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The Lithographed General Issues of the Confederate States of America, Article 5


by Leonard H. Hartmann

All rights reserved, copyright © 2000, L. H. Hartmann

To Appear in the CHRONICLE

Identification of the Proofs of the CSA Lithographed Stamps has perplexed me for nearly 40 years. Recently I am getting much more comfortable on this subject and am now satisfied with the identifications. The ability to conveniently do high resolution scanning has brought a new tool into the picture to solve an old mystery. The problem starts with the lack of a Lithograph Proof that we can definitely trace back to the CSA archives and what was then considered a proof, the Black Stone Y proofs are a possible exception. As far as i know we do not have a single lithographed stamp or proof that can be traced back to the original source, the proof book and was considered a proof by the CSA Post Office.

There are many unquestionable references to proofs and sample stamps in the literature however we must not automatically assume that such an item was a special or different stamp that meets normal philatelic definitions. Still we must assume, until proven otherwise, that these are at least some proofs or specimens that are truly special stamps and thus can be identified and so characterized.

The earliest record we have of such specimens is a letter from the CSA Postmaster General, John H. Reagan dated November 21st, 1864. This letter is illustrated and discussed by Lawrence L. Shenfield in an article titled "Confederate States of America, The Essay Die Proofs and Proofs of Issued Stamps printed in Richmond, The "SPECIMEN" overprints of the De La Rue Printings" which appeared in the "The Collectors Club Philatelist", July, 1957, Vol 36, No 4. Fortunately this letter is also discussed, transcribed and illustrated in an article by Van Dyk MacBride titled "Postmaster General Reagan, C.S.A., Writes to A. Woodgate, P.M. of Nova Scotia", "The Postal History Journal" Dec 1961, Vol. VI No. 1, Whole No. 7. I said fortunately as the illustration in the CCP is nearly illegible and is not transcribed:

Richmond, November 21st, 1864
Dear Sir:

Your note of September 28th enclosing specimens of the Postage Stamps of Nova Scotia and requesting specimens of the Postage Stamps of The Confederate States is received; and I take pleasure in enclosing, herewith specimens of our stamps.

Specimens, marked 1 and 2, are of the first printing for the Department, on stone; 3 and 4 were next printed on Electrotype-plates, in Great Britain, by De Larue & Co.(sic.); 5, 6 and 7 are those now in use, printed on steel-plates in this city. Such of them as are ungummed are taken from specimen-sheets, those intended for use have been exhausted.

Trust that these may reach you safely:

I am, very respectfully,
Your obdt. servt.,
John H. Reagan.

A. Woodgate, Esq., Post Master General, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The letter leaves no doubt that there were officially retained lithographed stamps, without gum and they were the first printing and perhaps special in other ways. Perhaps final press sheets submitted for approval before the printer went into mass production. Perhaps they were printed from the transfer stones of 50 units before the printing plates of 200 were made up!

It is unfortunate that the letter no longer has the stamps. Perhaps one day they will show up, numbered, most likely in manuscript, perhaps on the front, the back or even mounted on a sheet of paper with the numbers below!

We also have many references to H. St. Geo. Offutt, 1st Asst. Postmaster General of the Confederate States P.O.D and his Proof Book. The press of the day published on this subject, at lease as early as the April, 1868, The American Stamp Mercury, vol 1, No. VI, contains Offutt's famous letter of April 14, 1868 which states, in part:

All designs were submitted to me for approval and I have proof impressions of all designs that were ever considered by the Department.

Another early piece of evidence is an auction catalog for a sale held on Thursday Evening, December 20, 1877 in New York by George A. Leavitt & Co. The preface to this sale states in part

Among the stamps which appeal to a select class of large collectors, may be named the Confederate States proofs, which were presented to the owner by Mr. H. St George Offut, late acting Post Master General of the Confederate. These are believed to be unique.

The CSA material was sold as lots 54 through 63 with the proofs being:

We thank David Beech of the British Library for providing the above information from the original catalog in the Earl of Crawford Collection.

