In 1861, the Confederate Government formed its own Post Office Department, appointing Texan John H. Reagan as its Confederate Postmaster. Mr. Reagan’s administrative experience was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives before the Civil War. He was determined to provide postage stamps printed from steel plates and dies, but quickly ran into a problem. Most firms that produced such goods were in the North. So, there were no postage stamps available for sale anywhere in the south. This was a great problem of course, because people had gotten used to buying stamps since their introduction to the United States in 1847. Now what were they to do?
To handle the situation, Mr. Reagan left it up to the local postmasters in the South to improvise. Many postmasters reverted to stamping letters marked “paid” which is what they did before the introduction of stamps in 1847. However, this meant trips to the post office, and in some small towns where there wasn’t a post office it became costly for people to travel to mail their letters.
Some post offices had decided that the best solution was to print their own stamps for use. Most of these stamps were produced by local print shops, often just specifying the postage fee and the town name only. The stamps were not perforated and had to be cut with scissors. One interesting stamp is from the town of Goliad in Texas, where some of the stamps printed were misspelled. Due to a proofreading error, some of the 5-cent stamps were spelled as “Goilad.”
After the war ended in 1865, stamp collectors all over the United States began actively searching for stamps created by the Confederate postmasters. Several early Texas collectors helped discover these rare stamps. For instance, philatelist Ernest Dean Dorchester became the president of the Texas Philatelic Association, which was founded in 1896. He married the granddaughter of T.W. House, and discovered some of the stamps among some papers at T.W. House’s bank and commercial firm. After his discovery, he had an affidavit drawn up verifying that they were genuine.
All of these stamps issued during the war years are now extremely rare and highly desired philatelic collectibles. Today, most of these stamps remain on their original envelopes that carried them through the mails. There were no records of their issue or sales and so it becomes desirable when one is added to a collection for its uniqueness.
For more information, I recommend reading “The Great Texas Stamp Collection: How Some Stubborn Texas Confederate Postmasters, a Handful of Determined Texas Stamp Collectors, and a Few of the World’s Greatest Philatelists Created, Discovered, and Preserved Some of the World’s Most Valuable Postage Stamps” by Charles W. Deaton. I have donated a copy of this book to the Sequoia Stamp Club Library, and it is available for members to check out and read at their leisure. Contact club librarian Leroy Harbaugh if you are interested.