The Fort Sumter Issue of 1961: A Commemorative in Conflict


Here is the text of the abstract for a presentation I will make in late 2012.


Postal History Symposium
Blue & Gray: Mail and the Civil War
November 2–3, 2012
American Philatelic Center, Bellefonte, Pa.

The Fort Sumter Issue of 1961: A Commemorative in Conflict
David M. Frye

The centennial of the Civil War afforded the administration of President John F. Kennedy the occasion for announcing the debut of its first series of commemorative stamps—the Civil War Centennial series of 1961–1965. The Post Office Department released the first issue in the series on April 12, 1961, recognizing the one-hundredth anniversary of the war’s opening shots at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. While marking this milestone, the issue landed in the midst of a public and rancorous debate over the nature of the country’s centennial observances and their place in a country experiencing the growth of the civil rights movement.

This presentation will place the Fort Sumter issue in the context of the U.S. Post Office Department’s 1961 commemorative stamp program. A sketch of the controversies surrounding the planned centennial celebrations will provide some historical context for the stamp’s issuance. A survey of the content and presentation of first-day cover cachets will explore how the philatelic community, as a part of this country, reflected the nation’s conflicted views on the nature and meaning of the Civil War.

Taken together, the elements of this survey will illustrate how the history of this commemorative stamp, designed to mark the centennial of the Civil War, itself formed the subject of another chapter in this nation’s long struggle to create “a more perfect union.”

Mail and the Civil War Attracts Postal Historians

New Oxford, Pa, — September 21, 2012 — The role of mail in the Civil War will serve as the focus of “Blue & Gray: Mail and the Civil War” when the seventh annual Postal History Symposium meets at the American Philatelic Center, Bellefonte, Pa., on Nov. 2–4, 2012. Produced jointly by the American Philatelic Research Library, the American Philatelic Society, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the three-day event annually draws postal historians, collectors and scholars from a diverse array of disciplines.

The symposium features a dozen presentations on the Civil War’s local postal history, postal uses, the cultural impact of the mail and the economic influences of the mail system. Topics including the following: “Decorated Envelopes as Weapons of War”; “Balancing the Books: Newspapers & the Postal Business of the Confederacy”; “Transatlantic Peace Advocacy and the Fight for Ocean Penny Postage”; and “Union and Confederate Soldiers’ Stationery: Their Designs and Purposes.”

The Postal History Society, one of the affiliates of the American Philatelic Society, includes several of the event’s presenters among its members: Alan Parsons, Diane DeBlois, Robert Dalton Harris, Terence Hines, Douglas N. Clark and David M. Frye.

Saturday evening will feature a banquet with a keynote speech by Dr. Joseph M. Adelman, Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Framingham State University, Framingham, Mass. His scholarship attends to the media, communication and politics of the early periods of American history. The United States Postal Service awarded him the junior Rita Lloyd Moroney Award for Scholarship in Postal History in 2011 for his research article, “‘A Constitutional Conveyance of Intelligence, Public and Private’: The Post Office, the Business of Printing, and the American Revolution.”
The United States Philatelic Classics Society will hold its 2012 philatelic exposition in conjunction with the symposium. The exposition will offer exhibits and a philatelic dealers’ bourse.

The Postal History Society, founded in 1951, encourages the study of postal history—broadly understood—among more than 600 members around the world. More information about the society, including membership and the society’s journal, published in February, June and October, is available on its Web site.

Details about the symposium and registration information are available on the Web.