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Article #13 for CHRONICLE No. 203

CSA 5˘ De La Rue, "Bermuda" Shipment, Another Mystery

by Leonard H. Hartmann

All rights reserved, copyright © 2004, Leonard H. Hartmann

Article #13 for CHRONICLE No. 203

by Leonard H. Hartmann

All rights reserved, copyright ©2004, Leonard H. Hartmann

To date this is my most difficult study, the facts appear evident but I find them too outrageous to be believed. Since the early 1960's my specialty has been the CSA lithographs, but there was always an interest in the Typographs. They were neglected, plating data by Charles J. Phillips indicating two plates used in London, published in the 1929 Dietz book did not fit the information as then interpreted. This article will present a truly perplexing subject and still another London plate. Please see my article in CHRONICLE No. 194, May, 2002, for details on the lost De La Rue shipment on the "Bermuda". It must be kept in mind that these stamps were printed from electrotyped plates and were most likely make from the same matrix, we know some plates were made as a single unit of 4 panes but some may have consisted of 4 individual panes mounted together to make the plate.

An auction this year has turned up an item of much interest, Regency Stamp Co., St. Louis, Feb 21-22, lot 753. The catalog description read in part: (6) 1862 DAVIS 5˘ LIGHT BLUE, LARGE BLOCK. Block of 70 glued to cardboard with text below. Stamps printed by De La Rue & sent to CSA aboard British steamer Bermuda. Text tells what happened after Steamer" …captured by U.S.S. "Mercedes" and brought-by her prize crew into the Port of Philada., labeled as prize ………"

The description was certainly plausible but my bid was based on more than a grain of salt as to what was what! There are many fraudulent CSA items with most glowing vintage descriptions and in some cases with authentic signatures of importance but the material presented does not substantiate the description. An excellent example is the fraudulent Lynchburg provisional die sold as authentic in 1895 by R. H. Glass, the CSA postmaster who issued the provisional. Glass sold it as authentic, the documentation still survives, see the "Confederate Philatelist", Vol. 15, No. 3, May-June 1970. The bottom line is the die was fraudulent, i.e. a J.W. Scott catalog illustration.

The importance of this lot is the connection with the De La Rue shipment of stamps and plates that was lost when the "Bermuda" was captured trying to run the blockade, as the basic stamp is common. There was previously only one documented single stamp from this shipment, see the Chronicle No. 194 and Dietz's 1929 book, "The Postal Service of The Confederate States of America", pages 162-171. My interest was also sparked by the long-standing difficulty in distinguishing some London and Richmond printings and the fact that the "London" printings are surprisingly common considering the circumstances of their issue and the age. The CSA was short of stamps in 1862, based on all records, the last engraved stamps that were still in use at the end of the war are common but unused lithographs are scarce as they were long used up. We would expect the typographed stamps should also have also been used up. I had long suspected that a good quantity of the Bermuda stamps escaped the court ordered destruction and are in the philatelic market today or perhaps there was another shipment of stamps. Additional shipments could have been in conjunction with the shipment of the two Altered Plates. This question was discussed in "Chronicle" based on the single record copy and trying to interpret the significance of the authentic De La Rue plate of the 5˘ owned by the Franklin Institute. Guidelines on identification of the London and Richmond printings were presented but they are not conclusive. One cannot make a definitive designation on fine printing differences based on one copy of a stamp.

The initial investigations, before I had seen the lot, was directed to the Judge in the Bermuda Prize Court case, Judge John W. Cadwalader, as the document was initialed "JWC". I quickly learned the judge died in 1879. I soon learned that many male Cadwalader's, even to this day, have John in their family names. Further research into the family, the court employees and the penmanship would certainly be possible but quite difficult. We hope a reader of this article will take up the challenge. In all the document reads quite logically and accurately with no indications it is not legitimate. Two long CSA articles that appeared in "The American Philatelist" during 1888-89, Vol. 3, by Major Edw. B. Evans and C. B. Corwin discussed these stamps but an actual reference to the "Bermuda" shipment is not made and other details are quite sketchy relying on old articles and Col Offutt's memory. Evidently details of the court activities with respect to the "Bermuda" shipment were not common philatelic knowledge at that time.

