My passion of philately for over fifty years has led to me to this engaging endeavor. An inheritance of a splendid collection of pre-WWII Japanese postage bequeathed to me during childhood initialized my curiosity and spirit of inquiry about collecting which I now consider my own archive. Upon completing this course, I have gained a deeper understanding on how the archives have enriched, enhanced, and contributed to an understudied part of our American past from this course. My naïve behavior exhibited in the early part of the course was quickly challenged by Professor Sanos on what is really an archive? Jennifer Milligan clarified this question by recommending “it is historical analysis of the archive that can best reveal the limits of the archive’s power to speak in the name of history.” Discussing “how the archive obtained the authority in the first place is a critical component on this reflection.”
I underestimated that there is a copious amount of government documents and other methodologies regarding archives that still await my analysis for further research in my own thesis. Enlightened by thinking in pluralistic and collective terms on what the archive stands for, it has unleashed many new venues for exploration. Reflecting on my own published work relying on archived postal history is my intention here. The relative paucity of scholarly examinations of Confederate postal history triggered my reasons for probing into this fascinating realm of American history. Yael A. Sternhell suggests, “The archive is at the center of our work as historians.” To a great extent, both romanticized and real, archives support our evidence, arguments, and desire to share and contribute something relevant to scholarly work that emerges as valued research. Sternhill’s work brings in Francis Blouin and Charles Rosenberg’s postmodern argument by claiming: “that the archive itself is not simply a reflection or an image of an event but also shapes the event and the phenomena of its origins. In other words, all archival records are not only themselves the product of social, cultural, and especially political processes, they very much affect the workings of these processes as well, and hence they influence the kinds of realities that archival collections reflect.” He advocates that “the afterlives of the Confederate archive reveal the extraordinary power of historical documents to shape not just narratives of the past, but also the contours of the future.”
In 1961, Charlotte Capers (Director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History) wrote a special acknowledgement for the newly released two volume set available to the public. These sacred archives of history regarding daily life from Mississippi citizens during the American Civil War would provide the necessary first-hand accounts. With conviction, Capers endorsed her fellow citizens to understand, “The story recorded here will not, then be of the times, but in the times. The men and women of the 1860’s have written this book. They are the actors in the play, they speak the parts. These on-the-scene recorders tell an uncontrived tale and simply stood upright to talk about themselves and the world that was falling apart about them.” She concludes by claiming “they are the canonical Confederate scriptures, with no time perspective to tidy them up, no aura of memory to prettify and romanticize and glorify the horrors experienced; only the candid record of the historical moment.” A dedication at the beginning of this massive two volume set would quote the printed funeral sermon for a young soldier named Henry Hughes as a moving tribute to ‘the survival of things of the spirit in times of war.’ Titled, “His Honest Dust,” perhaps illustrated an example of Carolyn Steedman’s definition. The young soldier named Henry Hughes from Port Gibson, Mississippi, killed in battle and brought home, would represent all upon which the Confederacy meant to the state of MS. for future generations to remember. “Now his honest dust has made the common clods of soil, holy ground. Good people that pass by where he sleeps will sigh and say, here lies a useful citizen; he lived to a good purpose: his best monument is not above him but behind him, not built for him, but built by him. In the hush of the starry midnight, let the mockingbird pour her melodious song, for he lived as he counselled others to live.”
Ann Stoler cites Robert Darnton’s thoughts on “identifying ‘history in the ethnographic grain’ and what cultural history should be about, and have in mind how people made sense of the world and thought about how they thought.” Stoler would elaborate that “epistemic anxieties are precisely about that reflection. Here the ethno-graphic is about the graphic, detail production of social kinds, the archival power that allowed its political deployment, and the grafting of affective states to those inventions.”
