In 1946, a collector sent August Dietz Sr a photograph of a cover that so intrigued Gen Dietz that he included the cover in the 1959 edition of his Confederate States Catalog and Handbook as “A Pronounced Freak.” The same listing was also carried over to the 1986 New Dietz Edition.
The listing with a somewhat poor photocopy of the stamp in question is found on Page 143 of the 1986 New Dietz Catalog and reads as follows --
This is the official catalog listing of an unique cover which has since come to be known as the “Death Mask” cover because of the very skeletal appearance of the Davis portrait of the left stamp of a pair of the 5c Blue Richmond Print. The cover itself has now surfaced from long years of residing in a private collection. The spectral appearance of the stamp is certainly very striking when seen directly. Figure 1 below shows the full cover with the pair of stamps tied to the cover by the blue Columbia SC postmark dated 14 JAN (1863). The cover is actually a folded letter written on blue lined notebook paper, but the letter is not complete. The contents of the letter deal with the purchase of cotton bales and dates the postal use to 1863. The adressee, Col Wm S. Alston at the Shelton PO in South Carolina, was not a CSA army officer but was instead a prominent plantation owner in South Carolina with the title “Col” being most likely honorary and not military. An enlarged close up of the stamp with its unique properties can be seen in Figure 2.
August Dietz Sr was so intrigued by this stamp and cover that he wrote a lengthy letter about the cover to the collector who had sent the photograph. The letter is published here in its entirety as part of the history of the cover.
One can see from the Dietz letter the great difficulties that he encountered in accurately reproducing philatelic material for publication and study more than six decades ago. The advent of the computer and the scanner have certainly simplified things since then. Since Gen Dietz wrote this letter in 1946, no other similar examples have ever been found thus strengthening the argument that this is indeed a one time only freak of handling and is now a well established unique item of Confederate postal history.