by Leonard H. Hartmann
All rights reserved, copyright © 2001, L. H. Hartmann
Article #7 for CHRONICLE No. 192
The history of the CSA 10¢ Altered Plate is deserving of a book but the time is not yet ready, there is still much to learn. It is a long and fascinating story. This article is intended to give the basic history and to present both new discoveries and old ones that have not been previously published. We still need a few more bits of information to pull the story together and hopefully this article will bring some in. The initial philatelic history of the 10¢ Altered Plate is clouded with much mystery, confusion and skullduggery, this has become a wonderful part of the fascination.
The CSA government wanted engraved stamps from the start and so stipulated in their original advertisements for bids. For the initial general issues they had to rely on lithography. In late 1861 the CSA sent a delegation to England to obtain many needed commodities. Major B. F. Ficklin arranged with De La Rue & Co. of London for stamps, printing plates, paper, ink, etc. De La Rue invoiced the first 5¢ plate (image of Jefferson Davis) along with five million stamps, January 30, 1862. A 1¢ plate (image of John C. Calhoun) along with four hundred thousand stamps was invoiced on March 15, 1862.
On March 24th, 1862 De La Rue charged a second plate for both the 1¢ and 5¢ stamps and other materials, these were shipped on the "S.S. Bermuda". However the ship was intercepted by the Federal warship "Mercidita" and this shipment never reached the Confederacy.
A significant number of stamps were printed in London from the first 5¢ plate and were sent to the Confederacy along with the plate. They are now referred to as Scott's No. 6 for the London printing. The London stamps are well printed on a distinctive paper which De La Rue referred to as cream. When the 5¢ plate arrived in the Confederacy it was also used to print stamps, both on the cream paper from England and on paper of Confederate manufacture. The Confederate printing quality is not up to that of De La Rue, these stamps are Scott's No. 7. A plate in the 1¢ value was made and only a few stamps printed in England. The stamps and plate were sent to the Confederacy, ie Scott's No. 14. The 1¢ value was never placed in service and the CSA did not print any stamps from this plate.
The postage rates changed, effective July 1, 1862. The single letter rate of 5¢ for under 500 miles was increased to 10¢ and the 500 miles restriction was removed. The 10¢ stamp thus became the common value. The drop rate was set at 2¢.
De La Rue took the original 5¢ design and changed the value to 10¢ and the original 1¢ was changed to 2¢. They then produced a plate of 400 arranged in four panes of 100 each for both value, the same format as the 5¢ and 1¢ values. The denomination change was evidently made on an intermediate die as the original 5¢ engraved master die still exists and is now in the British Library, London. The 1¢ original die was searched for in the 1930's but could not be found and is still missing.
Per John Easton's "The De La Rue History of British & Foreign Postage Stamps 1855 to 1901", p 765-766, De La Rue invoiced the above two Altered Plates on November 7, 1862 and that the invoice was paid indicating the shipment arrived in the CSA. The previously mentioned lost shipment was not paid. Easton noted "There is no record of stamps having been printed from these plates" and also noted "An old register of stamp specimens contains overprinted copies of both the One Cent and Five Cent stamps, but no proofs or prints are to be found of the Two Cents or Ten Cents".
A little known paper, read by John Drinkwater on June 25, 1931 at the Eighteenth Philatelic Congress of Great Britain appeared in their book of that year, the article is titled "The Stamps of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865". It was also privately published as a 16 page monograph in 1931. This booklet contains major information on the De La Rue stamps. John Drinkwater was a serious collector and scholar. He had access to the De La Rue archives in the 1920's and 1930's, before many records were destroyed on the night of December 29, 1940 by a World War II bombing of London:
There is one entry of the De la Rue day-book [folio 143] that is of great philatelic interest. I will transcribe it in full:
1862, Nov. 7, The Confederate States of North America, per Major B. F. Ficklin.
