There's another great article in the May/June issue of Paper Money
Written by Steve Feller, "The Scrip of John Leonard Riddell,
Postmaster of New Orleans" provides additional information about the New Orleans Mint Director who also served as Postmaster of that city.
Editor Fred Reed kindly forwarded me the text and images. Here's an excerpt. Thanks!
Dr. John Leonard Riddell was a science lecturer,
botanist, geologist, medical doctor, chemist, physicist, professor, microscopist
(the inventor of the binocular microscope), numismatist and
melter at the New Orleans Mint, an original owner of the Confederate
half dollar when it was minted in 1861, Postmaster of New Orleans under Union
and Confederate control, and once again, under Union control, issuer of his own
post office scrip and his own postage stamps, politician, a founder of the New
Orleans Academy of Sciences, and science fiction author! Above all he was involved
in various intrigues before and during the Civil War.
On August 1, 1860, after numerous distinguished and yet volatile career
choices, he was appointed the United States Postmaster for New Orleans by
President James Buchanan. He would be postmaster during the turbulent years
just before and during the Confederate period in New Orleans. He remained true to
form and engaged in several controversies.
After seven Southern states seceded, including Louisiana, the Confederate
government was formed in February 1861. Even though the Civil War broke out
shortly afterwards, the postal relations between the two nations remained cordial,
even after Fort Sumter was attacked. The two postal services agreed that United
States postage could be used in the Confederate States until June 1, 1861. However,
Confederate postage stamps were not ready at that time. Riddell got the bright idea
to produce his own stamps! His were among the historically interesting
Confederate Postmaster Provisional series. Riddell took this action on his own and
with a flourish as the story is related in the local press (The Daily Picayune, June 6,
Further, Riddell produced his own postal scrip while
postmaster! They are curious indeed and consist of 16 distinct
denominations from ½ cent to $5 (also 500 cents). They carry
the imperative "Receivable for postage and redeemable at the
New Orleans Post Office."
Each of these rare notes that was issued is signed or
impressed with J. L. Riddell as postmaster and cosigned by a
New Orleans was a key commercial center of the Confederate
States and was made an early goal of the Union army and navy. On
April 29, 1862, Admiral Farragut sent an expedition to take control of
the Customs House in New Orleans. Lo and behold Dr. Riddell was
present to greet the two officers who represented the American Navy.
Dr. Riddell's comments were: "Thank god that you are here. I have
been a Union Man all the time. I was appointed by
Buchanan and not Jeff Davis: he only allowed me to
Riddell then showed and escorted these naval officers
to the roof of the building and was present when the
Stars and Stripes were first flown over New Orleans under
Northern re-occupation. The fact that he was born a
Northerner might help explain his sentiments.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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