There is one interesting spelling point to give a bit more credence to this documentation on the block of 70. The name of the Captain of the "Mercidita" is spelled Stelwagen as it is on the 1866 Navy document however the court transcript has it as Stella.

The document to which the stamps are affixed reads, original text quoted, Figure 1:

These stamps were captured with the British steamer steamer (second steamer lined through) "Bermuda" by the U.S.S. Mercedes: Capt Stelwagen while attempting to run the Blockade of Charleston Harbor.

The "Bermuda" was brought by her prize crew into the port of Philada., labeled as prize & finally condemned as such.

The Cargo of the "Bermuda" was a very valuable one, consisting of dry goods, stationary, cutlery etc.

The records of the U.S.D. Court at Philada shows an inventory &: appraisement of the cargo including a large number of cases of Confederate Stamps. The prize commissioners were directed by Judge Cadwalader to destroy the stamps.

This order was obeyed with the exception of a few that were distributed among the U.S. Dist Atty & other officers of the Court. The Bermuda was captured about 1863. The records of the Court will give the date accurately.

J.W.C. Oct 25th, 1899

When the lot arrived, I verified the initial evaluation and transcribed the inscription. The stamps are authentic; on London paper and consistent in print quality with the previous know copy from the "Bermuda" shipment and other De La Rue printings. All is quite plausible with respect to what we now know and I cannot fault it. As to the item being fraudulent the 1899 date is strange, as one from the 1860's would be expected but it could easily be so.

Thinking the stamps should be removed from the backing for proper preservation I scanned it before sending it off. While scanning I was shocked, the stamps were not well align vertically. The stamps were noticeably "askew"; starting at the upper right corner and going down, each stamp is slightly moved left from the one above it. I then checked the actual stamps with a glass and found the same was again quite evident. If you look at any two stamps the alignment is quite noticeably askew. However for all CSA De La Rue stamps and plates the alignment is almost always perfect. If you look at any two adjoining stamps on this block you will note that they do not align as expected.

It has been long recognized that the De La Rue plates were well made and the individual subjects are all in excellent alignment. I checked several panes of 100 of the London and Richmond printing, also all known CSA De La Rue items such as the 10˘ and 2˘ Altered Plate printing and found all in excellent with most in nearly perfect alignment. There are a few adjoining stamps that are not exactly perfectly aligned but only a few and they are only off a fraction. De La Rue did good work!

Figure 2 shows a typical block from the London printing, original gum, upper right pane, positions 58 the UL corner, 90 the LR. Figure 3 shows a block from the Bermuda document, positions counting from the block and not necessarily the pane, positions 28 the UL corner, 60 the lower right. The lower horizontal row in Figure 1 shows a slight trace of a stamp below thus we know it cannot be positions 91-100 but we do not know otherwise.

Figure 4 shows the right vertical column from the "Bermuda" block with the typical kiltered images.

The question of authenticity and origin of the manuscript is now of less importance, there is no question, if the previous observations are substantiated, the stamps differ from what we now know the CSA received and issued, and now exist as printed stamps or metal plates.

I decided to try to verify the observations and to quantify them. If one measures the diagonal of our subject Bermuda block, stamp outside corners, upper left to lower right you get 25.85 cm and from upper right to lower left you get 26.00 cm indicating the block is not exactly a rectangle. This is the old carpenter's way to verify a rectangle. I then did the same measurements on the lower blocks of 70 from a number of CSA De La Rue stamps. In all cases the left and right diagonals are the same length, i.e. a rectangle. The measurements are not truly scientific, however they should be relatively consistent and somewhat accurate. I made the measurements over a one hour period, from original stamps and impressions, with one Dietzgen Excello rule.

  1. 5˘ De La Rue, London print, with gum, 25.95 cm
  2. 5˘ De La Rue, London print, no gum now present, 26.05 cm
  3. 5˘ De La Rue, Richmond print on London paper, gum 25.90 cm
  4. 5˘ De La Rue, Richmond print on London paper, late printing, gum 25.65 cm
  5. 5˘ De La Rue, printings from Franklin Institute plate, never gummed, 26.10 cm
  6. 2˘ De La Rue, 1926 and 1954 printings, never gummed, 26.10 cm
  7. 10˘ Altered Place, normal impression, never gummed, 26.10 cm
  8. 10˘ Altered Plate, Sitter impression on enameled card, never gummed 26.15 cm

The above measurements are consistent with expected paper shrinkage, and all establish a rectangular printing plate. The Sitter impression is on a glazed card and would have minimal shrinkage, De La Rue was experts in printing thus less shrinkage is expected compared with Richmond printings.As all adjoining stamps show such a large abrupt shift, and not just an overall shift, there is no question that paper shrinkage is not a factor in this phenomena.

