VERY FINE. THE FAMOUS AND UNIQUE POSTMASTER'S PROVISIONAL OF MOUNT LEBANON, LOUISIANA. THIS REMARKABLE STAMP IS A MIRROR IMAGE OF THE INTENDED DESIGN, WHICH WAS CREATED BY HAMMERING PRINTER'S TYPE INTO A WOOD BLOCK. THE MOUNT LEBANON HAS BEEN DISPLAYED AMONG THE "ARISTOCRATS OF PHILATELY" AT INTERPHIL '76, AMERIPEX '86, ANPHILEX '96 AND STAMP SHOW-NY 2016. IT IS WIDELY REGARDED AS THE MOST VALUABLE STAMP IN CONFEDERATE PHILATELY.
Mount Lebanon was settled in 1847 by immigrants from South Carolina. The village is located in Bienville Parish, which was established in 1848 and named for Jean Baptiste Sieur de Bienville, colonizer of Louisiana and founder of the city of New Orleans. It lies in northern Louisiana, approximately 400 miles distance from New Orleans. Mount Lebanon was the site of the first Baptist church in North Louisiana, and the Baptist Convention founded Mount Lebanon University in 1855. During the Civil War, the school was closed and turned into a hospital -- it moved to Pineville after the war and was re-named Louisiana College.
According to an account by L. B. Dabney, published in the Southern Philatelist (May 1929) and reprinted in the Crown book (p. 238), the Mount Lebanon postmaster during the war (1859-1865) was W. F. Wells, who was publisher of the Louisiana Baptist newspaper. According to citizens of Mount Lebanon who were interviewed by Dabney for his 1929 article, the provisional stamps were printed by Wells and used briefly in June 1861. Mount Lebanon had a wartime population of less than 1,000, and it is unlikely that the stamp saw widespread use.
Apart from its extreme rarity, the Mount Lebanon provisional stamp is believed to be the sole example of a mirror-image stamp in all of philately. The stamp was printed from a piece of wood with a relatively smooth surface. Lines were incised into the wood and strips were removed to create the borders surrounding each stamp. Horizontal and vertical ruled lines were added within the borders of each subject, and a circle was cut into the center. At this point the "engraver" took printer's type and hammered the letters spelling "Mt. Lebanon La." around the circle, and the numeral "5" was impressed into the center. The enlarged photo shown here in upright position clearly shows the effect of this process -- the printed stamp is a mirror image of the right-reading wood engraving. As anyone familiar with printing knows, the plate used to print an image must mirror the intended design. This principle of typography was missed or ignored by the creator of the Mount Lebanon provisional.
The single known example shows parts of three adjoining subjects at left, at the extreme bottom-left corner, and at bottom. There is additional printing to the right of the primary impression, which we think is a second impression. Judging from the size, shape and line breaks of this second impression, this might be the bottom of the woodblock, turned 90 degrees. Such work-and-turn printing is found on other provisionals (Memphis 5c, for example). All of this is purely hypothetical, and we encourage others to develop a better explanation.
The Mount Lebanon cover was part of the Ferrary collection sold at auction in Paris in 1925-1927. It next appeared in the Alfred H. Caspary sale held by H. R. Harmer in 1956, where A. Earl Weatherly acquired it for his collection. At the invitation of Weatherly in 1963, Charles and Lucy Kilbourne acquired a number of important provisional rarities by private sale, including the Mount Lebanon. Most of the Kilbourne Confederate Postmasters' Provisionals collection was sold by Siegel in 1999 (Sale 815, the Mount Lebanon was lot 93 and appeared on the front cover). The successful bidder in the Kilbourne sale was William H. Gross, who paid $385,000 -- a world record price for any Confederate philatelic item. The Gross Confederate collection was sold by Charles F. Shreve in 2009 (Spink-Shreves sale, Nov. 19, 2009, the Mount Lebanon was lot 31 and appeared on the front cover). At the Gross sale the successful bidder was the Hon. J. William Middendorf II. It has been shown in the Aristocrats of Philately display, alongside major philatelic rarities of the world, at Interphil 1976, Ameripex 1986, Anphilex 1996 and World Stamp Show-NY 2016.
Ex Ferrary, Caspary, Weatherly, Kilbourne and Gross.