The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 53, December 29, 2013, Article 5


John and Nancy Wilson submitted this review of Fred Reed's book on Civil War Postage Stamp Envelopes. Thanks! -Editor

CWSE Cover Civil War Stamp Envelopes – The Issuers & Their Times Author Fred L. Reed lll, 2013, BNR Press, Port Clinton, Ohio, Foreword by Art Paradis, An Appreciation by Chester L. Krause, Reviewed by John and Nancy Wilson

Fred L. Reed lll covers the subject of these envelopes in such an authoritative manner that nobody will have to look no further than this reference for information. Coming in at 4 pounds, we consider it a “Heavyweight Champion” of books. It is softcover, 8.5 x 11 inches and has 672 pages with about 1,500 black and white illustrations. The “Foreword” was done by Art Paradis, who over the last 13 years collected 213 different varieties of postage currency envelopes. Our interest in these envelopes started many years ago when we received a listing of these envelopes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin dealer, Kevin Foley, in the middle 1980s. We purchased several of the envelopes from this listing and over the years have added more. We collect by denomination type and are only lacking a few. Until the Foley listing, we rarely saw these envelopes for sale anywhere.

Hoarding of small change or specie in 1861-62 brought about by the Civil War caused havoc with merchants and businesses who were trying to conduct their daily business. A Law was passed on July 17, 1862, authorizing the gummed postage stamps to be used as money. Some innovative merchant came up with the idea to place postage stamps in an envelope with the amount posted on the outside.

Few have covered the civil war monetary system like Mr. Reed has. He divides the civil war monetary system into four sections. Part l will look at the federal and private Postage Currency. Part ll was encased stamps, which he covered in a separate book. Part lll covers, “A Numismatists Perspective of the Civil War series.” Part lV, will look at Civil War era counterfeiting.

The reference is dedicated to three luminaries of the hobby who are no longer with us, Art Kagin, Matt Rothert and Milt Friedberg. Milt did his own compilation of postage currency envelopes for the Fractional Currency Collectors Board (FCCB) in June, 1986. Milt’s catalog was distributed to the membership of the FCCB and is rarely available in the market place. The “An Appreciation” by renowned numismatist Chester L. Krause explains how the six different types were produced. He describes how his interest started about three decades ago and his purchase of three envelopes for $30 each. Chet mentioned his collection contained over 150 different envelopes which were sold over several sales in recent years. The Ford collection (sold in 2007) had 141 pieces and the Western Reserve Smythe 2007 sale had 42 examples. Through Chet’s collection, Krause Publication published in its Standard Catalog of United States Paper Money a listing and pricing of the envelopes.

The “Preface” includes the authors’ thoughts on U. S. postage stamps as necessity war money. He also describes the denominations he has found along with their rarity. There are 90 separate issues of different designs. The preface also has a reprint of the Henry Russell Drowne article that was in the American Journal of Numismatics in 1918. Thomas Cunningham is quoted in this article, “that even in 1893 he had never seen one of these envelopes.” Reed shows copies of reprinted envelopes which were published in newspapers along with ads for them. He also describes U. S. postage currency that came into circulation at about the same time that the envelopes appeared. The author reprints the front page of the 1865 Charles Moreau pamphlet (only ten known) which listed the envelopes.

Fred explains that because of a few collectors back in the issuing years some of the envelopes were saved. He mentions that almost all of the envelopes known today come from ten hoards “dating back to David Proskey, Charles C. Moreau, and others who assembled their collection of these ephemeral pieces during the Civil War era.” He has identified 500 plus varieties of these envelopes. Besides listing the varieties the author gives information on the issuer, shows illustrations of their work and finally, “provides their context – by also giving their merchant-issuers’ background information.” He also gives the important information on the 128 identified issuers along with how many different varieties are known for each denomination. Reed discusses the under-appreciation of these envelopes in the collecting community and how “flat out rare” they are. Reed lists his rarity scale from R-10 Unique to R-1 100+. You will find a rarity for all the postage currency envelopes listed in this reference.

The “Civil War Postage Stamp Envelope Timeline” starts on July 4, 1862 with the William Newton, Newport, RI stamp scrip notes which were issued in denominations from 5 to 50-cents. The Timeline ends in October, 2013. This timeline covers everything that would be related to postage stamp envelopes, along with Laws, Patents, Post Office recommendations, collectors & dealers, auction and fixed price lists, the issuers, newspaper and hobby publication articles, donations to institutions, as well as important events or dates.

