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The Civil War: 150 Years

black and white photo of Civil War soldiers

2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The National Postal Museum is proud to offer Civil War-related material and stories as seen through the lens of postal history and philately. We hope you enjoy the collection of resources that we have assembled.

 


black and white photo of Civil War soldiers

A Nation Divided

When the conflict between the north and south finally exploded into war, the nation's communication system was also ripped in two. The system instituted to unify the country through the dissemination of information was instead used to solidify the break.


a variety of colorful American Civil War stamps

American Civil War Postage Stamp Issue 

The Postal Service issued a 20 stamp sheet of 32-cent Civil War stamps on June 29, 1995 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Designed by Mark Hess of Katonah, New York, the stamps are the second installment of the Classic Collection.


a sheet of green stamps

Collection Starters: The Robertson Confederate Pane

The National Postal Museum’s collection of 5.9 million postal and philatelic objects—the second largest in the Smithsonian institution—is much older than the museum. It all began in the 1880s with a single photograph and a pane of Confederate stamps: the Robertson Confederate pane.


a stamp with Andrew Jackson

Confederate States of America (CSA) Postage Stamp Issues

The Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia, assumed control over the economic, political, and military life of the South. The Confederacy solved the problem of moving mail by creating its own postal service. The C.S.A. Post Office Department was instituted on February 21, 1861. On June 1, 1861, postal service between the warring North and South was suspended.


detail of a Confederate Printing Plate

Museum Acquires Rare Confederate Printing Plate

The Museum has acquired a Confederate postage stamp printing plate that was confiscated during the Civil War. The copper plate was ordered by the Confederate States of America and manufactured by De La Rue & Co. of London in 1862. The federal vessel Mercedita captured the British ship Bermuda between Bermuda and Nassau April 27, 1862, and as part of the contraband, the printing plate was brought to Philadelphia and sold.


2 cent Lincoln stamp

Eliot A. Landau: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War 

In 2009 Eliot Landau’s award-winning philatelic exhibition Lincoln, Slavery, and the Civil War was on display at the Postal Museum. Landau’s exhibition combined philately, ephemera, and artifacts in an engaging exploration of Lincoln’s presidency, the Civil War, and Black History.  As seen in this video of the Seventh Annual Maynard Sundman Lecture, Mr. Landau spoke about the exhibit.


a Confederate States of America envelope

Conflict Mail: Civil War Covers 

A portion of the National Postal Museum's collection of covers of the American Civil War, a bloody clash between two sections of the nation, is available on the Arago website.


sepia envelope with a flag

Remembering the War Through the Mails: Postwar Confederate Patriotic Envelopes and the Reconstruction of Civil War Memory 

A 2006 Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History paper presented at the National Postal Museum by Steven R. Boyd, Ph.D.


two cancelled stamps with Benjamin Franklin

A Nation at Civil War: Contrasting Postal Systems 

A 2008 Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History paper presented at the National Postal Museum by Van Koppersmith and Wade E. Saadi.


a certificate with George Washington

Official Needs, Post Civil War Nationalism and the Designs of United States Stamps in the Ninteenth Century 

A 2010 Winton M. Blount Symposium on Postal History paper presented at the National Postal Museum by Steven R. Boyd, Ph.D.


elegant script in a letter

Letter Writing in America: Civil War Letters 

As tensions in the United States rose to a fever pitch and civil war broke out in 1861, Union leaders began to develop ways to isolate the mutinous southern states. In addition to erecting a blockade meant to keep supplies from reaching the South, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair cut off mail service to states that had seceded.


a yellowed letter

War Letters: Lost & Found 

This is a past exhibit of war letters, including Civil War letters, presented by the National Postal Museum in partnership with The Legacy Project.


black and white photo of a train

Railway Mail Service

The Railway Mail Service (RMS) was one of the most significant changes in the postal system to arise during the Civil War. The original experiments for the service took place in Missouri, but ended quickly because of the unreliable nature of the railway system during the war. The service took off once it was moved to states under full northern control.


black and white illustration of a postal worker

City Free Delivery

Free mail delivery, one of several mail services we now take for granted, began during the Civil War. The service began in 1863 on an experimental basis. Established by the U.S. Post Office Department, the service was limited to northern cities. After the war, a number of Civil War veterans found work as letter carriers in the new service.


Postal Money Order

Money Orders

First issued by the Post Office Department in 1864, domestic money orders were popular among Civil War soldiers away from home and they quickly boomed with the immigrant population when the service was extended to foreign money orders in 1869.


4 cent Lincoln stamp

From Postmaster To President: Celebrating Lincoln’s 200th Birthday Through Stamps & Postal History

To honor the sixteenth president of the United States, the National Postal Museum celebrates important events in Lincoln's life and his service to the country during one of its darkest hours by featuring Lincoln related stamps and postal history objects.


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