1 Printing form for C.S. Postage Stamps containing 400 multiples Duty 10 cents (head of President Jefferson Davis) mounted on Cast Iron plate truly planned 100 0 0 Case and Packing 0 15 0
1 Printing frame for C.S. Postage Stamps containing 400 multiples duty 2 cents (with head of Calhoun) mounted on a Cast Iron plate truly planned 100 0 0 Case and packing 0 15 0 _________ 201 10 0
Please note, a change in this transcription, my copy of the Drinkwater monograph is inscribed by Drinkwater to Oliver Barrett, the noted Scholar and Collector of Lincolniana. The above Case and Packing charges are printed as £15 however they were changed by pen to 15s, a much more realistic charge for 1862.
The following paragraph from the Drinkwater monograph is of equal importance.
This is conclusive evidence not only that the Confederate Government placed an order with the London firm for stamps necessitated by the new postal rate decreed by Congress, but also that the order was actually executed. Electrotype units from Joubert's original one and five cent dies were used, the values were altered, and from these new units leads were made up as before, and the new electrotype plates were deposited. The conclusion of this transaction is to be found in a De la Rue ledger entry of June, 1863, that is to say, seven months after the invoice, in which these 10 and 2¢. forms are recorded as "Not received by the P.O.D.," and the sum of £101 10s is written off. Whether the "Not received" signifies not delivered or not accepted on delivery is not clear. In any case the De la Rue 2 and 10¢ stamps were never used, nor ever printed officially.
The Drinkwater account is believed to be definitive and only differs in fact from John Easton's in one point. Did the Altered Plates actually arrive in the Confederacy? Easton said they did arrive and offered as proof an entry that Major Ficklin paid De La Rue a bill totaling £3466.7.8. This was evidently a payment for many charges which may or may not have contained £201.10.0 for the altered plates. Drinkwater also noted "Other transactions with Ficklin are also entered running into some thousands of pounds, but with no indication of their nature."
The Drinkwater and Easton works prove the 10¢ and 2¢ altered plates were made for the Confederacy and so dispatched. They may or may not have arrived in the Confederacy and if so they may or may not have been received by the Confederate Postal Service. I am certain De La Rue pulled an impression or two from the altered plates for their records, but if so we have no examples or records except perhaps the one pane of 100 that Dietz referred to, details to follow.
The 2¢ Altered Plate was discovered intact in Southern Louisiana and announced by August Dietz in the November, 1926 issue of "The Southern Philatelist". Even to this day only a few printings or impressions have been made from the 2¢ plate though examples of these stamps are not rare or expensive. August Dietz made a fine printing in 1926, Green on a Cream Vellum Paper and offered them for $20.00 per sheet of 400. These sheets came with a small card having a printed description, signed and numbered by Dietz. In 1926, $20.00 was a lot of money and we believe only a few were sold during his lifetime. The Dietz estate contained a small number of sheets which are now in collectors hands. The sheets from the estate were all folded into units of four to match the panes and are not signed or numbered. There is also at least one proof quality print of the 2¢ in black on enameled paper. I would guess Dietz did this circa 1926 to obtain a superior image to use in his publications. For the American Philatelic Society convention in Norfolk, Va., September 21-24, 1955 prints from the original 2¢ plate were made and sold. These prints are on a white paper and in green, well printed but not as finely as the 1926 Dietz printing. A few panes exist in Orange and Brown which are perhaps proofs from the 1955 printing. The 2¢ plate was a part of August Dietz's estate, it then passed to William G. Bogg and from his estate to it's present owner, Bruce E. Engstler.
The 10¢ plate was initially ravaged! We have always thought this happened in the mid 1860's but perhaps it was as late as the 1880's for the first portion, the Atlanta section. It was separated from the original cast iron backing. A pane of 100 was cut into a section of 70 (7x10, Atlanta Section) and two different sections of 9 (3x3, Columbus and Baltimore Sections). Some single subjects or a small block may also exist but to date those so pretending have been fraudulent. From these authentic plate fragments, numerous impressions were made over the years. To make matters worse many printings were made that had little or no origin to an original section of the plate, some of exceptional quality and others horrid to say the least. It is said that some of these fraudulent stamps, including the notorious NY Counterfeit with the 10¢ value changed back to 5¢ to resemble the original stamps, were made from impressions taken from sections of the authentic 10¢ Altered Plate. The general design was also printed but not from an authentic plate origin, again some of these printings are excellent and others horrible.