The work completed by Arthur Hecht, an archivist with the National Archives and Chairman of the Committee on Postal History Information of the American Philatelic Society would provide another example of Stoler’s theory. Hecht would describe in vivid detail the extant of Confederate postal records categorized which offered exceptional amounts of legislation to review, ultimately transferred to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. In 1938, they could finally be examined by the public. Henry Putnam Beers would create a monumental 536 page Confederate archive with 22 pages dedicated to precise detail about their Post Office Department and its operations. His bibliographical guide to archive and manuscript sources and Bibliographies in American History: Guide to Materials for Research, originally published in 1938, revised in 1982 has remained a standard American history reference tool.
With the archives placed at the loci, it is my intention to combine two kinds of writing history: professional and popular for a wide range of readers. Reflecting on my own experience with archives exhibits a love for what artisans, printers, and the postal service of the Confederate government would create and accomplish during war time conditions. By illuminating what was considered a mundane part of daily life, postal images and cancellations with political messages would play a key role in supporting the Confederacy’s desire to construct a sense of nationalism. The bourgeoisie class of the Antebellum South would ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society. By copying several European nations’ postal images of royalty, elitism, and power; Confederate States’ would feature newly appointed President Jefferson Davis by portraying various images of him on every type of postal stationery, stamp, card, and cover. This hegemonic masculinity was a call to all white Southerners to support their reasons for establishing this newly formed nation-state.
I purposely selected the Confederacy’s ability to establish their postal system based on its understudied content in contemporary literature during my research course with Professor Robert Wooster. Confederate records were destroyed, pilfered, and sold on the market after the war by Confederates themselves trying to obtain U.S. dollars. Even a brief glance at indices of books on the American Civil War and Reconstruction leaves one hard pressed to find context related to this critical part of the nation’s communication system. The words; post office, mail, postal legislation, and postmaster generals (and their specific names) are glaringly absent in their indices. As Michel-Rolph Trouillot describes; “the unearthing of silences, and the historians’ subsequent emphasis on the retrospective significance of hitherto neglected events, requires not only extra labor at the archives (certainly true in my case primarily based on distance), whether or not to use primary sources-but also a project linked to an interpretation (my own).” Finding a niche, something not analyzed, yet to be unearthed, and relevant in today’s academia motivated me to deem it so. Where does one begin? Benjamin Proctor’s book on Postmaster General John H. Reagan was pinnacle in starting this project for sources. Reagan’s memoirs would also support evidence needed to explain the Confederacy’s reasons for establishing their own postal system in a short time. All of this directed me to search in what seemed now like countless avenues of discovery.
Confederate postage stamps, postal history, and the post office as an agency of change hold meaning beyond their mute images; rather, their broader meanings illustrate how white Southern citizens and their newly created government commented on their past. This postage (defined more specifically as stamps, covers/envelopes, stationery, and unique post office markings) provides historians with an additional lens through which we can gain a better understanding of a society’s ideals, values, and methods of communication.
Jacques Derrida describes postal communication as a series of transmissions between envoyer, courier, and acceptor, in which meaning is mediated, detoured, and deferred by language. These transmissions regarding the act of writing, sending, and receiving reflect the communication created by the postal system as access to agency. The void and unknown dimensions between both parties, would cause much anxiety, excitement, and anticipation about the fate of their correspondence under grueling wartime conditions. In this Derridian light, the envoyer, courier, and acceptor all experienced an entirely new way of communicating with more fashionable postage designed by Confederate artisans which became archives themselves postwar. The Confederate postal service would transform letter writing as a cultural medium. This created a bridge between the personal/private communication with political/military information to be exchanged and significantly influence the production of public opinion across the South. These parties did not always know what was here or there, near or far, the picture or the text, written letter, caption, or even the address in how it was written elegantly, if not more gracefully penned. This postage would leave much for interpretation by collectors, archivists, and historians long after the war’s end. Their postage would focus its chivalrous artwork on an agrarian culture, messages of gallant victories with propaganda, gender, race, Christianity, innovation, identity, and collectively promoting an ideology of Nationalism.
