When the Confederacy took over the operation of the mail system in the South on 1 June 1861, no stamps were available. Postmasters were left to their own devices to collect the correct postage and mark letters as paid. It wasn’t until several months later that the first of what are called the general issues were released. Throughout the life of the Confederacy, three different printing methods were used to produce stamps: lithography, typography, and intaglio (engraved).
Postmaster General John Reagan was adamant about procuring engraved stamps to prevent counterfeiting. His hunt for a printer that could produce engraved stamps from steel plates proved fruitless and he was forced to settle for lithographed stamps for the first issues. The first stamp was a 5-cent green stamp (CSA 1) featuring an image of Jefferson Davis, released on 16 October 1861. The stamp was printed from multiple lithographic stones by Hoyer & Ludwig of Richmond, Virginia. This was followed by a 10-cent blue stamp (CSA 2) featuring an image of Thomas Jefferson, released in early November 1861. This stamp was also printed from multiple lithographic stones, first by Hoyer & Ludwig and then by J. T. Paterson of Augusta, Georgia, in late July 1862.
In early 1862 the available supply of green printing ink would no longer meet the printing requirements for the 5-cent stamp. Therefore, the color of the stamp was changed to blue and the 10-cent to red. The 5-cent blue stamp was printed by Hoyer & Ludwig and released in late February. The 10-cent red stamp, also printed by Hoyer & Ludwig, was released in early March.
In late March, a 2-cent green stamp (CSA 3) featuring Andrew Jackson was released for use on drop letters, circulars, and newspapers. This stamp was also printed by Hoyer & Ludwig.
Postmaster General Reagan did not give up on his effort to procure engraved stamps. About the same time as the first stamps were issued, he dispatched an agent to England to procure steel plates for a stamp to be printed by the intaglio method. Somehow the agent ended up with hardened copper plates for the typographic printing of a 5-cent stamp (CSA 6) featuring Jefferson Davis and a 1-cent stamp (CSA 14) featuring John C. Calhoun.
A supply of both the 1-cent and 5-cent stamps were printed in England by Thomas De La Rue & Co. and shipped through the blockade to the Confederacy. The London-printed 5-cent stamps were released in mid-April 1862. The 1-cent stamps were never released. Plates for printing the 5-cent stamp were also shipped through the blockade along with a supply of paper and ink. By mid-July 1862 Archer & Daly of Richmond, Virginia, was printing stamps from these plates (CSA 7), first on the paper from England and later on locally procured paper.
In early 1863 Archer & Daly was able to produce steel dies and plates for intaglio (engraved) printing. The firm was quickly issued a contract to produce stamps. In April 1863 four new stamps were released, all printed by the intaglio method. The first was the 2-cent brown red (CSA 8) featuring Andrew Jackson. This was followed by the TEN-cent blue (CSA 9), the 10-cent blue frame line (CSA 10) both featuring a bust of Jefferson Davis.
Also in April the 10-cent blue Type I (CSA 11-AD) was issued. This was followed the next month with a second 10-cent blue stamp (CSA 12-AD) that was almost identical, but prepared from a new die. The 10-cent blue frame line (CSA 10) and the 10-cent blue Type I (CSA 11-AD) were prepared from the same die.
In June 1863, a sixth stamp from yet another engraving was prepared by Archer & Daly. This was the 20-cent green stamp (CSA 13) featuring George Washington.
In 1864 Archer and Daly lost their printing contract and the plates for the 10-cent blue Type I and II were shipped to the firm of Keatinge & Ball in Columbia, South Carolina. This firm continued to print the stamps until the end of the war. These stamps have the same primary catalog number as those printed by Archer & Daly, but they are identified by their poorer print quality.