All of these 10¢ Altered Plate impressions in collectors hands today are from the cut up section of 100 and not from a full section of 100. Almost!
August Dietz owned an impression of 100 which is illustrated on page 189 of his "The Postal Service of the Confederate States of America" which he thought came from the S. George Offutt proof book and was either a CSA printing or a proof impression from De La Rue. To quote Dietz:
A proof in black of the full pane of 100 stamps with the altered value-- before its mutilation-- is among the reference material in the author's possession. It is probably from the proof impressions mentioned by Col. Offutt in the following letter, reprinted from "The American Stamp Mercury, Boston, May, 1868.This 1868 article is with respect to the then-circulating stories of a 10¢ Stonewall Jackson stamp in red which is the same format as the De La Rue stamps. Dietz is using this reference to establish the existence of the CSA Proof Book. The 10¢ Stonewall Jackson stamp is another mystery. It is most likely bogus however the early prints are both extremely rare and show an exceptional quality of engraving. Again there are many quite inferior reproductions with those by S.A. Taylor being common. This 1868 article does not mention the 10¢ Altered Plate.
While there are many references from 1868 referring to the 10¢ Stonewall Jackson stamp, I have not found such on the 10¢ Altered Plate. The time line on the 10¢ Altered Plate after it's shipment from England is quite uncertain and I have no references from the 1860's or 1870's. Page 186 of August Dietz's "The Postal Service of the Confederate States of America" recounts a story obtained in 1919 relating to Richard Glenn, a Hospital Steward, in the 95th Ohio having obtained the plate or a portion of the plate and perhaps cutting it into two portions of 9 subjects each, one of which is now in the Ohio Historical Society and the other is known as the Baltimore section. The problem with this account is there are no details on when Glenn obtained the plate and what he originally had, a plate of 400 or 100 or even the remains of the Atlanta section of 70 and when it was cut up. Perhaps he had a section of 100, or perhaps the remainder of the section of 70, etc. This story is also covered by L.F. and G.C. Bennett in an article "The Stamp That Never Was", American Philatelist, November, 1982. There is tremendous speculation at this point on the facts, he ma have obtained his portion long after the Civil War, we just don't know!
The earliest mention I have found of the 10¢ Altered Plate is a vague one by Major Edw. B. Evans in the November 10, 1888, issue of "The American Philatelist", vol 3, no 2 page 36. C. B. Corwin refers to the Evans article and gives a quite detailed description of The Old Book Store printig from the plate of 70 in the February 11, 1889 issue of the same journal, vol 3, no 5, pages 126-127. At this time, Evans and Corwin considered the 10¢ Altered Plate stamps to be bogus.
An example of The Old Book Store printing has a circular blind embossed seal of The Old Book Store with the name W. B. Burke, P.B.V. These stamps are poorly printed in a light gray on a soft porous off-white paper with an advertisement printed in black on the reverse side, Figure 2. This avertisement gives the address as 38 Marietta Street. If one wishes to speculate one could say the plate of 100 was cut to 70 permitting common paper to be used for this advertisement.
Micki Waldrop of the Atlanta History Center has kindly searched their collection of city directories. The first listing for W. B. Burke is 1881 as a travel agent, but in 1882 he was listed as "secondhand book". Starting in 1885 he is listed as "The Old Bookstore, 38 Marietta". This listing continues with minor wording changes through the 1896 edition. In 1897 the listing is simply books and stationary but with a business address of 49 Peachtree. In 1898 the address is 58 N. Broad. The 1908 listing has no business listing, and the 1909 is the last listing for Burke. These listings suggest an early date of 1885, for the Old Book Store prints with a probably date of 1885 - 1888. This is consistent with the 1888 and 1889 dates for the "American Philatelist" articles for the Old Book Store prints.