As the archival theorists Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook suggest the “archives have their origins in the information needs and social values of rulers, governments, businesses, and individuals who establish and maintain them. Archives are not some pristine storehouse of historical documentation that has piled up, but a reflection of and often justification for the society that creates them.” Kathryn Burns argues “that we make our archives and sources part of our research, looking at them as well as through them.” This approach expands our understanding from visual images of the past and the “importance of viewing archives as subjects of inquiry, as historical artifacts in their own right.”
My first approach to the archives was a sobering reality based on what was not local, nor having funds or time to personally visit the American Philatelic Society (APS) and its remodeled research library located in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. Communication would depend on phone, email, and sending/receiving documents and requests through certified U.S. mail. My professional relationship with Tara Murphy, head librarian from previous work proved invaluable based on her enthusiasm to support my endless requests over four months. She introduced me to her research assistant Scott Tiffney, who was also working on his PhD in American History. All correspondence regarding selected primary and secondary source documents on my content was selected, shipped, and borrowed at little cost for the duration of my research. Not knowing them in person made them in a sense ‘gatekeepers’ on what I was able to request. Creating a level of trust and integrity between myself and the APS, played a crucial role obtaining additional information they were willing to loan me. With strict guidelines on the August Dietz Sr. collection regarding insurance fees and duration of time checked out, it was imperative I follow their guidelines. The relationship built over time between myself and APS continued to bear more fruit and loosen up means of requesting additional correspondence back into the archives for more specific primary sources to enrich the final paper.
As a lifelong member of the APS, the benefits of obtaining anything available and related to my content dated from the early stages from 1886 through 1939 was crucial in providing evidence, supporting arguments, and constructing credible research. Having access to the collection started in 1880 by Dietz was perhaps the most telling regarding discoveries and misunderstood interpretations of the Confederacy’s postal system. John Randolph argues that “archives are more than just places or mental maps.” “They are also objects, or more precisely collections of objects, possessed of a physical nature that is crucial to everything archives make possible.” Dietz published a brilliant book titled, The Postal Service of the Confederate States of America in 1929. It is the scholarly work referred to by generations of philatelic students to this day. Obtaining his work created anxiety and enthusiasm on what to extract for writing my paper. To live with “ghosts of the past required much solitude and reflection” on what I would write creating both interest and opportunities to build on available archives based on observations that had not been interpreted as a reflection of its short-lived construction of national identity using several postal images. Perhaps I too, ‘inhaled the dust’ in a similar way as did Jules Michelet and was also unaware of that experience with old collections I’d purchased through my own life as a philatelist, naïve about Steedman’s definition. Indeed, the Dietz collection and his precision to detail by cataloging thousands of mute postal artifacts were “a surplus; left over from something else (the war, a deceased government, personal and public narratives of raw emotion). The circularity of his archives were merited efforts to ensure the impossibility of things disappearing, or going away, or being gone.”
Randolph’s assessment says that the “life of a collection begins before it enters such institutions; just as often, collections change hands; and in this sense the physical history of an archive is a story of production, exchange and use across, and among a number of institutional settings.” Dietz’s work would find its way in several locations throughout the country and the world regarding regional philatelic organizations as well as university libraries. For Dietz, “his ‘biography’ suggests itself as a productive metaphor for thinking about the physical history of an archive and its relationship to his own lived experience, including our own” as curious philatelists. Building on the work of Dietz would take me into several directions with other archival resources. The Confederate Stamp Alliance founded in February 1935, became a national organization of Confederate collectors. Patricia Kaufman was introduced to Confederate postal history in 1965 and became engrossed in exhibiting, writing, and conducting valuable research. Randolph’s cogent thoughts explained that “whether or not historians choose to be interested in archives’ stories, the ‘lives of collections’ are becoming more visible; the need to incorporate their biographies into our own, more plain.” Her website and personal comments provided much regarding additional primary sources to irradiate.
