Discover the History of Confederate Printing Press No. 3

August Dietz with the historic No. 3 hand-press used by Hoyer & Ludwig to produce the South’s first postage stamps. Dietz was a printer’s apprentice in the early 1880s and learned the art from older men who had worked at the firm during the Civil War.
Mystic President Don Sundman with No. 3.

Did you know Mystic now owns the only surviving printing press used to produce the first Confederate postage stamps? It’s true – and we love having this direct connection to the Civil War displayed in our headquarters. Let me tell you the story of the press’ 150-year journey from the heart of Dixie to rural upstate New York…

Civil War Erupts – National Postal System Severed

Although the Civil War began with the firing upon Fort Sumter in April 1861, the federal government continued postal service to the southern states until June 1 of that year.

The South had already begun plans to start its own postal service. John Henninger Reagan, who resigned from the U.S. House of Representatives when the war began, was appointed to serve as the Confederate Postmaster General. Reagan was a skilled executive – under his leadership, the agency actually made a profit.

One of Reagan’s first challenges was finding a printing company that could produce postage stamps. He immediately ran ads in both the North and South asking for bids. But the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April made it clear the job would have to go to a firm in the South.  Otherwise, Confederate stamps could easily fall into Union hands.  Unfortunately for Reagan, he didn’t have a lot of good companies to choose from within the Confederacy.

The exact number of presses used by Hoyer & Ludwig is unknown, but many believe it was around six. This press is known simply as No. 3.

Hoyer & Ludwig

Hoyer & Ludwig were German immigrants who settled in Richmond in the 1840s. Hoyer was a goldsmith and the money behind the operation. Ludwig was a skilled master of his art, able to draw his own designs and do his own printing.

Although they were inexperienced with stamp production and ill-equipped, Hoyer & Ludwig were chosen to print the first Confederate stamps. The hand-press known as No. 3 (pictured above) was used to print the stamps using a process known as lithography.

This lithographic stone was made by Dietz and pictures three of the stamps produced by Hoyer & Ludwig on the No. 3 press.

A lithographic stone was placed on the bed of the printer, moistened with water, inked, and covered with paper. The stone was then run through the press and past a blade, which pressed the stamp images onto the paper.

August Dietz, who is considered the “Father of Confederate Philately,” wrote that this process was time consuming. According to Dietz, only 200-480 sheets of stamps could be printed each day.


During the time it held the contract, Hoyer & Ludwig produced the first five Confederate stamps using three different designs – CSA #1-5.

August Dietz

August Dietz (1869-1963) was born in Prussia and moved to Richmond as a toddler. He reportedly began collecting stamps as early as 1880 – around the same time he became apprenticed with Hoyer & Ludwig. He eventually combined his love of stamps and his technical knowledge of printing methods into a career, becoming one of the world’s foremost experts on Confederate stamps.

Dietz – fourth from left – posed in front of the Virginia Philatelist in 1898.

Dietz was acquainted with many Confederate postmasters and printers involved with producing stamps for the South. His work preserved those first-hand accounts and made them available for other collectors. At the age of 25, he became editor of the Virginia Philatelist, a monthly stamp magazine. Eventually, Dietz published The Postal Service of the Confederate States, which is considered the ultimate authority on the subject.

Dietz Acquires No. 3

Hoyer & Ludwig went out of business at the end of the Civil War, selling out to Simons & Keiningham, who later sold its equipment to A. Hoen & Company. (Hoen had introduced lithography in the U.S.) After a fire destroyed their headquarters, Hudson P. Hoen gave the old No. 3 press to Dietz.

No. 3 remained in his family long after August’s 1963 death and was displayed at the Dietz Printing Company for several years. It was also loaned to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, VAPEX 1975 and the APS StampShow in Richmond.

The lithographic stones made for display with No. 3 include a Confederate money stone with four different denomination impressions and a Confederate stamp stone.

More than a century after Dietz acquired No. 3, his heirs offered the press at auction. Mystic President Don Sundman purchased the 1,000-pound cast iron press along with four lithographic stones made by Dietz. It now holds a place of honor at Mystic Stamp Company’s Camden, New York, headquarters.

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  1. I REALLY enjoy your articles on stamp history. I am 65 but have been a collector since I was 10. Please continue your articles. I look forward to reading them. Is there anyway I could get back issues?

  2. Well said, Scotty. I am now 75 and live in Canada. My 1st stamp colle ction was started a bout age 12. Wish I still had the matchbook cover that allowed me to buy my first 1,000 stamps ($1.00 I think). That little collection got lost but I restarted and think I can mark almost 60 years.

    I am also a history buff. Stamps, and their history have really contributed to my (also over 50 years, of study.

    Please keep this site going. I learn things from stamp history I could never find in books.

    Wayne, Kelowna, BC, Canada

  3. I have The Confederate States of America fac-simile die-proof set(enlarged)(1862) but can not find the value history of them. I also have an autograph book by August Dietz. Can you please point me a direction to find out the value.

    1. Hi Anthony,

      For Confederate reprints and proofs, we recommend tracking down a copy of the book “Collector’s Guide to Confederate Philately” by John L. Kimbrough MD and Conrad L. Bush.

      For the autographed book, we recommend the website from Leonard H. Hartmann.

      I hope that helps!

    2. Anthony…
      What is a fac-simile die proof set enlarged?
      I just came across 4 enlarged dies supposedly from a member of the Deitz family..
      I’d like to share images of same and to discuss.

  4. Great article/information. Mystic again leads the way. The same Company that gave collectors excellent access and availability for viewing of the rare Mystic stamps at Washington 2006. Thank you. Thank You. Thank you!

  5. I really enjoy the articles you guys put together for This Day in History. My Grandma collected stamps from all over the world, she had quite a collection as my Grandfather and her traveled quite extensively. This is how my interest in stamps came to be. My collection is only US Stamps but I find the stamps fun and the History pertaining to them very interesting. Your articles give even more insight into stamp history keep them coming they are fantastic.

  6. I’m new to,collecting. I hope to enjoy as much as the ones who replyed to this article before me.

  7. I found this very educational and never knew that the South had started it’s own Postal Service. History I Love it. Thanks Mystic for help keep our history for our younger generations to come.

  8. That story is great. I still can’t get a Scott’s #for the 1923 American Indian 14 cents error ,the full impression is there but the dark blue ink is only on the right half of the stamp . If you know of this stamp and the Scott’s # that is attached to this error please contact me at. brackenjack3@gmail. Com

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