An 1924 account of a 1896 printing from this unit of 70 by H. A. Diamant is quoted by August Dietz in "The Postal Service of the Confederate States of America", page 187. Diamant says that he borrowed the plate from a Richmond, Va. book dealer and had prints made that day. The account states that the printing was done in red, green and blue ink on whatever paper that was at hand. The George Sloane collection has a print from this plate of 70 inscribed by H. A. Diamant, the penmanship of the inscription seems to be contemporary with the 1896 date. Another example of this printing bears an inscription "To August Dietz from H.A. Diamant", the inscription probably dates from 1924. For many years now this printing has been referred to as the Diamant printing.
An example the Diamant printing is on paper watermarked 1897. The 1897 date is not a problem as paper was often made a year in advance. This 1897 dated print of is in red on a cream paper and inscribed " Printed from the original plate, To R. S. Lochman, compliments of Martin Hayden".
An interesting block of four from the plate of 70 is in a pale orange, which has been assumed to be the Diamant printing is inscribed "Original plate in possession of J. A. Lambert of Atlanta, Ga. Presented to Rev M. L. Burger by S.J.B. Boyd" and also an erroneous inscription in the same hand "Reprinted from the original plate finished the day Lee Surrendered & never turned over to the Confederate Gov't S.B.B", Robson Lowe, June 10, 1975, lot 795, Freeland collection. The Atlanta city directories list a Joseph Albert Lambert as a traveling salesman (drummer) starting in 1889, none for 1890 but from 1891 until 1912. He is first listed as working for the Southern Belting Company and then the Buffalo Belting Works.
The Old Book Store prints are distinct and apparently date from circa 1885 - 1888. The Diamant account and the Lambert ownership notation, and other names all date to circa 1896. It is possible that what we call the Diamant 1896 printing is in reality several printings from that period. The author has found no indication of knowledge of the existence of the 10¢ Altered Plate between it leaving De La Rue and being captured in 1862, and circa 1886 - 1888.
August Dietz tells the story of the 10¢ Altered Plate in the September, 1926, issue of "The Southern Philatelist". His story of the three sections is what we believe today. But at that time Dietz thought the 10¢ Altered Plate was made Archer & Daily in Richmond by altering the 5¢ plate. To quote this article:
Removing the metal plate from its wooden base, and tapping lightly with a punche on the areas immediately under the word "FIVE," the metal is brought to the level of the printing surface and the incised letters raised to face-level. After burnishing this area, a steel punch, upon which the word "TEN" had been engraved was struck into the space formerly occupied by the letters of "FIVE."
Dietz did not know of the De La Rue origin or the original cast iron backing or that the printing surface was made as four sections of 100. The 2¢ Altered Plate was not discovered until late 1926. Many of these details were corrected for his 1929 book. At this time it is best not to speculate on the original discovery as we have no facts. The purpose of this article is to document new discoveries and hopefully to bring out new information. The Altered Plate designation is a miss-nomer dating from the original thoughts that the plate was made in the Confederacy by altering the 5c plate. In reality the new stamp owes it's origin to the original 5¢ master die.Later printings from the 10¢ Altered Plate will not be discussed at this time.
Early this year an old poor quality impression of the 10¢ Altered Plate from a unit of 100 came to light. It's provenance is attributed to August Dietz and Robert Siegel but the paper documentation is poor. Accompanying papers suggest August Dietz once owned it. It is an incomplete printing from a unit of 100 but enough shows to prove it did not come from the well-known unit of 70. The print is fragile, the paper is old, quite soft and porous. It could well date from the 1862 - 1890 period. This old print from a 100 subject is illustrated as Figure 1.
