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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

Skull and Crossbones KKK postal cancel, Union Mills, Pennsylvania, c. 1870
‘Skull and Crossbones’ KKK postal cancel, Union Mills, Pennsylvania, c. 1870
Loan from Stampvestors LLC through Columbian Stamp Company
Loan from Stampvestors LLC through Columbian Stamp Company

The skull and crossbones was one of the earliest symbols adopted by the Klan.

Proin quis purus turpis. Nunc gravida elementum ultrices..
Watertown, New York Ku Klux Klan, c. 1870
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

 
Watertown, New York Ku Klux Klan, c. 1870

‘Kleagle Mask’ KKK postal cancel, Union Mills, Pennsylvania, c. 1870

Proin quis purus turpis. Nunc gravida elementum ultrices..
Kleagle Mask KKK postal cancel, Union Mills, Pennsylvania, c. 1870
Loan from Stampvestors LLC through Columbian Stamp Company
Loan from Stampvestors LLC through Columbian Stamp Company

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.


Transcript

Mississippi Ku Klux, Harper's Weekly, January 27, 1872
Mississippi Ku Klux, Harper's Weekly, January 27, 1872
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

 
Mississippi Ku Klux, Harper's Weekly, January 27, 1872

Ku Klux Klan hood and mask, c. 1990

Ku Klux Klan hood and mask, c. 1990
Ku Klux Klan hood and mask, c. 1990
Loan from the Southern Poverty Law Center collection of regalia donated by former Klan members
Loan from the Southern Poverty Law Center collection
of regalia donated by former Klan members

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.


Transcript