My thesis advisor, Professor Robert Wooster provided me a plethora of resources via the internet, the Mary and Jeff Bell library at TAMU-CC, including several edits and advice on completing my research paper. Visiting TAMU-College Station’s symposium in April 2016 offered additional reference materials, and other archival sources through their own Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. Working with an archivist during my visit allowed me to see primary documents preserved on the Confederacy. These environments were one of inclusion and mutual respect for what we all found fascinating about postal history. Fate brought me to Professor Stephen Boyd of UTSA whom I had the good fortune of meeting at a Humanities Texas Seminar in Corpus Christi in 2014. Boyd, also a lifelong member of APS opened another door to resources on where to go regarding my own research. We began communicating through email and he generously shared his own work using iconographic examples of American Civil War era covers and envelopes to depict visions of an independent nation-state.
Encouragement from professors, librarians, archivists, and graduate students provided inspiration to delve deeper into the archive looking for something that has not been written about in contemporary scholarship. Steedman defines this as ‘magical realism’ using telling detail to make the past come alive again. Her argument claims “that something we need to know about archives is the people in them; the inhabitants and users of archives. The way archives are, is to do with their inhabitants, temporary and permanent; the living and the dead.” In other words, a strong desire to find truth in what may have been interpreted in the past with much bias and ignorance towards an ideology that no longer exists, nor is relevant in today’s postal systems built on the rich diversity of its citizens. This interactive heuristic strategy on learning exceeded my expectations, and built confidence. Eudora Welty observes “memory is a living thing-it too is in transit.” “The identity of a group goes hand in hand with the continuous creation of its sense of the past. No enduring social memory can ever be static.”
Once buried in the countless government, personal, and public documents offered by those described, I found myself immersed in what Ben Kafka calls the “charismatic megafauna” of paperwork. Under conditions of “war and revolution the most minor technical error can have catastrophic results.” In my case, interpreting 19th century writing, illegible names on envelopes, and faded images of poorly preserved postage proved daunting. Combined with secondary sources written during the early 20th century was no easier to comprehend during initial readings. Kafka suggests that “paperwork syncopates the state’s rhythms and destabilizes its structures.”
Studying the technology of printing, design, and decisions on how postage would get distributed became a cornerstone of my research. The archives available were incomplete pieces of detail that had to be ‘put together’ as if completing some type of jigsaw puzzle. Perhaps in similar ways these physical archives could be compared to what Stoler called “drier, formulaic documents-administrative epistles, curt exchanges, and lengthy monthly reports.” It is fair to subsume that documents created by Confederate politicians, cabinet members and the military officers were products of a state (not in expansion), but in a revolution to create a new nation at any cost. In any event they performed in which Stoler mentions as “bureaucrats eager to be viewed favorably by their superiors, on whose judgment their salaries, positions, and pensions would depend.” Also evident was “their ability to carefully deflect attention from their own faults, add small flourishes that affirmed their loyalties, and were quick to reiterate their investment” in the cause leading to secession and war. She suggests “that reports (in my case, the Annual reports of the Postmaster General) were fashioned cultural accounts with political effects that precluded some conclusions and encouraged others.”  The tug of war between the Confederate Post Office Department and Department of Treasury for President Davis’ attention and approval warrant another paper in itself.