From the 1970's I have known of an original plate of 100 of this stamp in the Chicago Historical Society archives. Some prints from this plate were made but never circulated beyond the archives. The plate was loaned to the Smithsonian from 1970 to 1975 and was on display at the Chicago Historical Society in their Civil War Gallery from 1975 to 1982. It is presently displayed in there exhibition, A House Divided. The plate consist of a copper electrotype with a lead leveling backing and mounted on an old wood base, overall is in excellent condition.
In an attempt to plate the newly discovered old impression from the plate of 100 I visited the Chicago Historical Society on June 21st, 2001, saw the plate again and obtained a quality photograph in addition to their data on the Society's original acquisition. Their records state the plate was donated by Brother Joseph Schmidt, St. Michael's Church, 1615 N., Cleveland Ave, Chicago in 1933. An accompanying letter from Brother Schmidt indicates the plate was obtained in 1918 when a Mid-West Stamp Dealer died.
We have not been able to find a record of Brother Joseph Schmidt however The Provincial Archivist, Redemptorist - Denver Province has a record of a Raymond Joseph Schmitt, born in Milwaukee, Oct 1, 1903 and entered the novitiate in 1924, his father was Louis Schmitt from Milwaukee, WI. The Baltimore Province archives can not find a record of either Schmidt or Schmick.
Some time in the late 1960's or the early 1970's a few impressions were made from the Chicago Historical Society plate. I have an impressions given to me by an old friend, Alan T. Atkins who requested that I not make their existence known at that time and though he indicated they came from Chicago he would say nothing more. I do not recall the exact date I acquired the impression but it was the early 1970's, the sheet is poorly printed on a common white woven paper of no special quality in Blue. The Chicago Historical Society plate is in excellent condition though the circa 1970 print is of poor quality. Please see Figure 3 for a photograph of this plate and Figure 4 for an enlarged 1970 print from the plate. The plate appears to be in excellent condition. However the museum quality lighting available for my last examination of the plate did not permit a detailed inspection, there could be surface damage.
To my astonishment I first heard of another plate on June 26th, 2001 and saw it on June 30th. Yes an authentic plate of 100 of the 10¢. The new plate's origin is also Chicago and ties in perfectly with the Chicago Historical Society section. This plate is in mint condition and as with the Chicago Historical Society plate has not been printed from except for archival purposes.
This newly discovered second plate was found in the inventory of a Chicago printing company purchased in 1921 by Matthias Joseph Sitter (later changed to Matthew). He operated under the name of M. J. Sitter Printing and Engraving. The shop was located at 419 Eugenie St., Chicago, ILL. The Sitter family attended Church and School at St. Michels and had a close relation with the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago doing much of their printing and especially the German printing during the 1930's. Traveling from the print shop the Church is literally two blocks West, around the corner and a half block South.
The newly discovered plate is presently owned by Mark M. Sitter and obtained from his Father and Grandfather obtained it via the 1921 purchase of a Printing Company. In the late 1980's Mr. Sitter's Father started to research the plate and at that time produced about 30 proof quality prints, some in black and some in green. These were for the family and not for sale. They are on an enameled stock quite similar to what De La Rue used for proofs in the 1860's and still in common use today for proofs. The impression quality is exceptional, please see Figure 6 for a block of four from this printing. To the best of our knowledge these are the only printings from this plate. Figure 5 for a photograph of this plate and Figure 6 for an enlarged print from the plate.
The Sitter plate now has a hardwood backing. However it is evident from the margin holes that it had been re-backed, perhaps twice. The Chicago Historical Society plate was rebacked at least once, ie with wood. The companion 2¢ Altered Plate still has the original cast iron backing as originally described in the Drinkwater transcription of the De La Rue records. The details of manufacture of the companion 2¢ and 10¢ altered plates are quite similar as would be expected, they were made at the same time. The 2¢ plate is in pour panes, each a separate plate of metal. The panes are individually fastened to the iron base by means of 8 screws to the pane, one at each corner and one midway on each side. The Chicago Historical Society plate has holes near each corner and midway in-between for a total of 8. The Sitter plate originally had holes in these exact same positions but now has small screws in different locations to secure it to a wood base. As De La Rue made the 2 and 10¢ plates at the same time one would expect the manufacturing procedure to be similar.
