October 10, 2019
Updated April 15, 2020
Click on photos to enlarge.
“None of it [Confederate money] was printed in the Gervais Street plant, which was used for other printing and lithographing business of Evans and Cogswell.”
- James F. Williams, as quoted in The State, October 7, 1930
One of the more notable historic landmarks in Columbia is the building along the north side of Gervais Street between Huger and Pulaski Streets that currently houses a Publix Supermarket and the Estates on Gervais Townhomes. I have always heard that Confederate money was manufactured at this location. However, while doing research on another subject, I came across a 1930 article in The State newspaper which contained the above quote by James F. Williams. This claim, made by an eyewitness who lived in Columbia during the Civil War, was counter to what I had always heard. Williams’ quote aroused my interest and inspired me to research the story of where, and by whom, Confederate currency was printed in Columbia. This article relates what I have found.
By early April 1862, Union General George B McClellan had transported over 100,000 troops to the lower end of the Virginia peninsula and moved within 65 miles of the Confederate capital. McClellan’s goal was to drive up the peninsula and capture Richmond. Understandably, the possibility that Richmond might fall caused great concern within the Confederate government. So, on April 18, 1862, Memminger gave orders to move the Treasury Note Division to Columbia which was well away from the front lines and considered safe. He requested that the contractors relocate their currency printing operations to South Carolina’s capital city. Two of the firms, Blanton Duncan and Keatinge & Ball, agreed and immediately began preparing to set up plants in Columbia. The other printing firms in Richmond declined to make the move south.
By the end of May 1862, Columbia had become the center of Confederate treasury note production with three firms carrying out contracts from printing plants on Main Street.3 These three were Blanton Duncan, Keatinge & Ball, and James T. Paterson. A fourth firm, Evans & Cogswell, was added in early 1863.
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Blanton DuncanKentucky native Blanton Duncan, a lawyer by training, was the son of a wealthy US congressman who moved to Europe in 1861 to avoid taking sides in the Civil War. In contrast to his father’s decision, Blanton Duncan chose the Confederacy, raised a volunteer regiment in Kentucky, and received a commission as a Lieutenant Colonel. After failing as a military leader and experiencing a near mutiny by his troops, Duncan resigned his commission and went to Richmond. There he set up a printing shop and talked his way into a treasury note contract. He moved to Columbia in May of 1862 in order to continue his contract with the Treasury Note Division. Duncan set up his printing plant on the second floor of Charles Beck’s building on the southeast corner of Main and Washington Streets where the Barringer Building is now.4
|Confederate $10 Note |
Engraved by Keatinge & Ball and Printed by Blanton Duncan in Columbia
Florida State University Digital Repository
In April 1863, Memminger reset the printing contracts and took new proposals from the contractors in Columbia. Duncan’s bid was significantly higher than the others and was rejected. After losing his treasury note contract, Duncan continued his printing operation for a few months, completing other existing contracts and producing commercial products, notably sheet music. By early 1864, Duncan had left Columbia after selling his printing plant to Pierre Valory and Henry Gray. He made his way to Europe where he stayed until after the end of the war.5
Keatinge & Ball
Englishman Edward Keatinge was an expert engraver who had previously worked for the American Bank Note Company in New York City. Memminger recruited him to do engravings for the Treasury Note Division and he formed a company with Virginian Thomas A. Ball for that purpose. Due to Keatinge’s superior engraving work and a need for consistency, Keatinge & Ball were selected as the sole engraving firm for Confederate Treasury notes. They engraved and printed notes in Richmond from August 1861 until April 1862 when they accepted Memminger’s request to move operations to Columbia.
Keatinge & Ball’s first location in Columbia was on the second floor of the Hussung Building at the northeast corner of Main and Pendleton Streets where the Edgar Brown Building stands today. In May of 1863, Keatinge & Ball purchased the City Hotel building and moved their printing plant. This new, more spacious facility was on the southwest corner of Main and Laurel Streets where City Hall is now.