Michel-Rolph Trouillot tells us “that historical narratives are premised on previous understanding, which are themselves premised on the distribution of archival power.” He would define peoples as “subjects of history the way workers are subjects of a strike.” One such man named Felix Gregory Defontaine would provide this for my understanding on how documents were ‘rescued’. A successful editor of the Charleston Mercury and an eye witness of Fort Sumter in 1861, he was also on the spot when the Confederacy collapsed in Richmond and succeeded in securing for his subsequent personal enrichment some of the most valuable documents (to include key postal records). Defontaine secured many documents, articles, and letters which were not destroyed or pilfered by his own beloved Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia. “The most important records of the Confederate Post Office Department were sent away from Richmond in charge of the chief of the Contract Bureau, Henry St. George Offut, and turned over by him to the postmaster at Chester, South Carolina. A considerable quantity of Post Office Department records were eventually recovered at that place, where they were found abandoned in the cars at the depot. Since it was not until the end of May that a Union officer was sent to Chester, the records were subject to pillage during a considerable period and much scattered about. In March, 1866, the War Department transferred all Confederate Post Office Department records to the United States Post Office Department. In 1896 most of the bound volumes were received back from the Justice Department. “Besides the post office department records, it appears that these other documents were sent along to Chester, and how DeFontaine obtained possession of them is told by Dr. Dallas Irvine: “When the archives were run down to Chester in April, 1865, a former war correspondent, F. G. DeFontaine, was publishing a newspaper in that town. According to his story, the quartermaster in charge, in abandoning the records, practically told him to help himself. At any rate DeFontaine went to the depot with a cotton truck and succeeded in carrying off a whole load of stationery and records. Among the records obtained were the provisional and permanent constitutions, postal records, Indian treaties, patent drawings, and a volume containing the official record on opinions of Attorney General, Judah P. Benjamin.” DeFontaine appreciated the commercial value of the records which were clearly manifested by his willingness to smuggle the documents out of harm’s way. As Dr. Irvine put it: “DeFontaine certainly wrung the monetary value out of the two constitutions while piously regretting that there was no Southern historical society rich enough to purchase them. Eventually, according to his own statement, few of the items originally obtained remained in his possession, most of them having found their way into the hands of other persons, who were deeply interested in their preservation. The original of the provisional constitution was bought from DeFontaine by the millionaire philanthropist, W. W. Corcoran, who established the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. Mr. Corcoran presented the copy to the Southern Historical Society, and it is now in the Confederate Museum in Richmond, Virginia.”
Using Walter Benjamin’s theory from Lisa Leff’s work, “the collector sees through them to their past, and the act can feel something like redemption.” Assembling them in the “magic circle” of his collection, the collector breathes life into the objects; in so doing, he renews his own existence, as well as theirs.”  Eric Ketelaar would imply that “each interaction, intervention, interrogation, and interpretation of a record, by creator, user, and archivist is an activation of that record. Each activation attributes to the archives infinite meaning.” Sternhell recognized this, which was certainly true for Confederate records in the aftermath of war. Possibly “first intended as a tool of retribution, they ended up as a vehicle of reconciliation, a testament not so much to the horrors of war, as to the nation’s ability to leave the war behind.” 
The Post-war south would see women, not men, preserve and sustain the legacy of the Confederacy by “forging a link between civilization and their gender and race. This helped to explain the projects they undertook as well as the rhetoric they used to justify them.” Regarding archived Confederate postal history, “the extraordinary emphasis women placed on an Anglo-Saxon heritage would reflect and justify not only the logic of white supremacy in the South, but provide a crucial ideological ballast by rooting the contemporary racial hierarchy in a seemingly self-ordained historical narrative.”
Bonnie Smith would suggest that “the most persistent and successful local historians were women in the U.S. South, who engaged in an effort, as one put it, to see the wrongs of history righted.”  These courageous women would “support the development of local archives, the interviews of veterans and other denizens of the Confederacy and the Old South, to include the conduct of historical societies.” Fitzhugh Brundage also found the women of the Postbellum south as “architects of white historical memory, by both explaining and mystifying the historical roots of white supremacy and elite power in the South.” By “archiving white memory, the public history movement in the South was unmistakable: while the black past had no relevance for public life, white history would be fundamental to it.” This would hold true throughout the South regarding archival preservation, whether it be facilities, archivists and historians, amateurs, and citizens wanting their letters, stationery, postal cards and stamps secured to sustain that memory in what was commonly known to be “the lost cause.” Brundage would also praise Trouillot in his acknowledgments, and introduction regarding new insights about southern memory. He acquainted the reader by suggesting that “the prevailing narrow conception of state obligations looked to self-appointed groups in the public sphere. The creation of influential historical narratives was as likely to take place outside of academia as within it; as custodians of the past (DeFontaine and Dietz in my story), southern politicians, antiquarians, artists, and writers exercised at least as much influence as did scholars.” He summarizes that “even the best-funded and best-managed repositories perpetuated ignorance about the very history that they were charged with preserving. For at least the first half of the twentieth century, the archival impulse was an extension of the systematic colonization of public spheres by white elites.”