There is no question the two 10¢ plate sections are related and were together in the 1920-1930 period. It is strange that there are no contemporary printings from either section considering the cut up section of 100 has seen numerous printings.
The Chicago Historical Society plate has been re-backed with wood with nails instead of screws. The Sitter plate has been re-backed at least twice and the print quality was exceptional. The 2¢ plate has the original cast iron backing yielded excellent prints when August Dietz pulled impressions in the 1920's. These plates are an electrotype, a thin electroplated copper shell backed with lead, and thus overall quite soft. To have a fine impression an absolutely perfe-c-t backing is necessary along with the knowledge of how to print from such a plate. The 2¢ plate remained undiscovered until the 1920's and intact. The 10¢ was evidently cut up in the 1860s-1880s period. To do this without a major machine shop the plate was evidently removed from the cast iron backing. One section of 100 was cut into a unit of 70 and two of 9. The plate of 70 and one of 9 had numerous printings over the years, some are quality prints some horrid. The rest of the plate, three sections of 100 were virtually not printed from; two of the plates are known today, one is not is still lost.
We assume the Chicago Historical Society plate and the Sitter plate had a common origin. Perhaps they were not printed from as the original improper backing would not permit quality impressions and with the numerous impressions on the market from the cut up plate the owner didn't pursue the matter. We have no records but from examining the plate and the history the Sitter plate was re-backed properly for the late 1980 printing.
There is still a missing section of 100. We have no idea where it may be today!
The newly discovered old printing from a plate of 100 is not yet plated and perhaps never will be. It is an extremely poor printed impression that was taken from a quality plate made by one of the world major security printers. The defects in the printing are transient being from the printing and not the printing plate. There are some edge marks on both the Chicago H.S. and the Sitter plate but unfortunately the old printing does not show these edges. The old print of 100 could even have been made from the plate of 100 before it was cut-up or the still-missing fourth pane of 100 or the two known sections.
The photograph of the Sitter Plate appears poor when compared with that of the Chicago Historical Society. In reality the Sitter Plate is in excellent condition and I was able to examine it in detail however my photographic abilities were not up to those required. The superb print from the Sitter Plate proves the surface is in perfect condition. The print from the Chicago Historical Plate appears poor when compared to the proof quality impression from the Sitter Plate. Again this appears to have been a factor of the printer's skill however I have not been able to actually touch the surface of the Chicago Historical Society plate thus we cannot rule out some problems such as etching from being in contact with acetic paper, plastic, etc.
I would like to take the liberty of naming the two new plate sections for there current owners following the custom of the original broken up section: The Chicago Historical Society Plate and the Sitter Plate. My special thanks to Mark M. Sitter, Bruce E. Engstler, Tiffany Charles of The Chicago Historical Society, John Alviti of The Franklin Institute, David Beech of The British Library and Micki Waldrop of the Atlanta History Center for there cooperation in making this study possible. Also many thanks to Tony Crumbley and Jerry Palazolo for their help leading to the discovery of the last section to turn up.
This study has turned up new information on the lost 5¢ typographed plate shipped on the blockade runner "Bermuda" which never reached the Confederate. This plate was discovered in 1954 and has again been re-discovered, it may be the basis for my next CSA article.
Leonard H. Hartmann PO Box 36006 Louisville, Ky 40233 Leonard@pbbooks.net
Figure 1, Recently Discovered Old Printing from Unit of 100
Figure 2, Old Book Store Atlanta print
Figure 3, Photograph of Chicago Historical Society Plate
Figure 4, Print from Chicago Historical Society Plate, block of 4 to show details
Figure 5, Photograph of Sitter Plate
Figure 6, Print from Sitter Plate, block of 4 to show details