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Texas | Columns | "Texas Tales"

Goliad Stamp

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
If you ever find a letter sent from Goliad during the early days of the Civil War, hold onto it. Pasted on the envelope might be one of the rarer philatelic items known to collectors-a Goliad stamp.

The United States issued its first postage stamp in 1847, a couple of years after Texas became one of the states of the union. That was the same year the old Spanish town of Goliad got its first post office, though mail service in Texas dated back to the days of the republic. After statehood, the federal government delivered mail to the recipient based on weight and distance, the price of a letter ranging from 2 cents to 10 cents.

When Texas seceded to join the Confederacy early in 1861, U.S. stamps continued to be used until June 1 that year, more than a month after the war began. Since the Confederate government in Richmond had not gotten around to printing stamps yet, some Southern postmasters printed their own for a while. In Texas, seven post offices did that, including Goliad.

For some reason, Goliad folks tended to use them more than residents of the other Texas towns, making the locally printed stamps more common. In this sense, however, common is a very relative word. Goliad stamps are still rarer than twice-a-day home mail delivery. Well, that never happens anymore. But if you ever do run across a Texas-issued Civil War stamp, chances are it will be one sold in Goliad.

Generically, these rare stamps are known to collectors as "Postmaster Provincials." Only 38 Southern cities issued them.

John A. Clarke was Goliad's postmaster before, during and after the war. The stamps he issued were produced in a variety of colors, including black, gray, rose, blue and green. The green stamps are the scarcest of the scarce. Denominations were 5 and 10 cents.

As the Goliad Advance Guard pointed out during the Great Depression in 1929: "If you had a green Goliad stamp and it was in fine condition on the original envelope, you would have no trouble in selling it for enough to buy a new automobile with the proceeds."

When that story appeared, a few old timers still remembered the days of the Civil War and might even have had some of the stamps squirreled away. If any of those stamps surfaced today they would be even rarer. Only seven of the 5-cent Goliad stamps are known and only four of the 10-cent stamps.

In 2012, a New York auction house sold a rose-colored 5-cent stamp, on its original light blue envelope, for $37,500. A 10-cent gray Goliad stamp fetched $22,000 and a dark blue 5-cent stamp went for $10,500. That comes to $70,000 for three small pieces of paper.

No matter what kind of stamp was affixed to the envelopes in the mail pouch, carrying the mail was a risky business in Texas until well after the Civil War. Along the state's western frontier, mail riders who wanted to make their deliveries and keep their scalp had to be keenly aware of their surroundings.

Before the war, a company of Texas Rangers under the legendary Capt. John S. "Rip" Ford patrolling in South Texas had an unusual encounter. When the rangers spotted a solitary rider in the distance, they thought he was an Indian and gave chase. The lone rider, who in reality was a postal carrier, took the charging rangers as Indians and spurred his horse into a wild gallop.

During his frenzy to escape the "Indians," the mail rider lost or dumped his mail bags. When the rangers rode up on the bags and realized their mistake, they picked them up and galloped off again to apologize and give the mailman his bags back.

"Come get your mail," one of the rangers yelled when they got close enough. "We are not Indians."

But the mail rider kept frantically spurring his horse and the rangers decided that following him was not worth jading their horses. Even so, the frightened mail carrier didn't slow down or stop until he got to Goliad. Safely back in town, he proudly proclaimed that he had outrun a wily Indian raiding party.

"They couldn't fool me with their English," he said.

Of course, he was going to have to start looking for his jettisoned mail bags.

The use of Goliad stamps was about as short-lived as the Ranger's chase of that postal rider. The Confederacy finally printed stamps in October 1861, making the provincial stamps obsolete. In fewer than four years, the Confederacy and its stamps had both become obsolete.
Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" August 2, 2019

Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

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  • Go Fishing Day 7-19-19
  • Little Mysteries 7-12-19
  • Dallas' Long-Haired Judge 7-1-19
  • Dust Storms 6-24-19

    See more »

  • Related Topics:
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    Mike Cox's "Texas Tales" :

  • The Old Lady and the Sea 7-25-19
  • Go Fishing Day 7-19-19
  • Little Mysteries 7-12-19
  • Dallas' Long-Haired Judge 7-1-19
  • Dust Storms 6-24-19

    See more »


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