Reconstruction: The Ku Klux Klan
Most U.S. postmasters were not issued standard devices for canceling stamps until the 1890s. Prior to that, they were purchased from vendors or homemade. A number of hand-carved KKK-themed cancels were used by the post office at Union Mills, Pennsylvania in 1870. They serve as a reminder that the Klan had adherents in the north as well as the south.
‘Skull and Crossbones’ KKK postal cancel, Union Mills, Pennsylvania, c. 1870
The skull and crossbones was one of the earliest symbols adopted by the Klan.
Watertown, New York Ku Klux Klan, c. 1870
‘Kleagle Mask’ KKK postal cancel, Union Mills, Pennsylvania, c. 1870
This cancel depicts an early style of homemade KKK mask. Stamp collectors refer to it as a kleagle mask after the title given to Klan recruiters, but that word was unknown in the 1870s.
Mississippi Ku Klux, Harper's Weekly, January 27, 1872
Ku Klux Klan hood and mask, c. 1990
Former slaves hoping to enjoy newfound freedom were soon confronted by whites trying to maintain their supremacy. The KKK began as a society of Confederate veterans that used terrorism to intimidate freedmen. Its most recognizable symbol—the pointed hood and mask—did not become common until the 1920s, however.