The first four lots listed above are all easily identified with material now known to exist however when you get to our lithograph we have problems. Lot No. 63, a black proof of the 5 c 1861 is not known to exist as described. There are three evident possibilities. First the year could have been 1862 and not 1861 and a typographed De La Rue design of which there are a number of proofs. Or the 5 is in error for a 10 Black Stone Y proof of which we have several. There could also have been a 5 Black Hoyer proof that is now known today.

The Offutt proof book evidently was transferred from Offutt to C. B. Corwin. Corwin read a paper before the Brooklyn Philatelic Club, January 16, 1889 which is printed in the "The American Philatelist", February 11, 1889, vol III, No 5, pages 122-133. With respect to our lithographs I quote in part from this long and detailed Article:

I am pleased to submit (Exhibit B) a beautiful impression of this stamp, which is one from the first sheet that was printed. This stamp, you will observe, is one of the few remaining in the accompanying book, which was used by Colonel Offutt for the purpose of inserting therein proofs, early impressions, essays, and other data appertaining to postal issues of his Bureau. Unfortunately the greed of philatelists and the liberality of the owner have combined to almost completely denude the book of its contents and but few remain , and, after I am through with the book, there will be none, as I have been presented with the few remaining specimens. You will notice that the book has stamped upon its cover-

Thomas De LaRue & Co.
and was sent by Messrs. De LaRue to the Confederate Governments as specimens of their handiwork, from which they could arrive at an idea of what could be produced by that establishment.

This book was in active philatelic demand for a few years after the war, and you can see the result in its barren leaves.

As it now stands, as far as I know, we do not have a lithographed proof that we can definitely tie to the proof book. I hope one of you will immediately prove that I am wrong.

There are a number of old references in the literature to people describing magnificent stamps, wide margins, etc. that just must be proofs with the great names of Confederate Philately often mentioned such as August Dietz, John Drinkwater. Lawrence Shenfield, etc. The below remark from the previously mentioned Shenfield article, "The Collectors Club Philatelist", July, 1957, Vol 36., No 4:

In 1932, the late John Drinkwater, famous British dramatist and collector of Confederate States Stamps, sent to August Dietz an unused 5 1861 Hoyer and Ludwig lithographed stamp with large even margins, of remarkably brilliant impression and in an unusual shade of green. The specimen was ungummed. Obviously it was from Stone A or B. When Dietz compared this stamp with the clearest printed examples in his own collection and others, no other 5 value came close to matching the marvelous brilliance of the Drinkwater copy. In fact, to quote Dietz' own words, "the impression of this stamp resembled the sharpness and depth of a steel plate engraved stamp".

Since that time, the writer has a record of two other examples of the 5 value= one in brilliant green, one in a deep bluish green and a total of five examples of the 10 Hoyer and Ludwig value.....

Without adequate illustrations or the stamps themselves we can draw nothing from such remarks with respect to the proofs of the lithographs.

Characteristics of the Proof

Over the years I have settled on a number of observations and concepts for distinguishing the lithographed proofs.

I find the proofs, only plate proofs are apparently known, to have normal stamp margins and most examples are defective. These two observations are consistent with there migration to the collecting community in the 1865 - 1890 period. Margins were not worshiped like today and in fact in the 1850-1860 period were often deliberately cut off by collectors, i think to strip the adjoining 8 stamps of there margins to make a spectacular single copy would have been frowned upon. The thins are to be expected from the original mounting and the normal collector mounting of the period. In essence they didn't stay pristine and undiscovered for 100 years.

For the 5 Hoyer & Ludwig, all examples that I consider proofs are of one specific shade, a peculiar light green with a bit of a bluish tinge. The paper is quite white with one exception; I think it has yellowed with time, perhaps from being in contact with poor paper. This exact shade is not a spectacular one by any means but one that I have not seen on a used stamp. There are many 5 stamps that are in truly spectacular shades; solid apple greens, bright greens, emerald greens, deep intense green, Wizard of Oz Emerald Greens, etc. but these are mostly found on cover and properly used. On the 5 that I consider proofs I would put the number at about 5 but am sure more exist.