The next 31 pages cover, “Prior Cataloging Efforts/Famous Collections.” This covers everybody who had anything to do with this type of substitute money. The author tells us Henry Russell Drowne was a fractional currency collector and his, “Ground-breaking article on Civil War Stamp envelopes has been an essential authority for collectors and catalogers for nearly the past century.” Another collector was Deats who was Charter Member No.15 of the American Numismatic Association and owned the “very rare 1822 half eagle (3 known).” Reed tells stories and has photos of: F. C. C. Boyd, David Proskey, Norman Stack, Herman Crofoot, Matt Rothert, Abe Kosoff, Dr. Richard Doty, Charles J. Affleck, Milt Friedberg, Kevin Foley, Ezra Cole, John J. Ford Jr, Chet Krause, David Bowers, Ray Waltz, Peter Huntoon, Art Paradis and several others.

Fred Reed lists all the known U.S. postage currency envelopes in alphabetical order by state. There are 128 issuers and 514 different varieties produced by them. Almost all varieties are illustrated and extensive census and provenance data is given, along with auction prices realized for these scarce monetary instruments over the last century of their active collecting.” In this book he uses the same catalog numbers he gave to Arthur and Ira Friedberg for their 19th and 20th Editions for Paper Money of the United States.

Illinois was the first state to issue postage currency envelopes and only one example is known. The issuer was McNall & Co. from Chicago. The author covers this merchant very thoroughly and all we have to do now is find one of the envelopes he produced. Like Illinois, Maine has only one example known and it is listed as R-10 Unique. The issuer was J. W. Cofren who was a pharmacist from Augusta, Maine. Information regarding Mr. Cofren will be found on the page along with a reprint of an 1855 ad which was in the Maine Register.

Only one R-10 Unique example is listed from Baltimore, Maryland. Ten issuers are listed from Massachusetts and most are very rare. Seven come from Boston, one from New Bedford & Boston, and one each from Salem and Springfield. For a state type set you should be able to get one from Boston merchant Snow & Hapgood. Snow & Hapgood produced a Civil War patriotic envelope. Also shown is an illustration of a fractional currency wallet that has straps holding fractional notes.

New Jersey has two issuers and both are rare. Fred Reed shows some of the advertising pieces he has found on the New Jersey’s Taylor’ Hotel showing up on Ebay, which included an 1880 four-page advertising brochure for the hotel along with other items. The author mentions that unfortunately he wasn’t successful for this lot or all would have been illustrated. Think of the thousands of numismatic items Mr. Reed writes about regarding the Civil War or Lincoln and the time it takes to find the information? It is mind-boggling the amount of time he spends on his research and books.

New York has 108 different issuers and the book is full of great information on all of them. It appears that some of the information he is writing about would only be possible if you lived during the Civil War. John Campion Force, or Johnnie Force as his friends called him, was an extraordinary restaurateur, bar keeper, hotel owner, sportsman and art love in Brooklyn, New York, who advertised his National Shades Chop House on postage stamp envelopes during the Civil war.

The author then talks about Mr. Force like he is right in the business talking to him and or his friends. Ohio (Cincinnati) only had one issuer, (Oscar H. Harpel), (R-9, 2 known) who issued 5 and 20 cent envelopes. A photo of Oscar Harpel says he “was a song writer, an innovative printer, author and illustrator/painter.” A letter head and other ephemeral items are illustrated. Four issuers will be found from Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) and all are rare. Issuer E. M. Riggin issued a 50 cent envelope which is listed as R-10 Unique.

Another issuer, S. C. Upham, issued two envelopes with no denomination on them. Mr. Upham is well known as an issuer of Confederate currency replicas. Numismaster - Krause Publications has great information on Mr. Upham. The article was done by Fred Reed for Coins Magazine in 2008, and can be found at: Rhode Island only had one Issuer, L. C. Munn from Providence.

Anonymous issues follow and maybe you can lend your knowledge by providing the author the name of the merchant, city or the state of the 17 pages of postage stamp envelopes listed. Appendix A has the “Reed Cataloging System for stamp envelopes at a glance.” All the issuers are listed alphabetically in this section and not by state. The “Annotated Select Bibliography” covers 26 pages and gives an idea of the work that went into this reference.

As collectors of these envelopes, we have already numbered the examples in our collection. We now have the definitive reference on the envelopes and can study them in a knowledgeable manner. This “Heavyweight Champion” of references is well worth the price of $59.95 softcover or $95 hardcover (not Smyth-sewn). Postage, handling and insurance per book is $10. It is available from BNR Press, 132 East Second Street, Port Clinton, OH. 43452-1115 or call (419) 732-6683.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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