Hoyer & Ludwig - Richmond, Virginia
Hoyer & Ludwig, the Richmond lithographers, were the first to receive a contract from the Confederate States Post Office Department. They were neither experienced in stamp printing nor equipped for the job. The scarcity of printing stones forced the firm to recycle each stone after completion of an order, resulting in a new transfer whenever an order for stamps was received from the Confederate Post Office. In addition, inks were mixed in small quantities, causing a wide inconsistency of shades. As a result, the lithographed stamps of the Confederacy present an intriguing challenge to philatelists.
The first Confederate issue, a 5-cent green imperforate bearing the portrait of President Jefferson Davis, appeared on October 16, 1861. Davis was the first living president to appear on a postage stamp. In the absence of radio, television, and lavishly illustrated publications, the postage stamp was looked upon as the best means for introducing the leader of the newly-formed Confederacy to his constituency.
J. T. Paterson & Company - Columbia, South Carolina
In April 1862, when the demand for postage stamps surpassed the production capabilities of Hoyer & Ludwig, the Confederate government commissioned J. T. Paterson & Company of Columbia, South Carolina, to assist Hoyer & Ludwig in printing of the 10-cent blue Thomas Jefferson stamps (Scott CSA #2). Upon completing their contract with the government, Hoyer & Ludwig sold most of its presses and materials to Paterson, who transported them to Columbia, South Carolina, along with 13 apprentices. Shortly thereafter, J. T. Paterson moved to Augusta, Georgia, where the Paterson printings were actually made. Paterson’s work chiefly consisted of lithographing notes of Hoyer & Ludwig engravings.
Thomas De La Rue & Co., Ltd. - London, England
Wanting to provide postage stamps at the earliest possible date, the Confederate Post Office Department commissioned Hoyer & Ludwig and J. T. Paterson & Co. to produce the original lithograph issues. The Confederacy also sent a government agent to England to search for a better and more efficient solution. An agreement was negotiated with the well-known engravers Thomas De La Rue & Co., Ltd., London, for engraving the designs and making electrotype plates for two denominations, printing a set quantity, and supplying a printing press, ink, and paper, all to be delivered for the local production of additional stamps as needed. The British blockade runner Bermuda carried the third order of stamps from De La Rue, their order "C", which was shipped on February 20, 1862 by Fraser Trenholm and Co., the owners of the vessel on her second run across the Atlantic. This vessel was captured by the Union warship Mercedita and taken to Philadelphia, where the Federal Prize Court ordered her cargo destroyed. However, the 5-cent plate survived the ordered destruction and was found in 1954.
For almost ninety years, the printing plate was lost to public view. It sat in the basement of an unidentified Philadelphia historical society for an unknown period of time until it was discovered in 1954 by Major Thomas Coulson, then Director of Museum Research of the Franklin Institute in that city. It was on display in the Franklin Institute for over half a century until it was sold in April 2011 to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Private reprints were made by the late dealer Philip Ward from the plate in the 1950s in blue and in black. This caused an uproar in the Confederate philatelic community as the blue color was very close to the original.
After the first, ill-fated delivery, the Confederacy requested that De La Rue firm print a second lot of stamps and a duplicate four hundred-stamp electrotype plate. The second shipment successfully evaded capture and landed its cargo in Wilmington, North Carolina, in April 1862. The stamps were forwarded to Richmond. The "London prints" are of excellent quality, clearly printed, and contrast significantly with the rather crude "Local prints" or "Richmond prints", as they are known.
Archer & Daly - Richmond, Virginia
From the Confederacy's beginning, Postmaster General John Reagan wanted to provide steel-plate printed stamps similar to those used in the United States, but he was forced to use inferior lithographed and typographed stamps during the first two years of the war. John Archer was a practical engraver and steel-plate printer formerly employed by the American Bank Note Company in New York. He was no doubt enticed to the South in 1861 by Confederate authorities. He formed a partnership with Joseph D. Daly, a wealthy and politically influential plasterer in Richmond, Virginia. Archer & Daly procured the contract to print the 5-cent stamps from the electrotype plates provided by De La Rue, Ltd., London, before creating their own engraved designs. John Halpin, a skilled engraver, followed Archer to Richmond. Daly left the firm after the printing of the Type II 10-cent (Scott CSA-12), and his name was removed from the plates' imprints. In 1864, the Confederate government moved the production of stamps and currency to a safer city farther south. For years, John Halpin's brother Frederick was considered to be the engraver responsible for the Confederate stamps but new evidence put forth in 2015 by a Halpin descendent has shown the correct attribution to be John Halpin rather than Frederick, as Dietz asserted years ago.
Keatinge & Ball - Columbia, South Carolina.
It was long believed that in 1864, as Richmond was in danger of capture by the Union forces, it was deemed wise to transfer the printing of currency and postage stamps to a safer location farther south and this may well have been part of the decision. A more recent discovery, however, indicates the change related to the Post Office Department being dissatisfied with Archer & Daly. The four 10-cent plates, two each for Types I and II, were released to Keatinge & Ball of Columbia, South Carolina. Keatinge & Ball printed and supplied stamps until the end of the war. The Archer & Daly imprint was removed from the plates, and an imprint with the name of the new contractors was substituted. No other changes or retouching occurred. Printing of the Keatinge & Ball stamps ceased on February 17, 1865, when Sherman's army captured Columbia, South Carolina.
The classic determination of Keatinge & Ball printings can generally be recognized by the darker colors, generally inferior printing, and distinctive molasses-colored gum, which was laid on thickly and unevenly, creating streaks. The ink was applied with a heavy brush, which tended to blot-out background details such as the shading around the portrait. The shading frequently appears solid instead of cross-hatched, as on the Archer & Daly printings.
Scientific Testing of Printing Types
In recent years, the reliability of long accepted visual characteristics has come into question. These characteristics may soon be replaced by scientific tests using X-ray powder diffraction and infrared spectroscopy. These non-destructive tests penetrate the surface layers that provide the visual characteristics, and provide information regarding the sub-surface layers that retain the original chemical characteristics of the ink and paper. Preliminary tests have revealed differences in both the ink and the paper used by Archer & Daly and Keatinge & Ball. These findings are being published in The Confederate Philatelist, the journal of the Confederate Stamp Alliance. The equipment needed for this analysis is exceptionally expensive and specialized scientific knowledge is needed to interpret the findings. The stamps are common and inexpensive. Whether the conclusions drawn from this sort of scientific testing will be practical for use by the average collector, dealer or even authentication groups, remains to be seen.