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Mr. Donald B. Johnstone, great-grandson of Corporal Leroy S. Griswold (1838-1928), Co. H, 9th Regiment, Vt. Vols., and author of "Postal History of Burlington, Vermont: The First 100 Years" has graciously given permission to reproduce the following from his book.

Effects of the Civil War

The year 1861 brought about many changes in the United States as the Civil War erupted. The Post Office Department was not immune, as the sudden need for new and different postage stamps provided a period in postal history that differs markedly from others. The Burlington Post Office building was in its fourth year of use and sharing its facilities with the U.S. Customs activities. A new postmaster was appointed on March 28 by the name of George Grenville Benedict, the son of George Wyllys Benedict who had brought the telegraph to the area in 1847, and both together bought the Burlington Free Press in 1853. the population of Burlington had grown to 8000 residents in 1861.

A new series of postage stamps was issued during the summer of 1861. Post offices were authorized to exchange new stamps for the old series which was being demonetized. The Burlington Free Press of August 19, 1861 carried a notice. "The public is hereby notified that the postage stamps of the new style just issued by the Post Office Dept. have been received at this office; that I am now ready to exchange stamps of the new style for an equivalent amount of the old issue during a period of six days from the date of this notice, and that after the expiration of that period of days, stamps of the old issue will not be received in payment of postage at this office. By order of the Post Office Dept. G.G. Benedict, Postmaster Burlington."

That same day, the newspaper carried the following editorial, and it should be remembered that the editor was also the postmaster. "The postmaster of Burlington announces in our advertisement columns the readiness for delivery of the new issue of postage stamps made necessary by the secession and thievery of rebel postmasters. The new stamps resemble the old in size and general idea and appearance, but differ s to the details, the surroundings of the medallion heads etc. THey also differ as to shades of color, the one cent stamps being a lighter shade of blue than the old, the three cent stamps a shade of pink or carmine instead or red, the ten cent stamps a darker shade of green etc. Each stamp of the new issue has the denomination of the stamp both in figure an din word together with initials U S in the corners. The engraving is done by the American Bank Note Co. of New York, and both design and execution are in tastefulness and artistic finish, a decided improvement on the old. It will be noticed that the old stamps may be exchanged for new at the post office for one week to come."

The demand for the new stamps in Burlington appears to have been so great that the first supply was exhausted, as evidenced by the following Burlington Free Press notice of October 1, 1861. "Special Notice. The supply of stamps of the new issue being now equal to the demand, the public are notified that after 6 days from the day of this notice, stamps of the old issue cannot be exchanged in payment of postage at this office. - G. G. Benedict, P.M." Benedict continued as the postmaster until March 20, 1865, when Samuel Huntington replaced him. George Bigelow, another printer and the publisher of the Burlington Times, replaced Huntington in 1867, and he was replaced in 171 by Benedict for his second term as postmaster, a position he held until 1875. It is of interest to note that several of the Burlington postmasters were newspaper publishers and/or printers, including Mills, Stacy, Benedict, and Bigelow.

The Civil War hysteria in Burlington, as throughout the nation, brought problems to the people due to coin shortages. having very little faith in paper money, people hoarded coinage, gold and silver at first, and later copper coins. The result meant hardship in the domestic commerce. One of the many schemes to overcome the coin shortage was the use of postage stamps in making change. To assist in this, the Burlington Post Office announced in July of 1862 that it would offer postage stamps without gum in various denominations.(26) Although it seems like an anomaly to buy stamps with coins to replace coins, the practice generally involved stores that carried an account at the post office, and it was the stores and shops that employed stamps in making change. Congress even passed a law to become effective on August 1, 1862, to issue stamps without gum for legal tender. This, of course, was the precursor to the introduction of encased postage stamps, and even later, the issuance of paper postal currency.

On July 1, 1863 the drop letter fee was increased from 1¢ to 2¢, thus necessitating, for the first time, a 2¢ postage stamp. A black 2¢ stamp with the head of Andrew Jackson was issued, and it is commonly referred to as the "Black Jack." In addition to drop letters, the stamps also paid the rate for printed circulars as well as to make up the first class postage, both domestic and foreign. The earliest use that has been recorded for Burlington is July 23, 1863, and for a comprehensive study of the stamp in Vermont, see Mommsen(27). The stamp continued in general use until the 2¢ stamp of the 1869 issue became available.

Burlington was incorporated as a city in 1865, and its first mayor was Albert Catlin. The Burlington Free PRess of March 9, 1865 carried a tribute to him. "Mayor Catlin has done a good thing in stationing a policeman at the post office evenings where the loitering of fast characters of both sexes about the boxes has, for a long time, been a great nuisance. The public can assist the officer somewhat in his duties by remembering that the north door is intended exclusively for ladies."

Cancelling postage stamps on letter mail in Burlington did not always conform to regulations. The July 23, 1860 regulations indicated that postmasters were forbidden to use the circular date handstamps to cancel postage stamps, and that a very different canceller was to be used.(28) In spite of this directive, Burlington letter mail continued having postage stamps cancelled with the circular date stamps through August of 1862. Thereafter, cancellers were i use that exhibited various designs. By 1864, duplex handstamps were in use which combined a double-line circular date stamps with a four-ring target canceller. Money orders were first made available at the Burlington Post Office on November 1, 1864, and became a very popular and convenient means of sending money.


26. Burlington Free Press, July 19, 1862 and July 23, 1862

27.D. Mommsen, The Black Jack in Vermont, La Posta Monograph 7, Lake Oswego, Oregon, 1991.

28. Postal Laws and Regulations, Sec. 397, July 23, 1860.

Source: Donald B. Johnstone, Postal History of Burlington, Vermont: The First Hundred Years, (Queen City Press, Burlington, 1992), pp. 35, 37, 39. Used with permission of the author.