Arago: Thomas De La Rue & Co., Ltd.

Thomas De La Rue & Co., Ltd.

Wanting to provide postage stamps at the earliest possible date, the Confederate Post Office Department commissioned Hoyer & Ludwig and J.T. Paterson & Co. to produce the original lithograph issues. The Confederacy also sent a government agent to England to search for a better and more efficient solution. An agreement was negotiated with the well-known engravers Thomas De La Rue & Co., Ltd., London, for engraving the designs and making electrotype plates for two denominations, printing a set quantity, and supplying a printing press, ink, and paper, all to be delivered for the local production of additional stamps as needed. The finished stamps and printing plates were placed on board the Confederate blockade runner Bermuda. This vessel was captured by the Union warship Mercedita and taken to Philadelphia, where the Federal Prize Court ordered her cargo destroyed. However, the 5-cent plate survived the ordered destruction and was found in 1954. Today, it is in the possession of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Private reprints have been made from it in blue and in black.

After the first, ill-fated delivery, the Confederacy requested that De La Rue firm print a second lot of stamps and a duplicate four hundred-stamp electrotype plate. The second shipment successfully evaded capture and landed its cargo in Wilmington, North Carolina, in April 1862. The stamps were forwarded to Richmond. The 'London prints' are of excellent quality, clearly printed, and contrast significantly with the rather crude 'Local prints' or 'Richmond prints', as they are known.