A friend has examined the problem initially by taking another pane of the 5˘ London print that came from the hoard found in the De La Rue archives in the 1950's or 60's. He measured the diagonals of the lower block of 70 using callipers at the university, that are accurate to + or - 0.002 cm. He commented the human error in judging the exact corners is much greater than this. His was 25.870 cm each way. This confirms his block is also square. I think this is a good agreement with my above 25.95 measurement.

He also looked at the block of 70 with respect to paper shrinkage and has come up with another analysis that I can not fault:

If the stamp paper had been shrunk or warped by the drying of the paper and or the glue, then the stamps might be out of vertical alignment. But a ruler held against the side of a stamp in the top row would still align, more or less, with the sides of the stamps in the column under it. The shrinkage or warpage would only mean that the angle between the ruler and the bottom row of the sheet would not be 90? But in this case, a ruler held against the side of a stamp in the top row cuts off more and more of each stamp in the column under it as you move down the column. The stamps themselves are aligned perfectly. Each individual row has been shifted its own individual amount to the right. This had to have been caused by the stamps being improperly locked in the frame.

The above suggests that the plate used by De La Rue in London to print at least some of the stamps lost on the "Bermuda" shipment was poorly made, and is distinct from all others. We know the basic methods that De La Rue used to make their printing plates but I do not know the exact fabrication details. One can assuming the 100 impressions from the original die were locked together in a frame to make up a pane. It would be difficult to secure each subject individually and such locking was a common printing practice. A misalignment could easily shift the original subjects all in one direction so the pane is not an exact rectangle. The electrotype was then made from this matrix. The electrotype could be used to print stamps. The shifting in the original subject lock up could be easily fixed, with plates made before or after being perfect. The printing plate of 4 panes could be made consisting of 4 individual electrotypes fixed to a backing plate or a matrix of 4 panes used to produce a single metal plate.

We know there were several printing plates made for the 5˘ over a period of time. The unused one now in the Franklin Institute has the 4 panes made as a single unit, it was probably the one shipped on the "Bermuda" but this is not proven. We would assume the same plate arrangement for the others but we do not know. The 2˘ Altered Plate also consist of 4 panes arranged in a plate as a single unit. However, the 10˘ Altered Plate appears to have been made as four individual panes based on the excellent alignment of the screw holes in the two surviving intact panes. This point on the 10˘ as to a unit of one or four is of no real consequence.

The first shipment of stamps from London, the 5˘, arrived in Richmond. The second shipment on the "Bermuda" consisting of a 5˘ plate or plates and printed stamps never reached the Confederate States and ended up in the Philadelphia Prize Court. At lest one and probably two 5˘ plates reached the Confederacy and were used to print stamps. At least two plates were used in London to print issued stamps. Our "kiltered" plate being distinctive.

De La Rue was a major printer of adhesive stamps for the British Empire. I have asked several British specialists in the stamps if they have ever seen such a shift on De La Rue work and all reported that they had not. It is thus quite fortuitous that our Lost "Bermuda" Shipment would have this characteristic. I have checked the block of 70 in every way that I can think of and I keep getting the same answer. It is what it appears to be, the plate was skewed when made and differs from all others that we know. Please note, though all CSA De La Rue plates and stamps have excellent alignment, there are a few isolated pairs that show miss-alignment but nothing approaching our "Bermuda" block of 70 with all stamps showing this characteristic. Assuming this block is typical of the stamps in the "Bermuda" shipment, evidently most stamps were destroyed per Judge Cadwalader's order.

Comments and assistance on this study are most desired. There is still much to learn about the CSA stamps from De La Rue. A detailed examination and plating of the existing panes would do much to establish a framework for further study. The stamps in full panes of 100 are still common enough to permit a serious study!

A special thanks to Selden Trimble for his invaluable help and also to Michael O'Reilly.

Leonard H. Hartmann, PO Box 36006, Louisville, Ky 40233


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