Confederate $1 Note
Engraved and Printed by Keatinge & Ball in Columbia
As General William T. Sherman’s troops approached Columbia, Keatinge & Ball were forced to allow their engraving plates and some of their equipment to be moved along with the fleeing Treasury Note Bureau. Their building and remaining equipment were destroyed in the conflagration that swept Columbia’s Main Street during the night of February 17-18, 1865.
James T. Paterson
A Scottish immigrant, James T. Paterson was a practicing dentist in Augusta, GA, prior to the Civil War. At some point he became interested in engraving and printing and spent most of 1861 in Richmond, VA, learning the craft from firms in that city. When the Richmond firm of Hoyer & Ludwig declined to move to Columbia with the Treasury Note Division, Paterson bought out their treasury note contracts and the equipment they used for those contracts. He moved the equipment to Columbia and set up a printing plant on the second floor of the Stanley Building which was on the west side of what is now the 1400 block of Main Street. Paterson’s company printed treasury notes in Columbia from May of 1862 until April of 1864 when he lost his contract with the Treasury Note Bureau.
Confederate $5 Note
Engraved by Keatinge & Ball and Printed by James T. Paterson in Columbia
Around the same time that he set up shop in Columbia, Paterson assembled a printing plant in Augusta on the second floor of a building at the corner of Broad and McIntosh Streets. From the Augusta plant, Paterson’s company engraved and printed postage stamps for the Confederate Post Office. He also entered into contracts with North Carolina, Alabama, and other states to engrave and print state currency and other security instruments. After losing his treasury note contract, Paterson closed his Columbia plant and continued his printing operations in Augusta until the end of the war.
Evans & Cogswell
With roots dating back to 1821, Walker, Evans & Cogswell operated a binding, printing, and stationery business with offices at 3 Broad and 103 East Bay Streets in Charleston. After John C. Walker died in 1860, Benjamin Evans and Harvey Cogswell continued the firm and changed the name to Evans & Cogswell. The well-respected firm printed and published Bibles, popular novels and nonfiction editions, textbooks, and other commercial products. When the Confederate States were formed, the firm began to contract with the Confederate government and military to produce products such as general orders, maps, forms, blank books, etc. Their most famous publication was South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession.
After treasury note operations were relocated from Richmond to Columbia, Treasury Secretary Memminger soon realized the three firms there were not able to keep up with the demand. So, in October 1862, Memminger asked Evans & Cogswell to establish a branch plant in Columbia and take on a contract for printing Confederate currency. Evans & Cogswell agreed and set up a printing plant for this purpose on the second floor of the Kinsler Building at the northwest corner of Main and Taylor Streets. The building, located where Mast General Store is now, had a spacious hall on the second floor which had previously served as a venue for banquets, balls, operas, plays, etc. This location was especially convenient for Evans and Cogswell since the Confederate Treasury Note Division/Bureau operated out of offices on the third floor of the same structure.
Confederate $5 Note
Engraved by Keatinge & Ball and Printed by Evans & Cogswell in Columbia
After opening their treasury note branch in Columbia by early 1863, Evans & Cogswell continued their general printing business at their main location in Charleston. Examples of books they printed in Charleston during 1863 are Benton’s Heavy Artillery and a novel, Macaria, by Augusta Jane Evans. They also did work there for the Confederate military such as printing general orders and maps.
Then, in August 1863, Union artillery began a bombardment of Charleston that would last until the end of the war. Artillery batteries, built in the marsh of Morris Island, rained deadly incendiary shells down on all parts of Charleston south of Calhoun Street. When the State Bank building next door to Evans & Cogswell was hit, the printing firm decided Charleston was no longer safe and that they should move all their operations to Columbia.
