Series of 1861-62 90¢ Washington
Earliest Known Use: November 27, 1861
Quantity issued: 388,700 (estimate)
Printed by: National Bank Note Company
Method: Flat plate
U.S. #72 is the 90¢ Washington stamp and the highest denomination in the Civil War issues of 1861-62. Many postally used #72 stamps are known with destinations that include Hong Kong, China and Marseilles, France. Given the delicate nature of negotiations with foreign countries that were occurring during the early months of the Civil War, one can only wonder what important correspondence these foreign mails could have carried.
The Series of 1861-62
In 1860 and 1861, eleven Southern states left the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, an action that resulted in the beginning of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, the war erupted at Fort Sumter. Less than two months later, the United States discontinued postal services to the South. However, numerous stamps were still in the hands of postmasters of seceding states.
Fearing that these stamps would be sent to the North and sold (thus providing money for the Confederate states) the United States sent a proclamation to all postmasters, requesting that the remainders be sent to Washington. When this order was largely ignored, the government made arrangements for designing new issues and demonetizing the old issues.
The process of demonetizing rendered the old stamps invalid, while at the same time replacing them with the newly designed stamps. The new 1861 stamps were sent to post offices along with a notice that required an exchange period of six days be announced in local newspapers. During the exchange period, old stamps could be exchanged for new new ones. After the six-day exchange period, the old stamps were no longer accepted as postage.
While the designs and color of the new issues differed from the old ones, the Postal Service wanted to be certain there would be no confusion between the two. They felt a change that could be easily recognized was necessary, and so the 1861 issues have the values expressed in numerals instead of being written out.
The Confederates, concerned that the Federal Government would use the postal system to spread anti-Southern propaganda, quickly set up their own postal service.