well as with crude roulette and even with perforations made with a sewing machine. 

The Confederate States suffered paper shortages toward the end of the war and so all sources of paper were used to create envelopes; wall paper examples are highly collectable.  John showed a number of these, as well as one made up from a 1755 map of North America.

The Union army eventually took control of the Mississippi and maintained a blockade.  A 40 cent rate was introduced to cover the risk and expense of running the blockade in the dead of night.  Other interesting routes included via Mexico across the Rio Grande and via the Bahamas.

John finished up with examples of signed and patriotic covers including Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.  Most of the patriotic covers had the Confederate flag on – not the familiar battle flag, but the ‘Stars and Bars’ with three red and white stripes and a circle of 13 stars on a blue background.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday May 1st at 7:30pm at Hanwell Fields Community Centre when Gareth Williams will talk about ‘St. Pierre & Miquelon’. The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831