- The Great Texas Stamp Collection: How Some Stubborn Texas Confederate Postmasters, a Handful of Determined Texas Stamp Collectors, and a Few of the World's Greatest Philatelists Created, Discovered, and Preserved Some of the World's Most Valuable Postage Stamps by Charles W. Deaton
Weaving an intricate tale of passionate stamp collecting into an important story of historical preservation, author Charles W. Deaton brings a handful of colorful characters to life by describing their obsessive personal acquisitions of rare Civil War-era stamps.
The opening chapter describes a confounding problem faced by Texans during the early years of the Civil War. When the Confederate postal system took over operations for mail delivery in the seceded states in June 1861, a chronic shortage of postage stamps soon developed in Texas, as it did in much of the South. Long-distance communication between merchants, families, and soldiers was done almost entirely by letter, and the inability of the Confederacy to supply postage in adequate quantities in the early days of the war created a communication disruption in the lives of many who had taken the easy availability of stamps for granted before the war.
This story begins with a biographical tour of obscure local postmasters in Texas who tackled the stamp shortage in their respective communities [End Page 214] by creating and selling their own local postage as a way to move the logjam of accumulated mail. Deaton has lavishly illustrated these extremely rare creations from postmasters in Beaumont, Goliad, Helena, Halletsville, Port Lavaca, Goliad, Gonzales, Independence, Austin, and Victoria. He artfully describes each of these rare local stamps in intricate detail. These stamps were emergency issues during the war, and philatelists (stamp collectors) will be huge fans of this book, as it unlocks the mystery behind these great rarities. The reader can only assume that this postal shortage was eventually remedied by the Confederacy with a supply of federal stamps delivered to local postmasters, yet there is no discussion of this in the book.
One of the strengths of the book is the way Deaton doggedly tracks each of these stamps. He details the first appearance of these stamps in various auctions and recounts the subsequent media hype in the philatelic publications. He traces the stamps through the hands of great collectors and then through other auctions, sometimes decades later, into the hands of yet another generation of collectors. These biographical sketches of deep-pocketed collectors are filled with personal anecdotes, sometimes interesting and sometimes not. This tends to give the book a rather jagged or disjointed flow at times and can become a distraction when trying to follow the story. Fortunately this is a story about people as much as it is about stamps, and if it were not for this diverse group of private collectors and their obsession with their hobby, only a fraction of these issues would have survived for study by historians like Deaton.
There is a good discussion of pricing, authentication, counterfeits, and errors on this small group of stamps, now known as "Texas locals." Included is a census of all Texas locals known to have survived as organized by their city of issue. This book will be of the greatest interest to the collecting community and is also a story that brings this small corner of Texas history out into the mainstream.
An interesting observation by Deaton is that several more of these Texas locals may still be residing in public hands, sitting in file drawers among family papers or in Civil War letters that lie in university libraries or research institutions. This book, although of a specialized nature, has opened up the subject and just might make philatelists out of all of us.