The same type of white exclusionary support would hold true within the establishment of the American Philatelic Society, started in 1886 as a new organization to preserve postal history, create a new leisurely hobby, and strive to deter fraudulent artifacts. Even its logo which featured a vignette of a young white Philatelia still depicted today as a symbol that mirrored a desired aura of tradition, suggesting Victorian things were highly prized. This culture of ‘highly prized things’ still prevails today that exhibited the influence of feminist values by what Smith defined as “high amateurism during the late 19th century.”
Shelia Brennan suggests that historians often overlook postal images. Specifically, “many scholars treat stamps as mere instruments, rather than as objects deeply embedded in culture, with complicated stories to tell.”  The images mirror much about the South’s new found identity at the onset of war by illuminating this patriotism on its postage. Stamps today do not shape public memory in the same ways they have in the past, which is why they are important as historical cultural artifacts. Brennan argues “that stamps and the postal service occupied a more central, yet understudied, role in the creation and circulation of historical narratives about our American past.” Reflecting the trends of more recent philatelic scholarship, using Shelia Brennan’s dissertation on postage stamps and the postal system was intended to bridge this lacuna between historians, archivists, and collectors. Brennan urges her readers to re-examine the ways that stamps and the postal service shape national life. She created enthusiasm and discovery regarding philately by using today’s digital technology and constructing a magnificent archive of postal history on her website. Offering both an open and blind peer review completed in August 2016 ushered in new insights and interpretations of postal history into the world of philately. This site has been leveraged frequently for my own work regarding the Confederacy and plays a vital role of inclusivity worldwide pertaining to fresh contemporary research. Brennan suggests that postage “often acted as official and visual press releases to the world announcing the establishment of a newly-independent nation, the ascension of a new monarch, or the election of a national leader.” She concludes that collectors have often been looked upon as quirky individuals obsessed with the minutiae of the things they collect. Curators are beginning to embrace collectors, and other hobbyists, as valuable experts with specialized knowledge whom can help interpret the material culture found in artifact rooms. The digital age has also encouraged some professional historians and curators to invite others to share in the processes of saving and interpreting their own history. With an eye towards the archive, it is her hope that historians and museum professionals can see collectors as history workers in their own right. Visualization and memorialization of postal history shed new light on our understanding of the past. As scholars of memory and memorialization have shown, the institutionalization of memory in a society served the needs of a nation or community at any given time.
Kafka claims “with respect to history and theory of paperwork, we can probably trace this approach back to Bruno Latour’s essay, “Visualization and Cognition: Drawing things together,” which illustrated how science studies might illuminate the production of other kinds of official or quasi-official knowledge.” Kafka argues that paperwork is unpredictable. Certainly true in the philatelic realm of archives. “First and foremost a medium of communication, and subject to the material and semiotic exigencies of differe’ance. In other words, shit happens.” Being in the archives; “can be part of a struggle in which pleasure and unpleasure, love and aggression, conscious and unconscious motivation all play a role”
Postal archives coupled with narratives using fine-tuned, precise research will continue to uncover history and bestow narratives not yet interpreted. An excellent review on Burton’s work, Cathy A. Frierson would suggest that we can learn from the mastery shown by these contributors. Adding authority to their own critique of archival fetishism, and proposals for more self-conscious interactions with archives-as-technologies-of-power, can give us, as new historians, a wider embrace of alternative bodies of evidence.”  In closing, methodologies and theories learned about the archive this fall in HIST 5310, will enhance my diversified approach by becoming more precise, suspicious at times, and focused on specific content regardless of obstacles. Interpreting other nation-states’ postal history to include how colonialism would fade with newly formed countries emerging with different ideologies, pre and post war impact on nations, and divided countries that would never experience reunification, while others, like the failure of the Confederate States of America would simply cease to exist.
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