The 5 Hoyer & Ludwig proofs are spectacular in that the portrait and the solid inscription bands truly stand out from the crosshatch background. This crosshatch seems quite thin and is less visible than with the issued stamps. I take this appearance to be from the lack of plate wear but perhaps these proofs were printed from the transfer stone as samples before the printing stone was laid down. If this is the case, they would be one step closer to the original design than the issued stamp. Stone A & B is not plated, multiples beyond pairs are rare, especially unused thus thought these stamps and proofs have evident plating marks the positions are not identified. For comparison with the proof we are illustrating a single that was used from Richmond, Virginia on November 1, 1861. It is of a similar impression and shade to the proofs and is an early printing but it definitely not the appearance of a proof.

For the 10 proof the above basics applies however I can not say there is a specific shade that I associate with the proofs though all that I consider proofs are of a deeper blue than the normal issued stamp. The blue lithographed stamps, both the 5 and 10 values do not have the wonderful range of color of the 5 greens and to a lesser extend the 10 reds though there are still some quite nice and distinct shades. All examples of the 10 proofs that I have seen can be plated to the transfer stone positions, ie the unit of 50 subjects. To date I have personally seen stamps that I consider proofs from positions No. 1, 12, 25, 34, 41 and 45, no duplicates from a position thus a total of 6 examples of which two are in extremely poor condition, I am sure another 5 or so exist.

The 10 Hoyer & Ludwig proofs are similar in the fine printing of the portrait and uniform solid area to the 5, ie. extremely sharp impressions but perhaps not quite to the extend of the 5.

There is one interesting phenomenon on the 10 that refer to as the Halo Effect, there is an irregular solid area between the sides and top of the portrait, a halo, and the fine crosshatching. It is quite striking on high magnification. In the issued stamps the portrait blends more with the background. Something resembling this halo effect has been seen on one stamp in a dark blue and showing a filled in impression and reported on another that I have not yet seen. Again with the proof we are showing a used copy that is a fine impression and somewhat similar to the proofs, it is used from Prince Edwards C.H., Virginia, July 14, 1862.

Now the characteristic for a proof, I call the lines of color to be extremely thin and uniform in the design or to use the more common term sharp impressions. I have not seen any difference in paper thickness, perhaps a smidgen whiter than the issued stamps.

This sharp impression distinction is quite subjective. Originally these stamps were not illustrated in catalogs but even today the auction catalogs do not give an image that one could say is definitive for this detail.

We can not draw any different conclusions from the 10 Black Stone Y stamps that are most certainly proofs, however the above notes all apply. The color being black is easily distinguishes them from the issue stamps, all are somewhat defective, the paper is essentially normal white stamp paper, perhaps a fraction better than some. The 10 Black Proofs are not fine impressions, however when compared with the issued Stone Y stamps they are fine impressions. Again the black stamps could have been pulled from the transfer stone of 50.

Rarity; on the 5 and 10 Hoyer & Ludwig lithograph proofs I estimate less than 10 of each have survived. For the 10 Black Stone Y's I know of only two singles and one pair which is badly cut in on one side. I hope the pair is still a pair and has not been cut apart as the plating of Stone Y is now within reach.

The lithograph proofs were late to be added to the catalogs. They are not mentioned in "Phillips' Specialized Priced Catalogue of Confederate States General Issues" which appeared in 1927. The 1945 edition of the "Dietz Confederate States Catalog and Hand-Book" lists only the 10 Black Proof with the 5 Green and 10 Blue Proofs being added to the 1959 edition. The "Scott's Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps" first such listing is also the 10 Black Proof in 1959 followed in 1960 by the 5 Green and the 10 Blue. The late listing of the 10 Black Proof can be attributed to rarity with the other two being a combination of rarity and problems in identification.

I would like to give special thanks to J.E. Molesworth, Jerry Palazolo and Scott Trepel for assistance in the study that led to this article.

Future articles: If you have anything unusual or perplexing relating to the CSA lithographs please advise. The old literature mentions fabulous things that have never been confirmed or properly described, illustrated or properly identified. Help on the Lithographed Proofs is most welcome.

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