So, Evans & Cogswell secured property on the north side of Gervais Street between Pulaski and Huger Streets, put up four brick walls, covered half the structure with a roof, and finished that half.6 They set up a printing plant in the finished part of the building, and moved their non-treasury note operations into this new facility. They continued printing Confederate currency in the Main Street facility and used the Gervais Street building for the other part of their business that had previously been done in Charleston. By February 15, 1864, they were advertising their new plant capabilities and the publication of some 20 books including Chisolm’s Surgery by Julian J Chisolm and Phillip, a novel by William H Thackeray. They also had a contract to print 100,000 New Testaments for the Confederate States’ Bible Society. All total in the combined Columbia facilities, Evans & Cogswell could boast of 72 printing presses and 24 binding machines.
Evans & Cogswell Invoice Letterhead from January 1865 Listing Both Columbia Locations
Evans & Cogswell continued treasury note operations on Main Street – as well as the general printing work in the new plant on Gervais Street – until being forced to evacuate Columbia with the Treasury Note Bureau ahead of Union troops. Both of Evans & Cogswell’s plants were destroyed during the occupation of Columbia in February 1865. Though all but wiped out by the effects of the war, Evans & Cogswell were able to reestablish their business in Charleston in December 1865 with new partner Irvin Walker. The firm, again named Walker, Evans & Cogswell, continued to do business in the Holy City until 1987.
With Sherman’s army approaching Columbia in February 1865, the Confederate Treasury Bureau, along with the Evans and Cogswell firm, evacuated Columbia and eventually relocated to Greenville. They were able to successfully transport approximately thirty-five printing presses from Evans & Cogswell’s plant, the engraving plates from Keatinge and Ball, and a small amount of ink, paper and other supplies. However, before treasury note operations could be put in operation in Greenville, the Confederacy had collapsed.
The Confederate government did not own or operate facilities for engraving or printing currency. Instead, they contracted with private companies for the engraving and printing of treasury notes. Four of these companies produced Confederate treasury notes at plants located on Main Street in Columbia between 1862 and 1865. One of these companies also built a plant on Gervais Street for their general publishing business. Confederate currency engraving and printing took place on Main Street, not in the Gervais Street building where Publix and Estates on Gervais are now located.
- The Confederate States government contracted for the manufacture of paper currency in the form of treasury notes but did not mint Confederate coins beyond the evaluation stage. They took over the United States mints in New Orleans, LA, Charlotte, NC, and Dahlonega, GA, and continued to produce US coins at those facilities for a while. An effort to mint Confederate coins in New Orleans was cut short when that city fell to US forces. Only four sample half-dollar coins were struck for evaluation before New Orleans was occupied in May 1862. No Confederate coins were released into circulation.
- The Treasury Department’s Treasury Note Division officially became a bureau on February 3, 1864 by act of the Confederate States Congress.
- Main Street was officially named Richardson Street until 1892. The name Main Street is used in this article because that is what readers will understand. This moniker would have also been understood by Columbians during the Civil War because the street was often referred to as Main Street long before that was its official name.
- Blanton Duncan’s printing plant occupied an upstairs space that had previously been the site of the Columbia Athenaeum from 1856-1860. In fact, the location was sometimes still referred to as the Athenaeum Building or Athenaeum Corner. The Athenaeum was a library, reading room, and lecture hall.
- While in Columbia, Blanton Duncan bought a house already in course of construction on Gervais Street where he and his family made their residence. The house later served as General William T. Sherman’s headquarters and eventually became known as the Mimnaugh House. It was demolished in 1962 to make way for an addition to the Town House Hotel.
- There is no indication that Evans & Cogswell ever completed the remainder of the roof and interior of the building on Gervais Street.
- “A Gigantic Publishing House.” Semi-Weekly Observer, Fayetteville, NC, June 27, 1864, page 1.
- “A Trip South.” Fayetteville Weekly Observer, Fayetteville, NC, March 9, 1863, page 3.
- “Blanton Duncan.” Edgefield Advertiser, Edgefield, SC, February 18, 1863, page 4.
- “Blanton Duncan Lithography.” The New York Times, New York, NY, August 15, 1862, page 2.
- “Blanton Duncan.” The Daily Southern Guardian, Columbia, SC, Jul 26, 1862, page 1.
- “Correspondence from Columbia, SC.” The Fayetteville Observer, Fayetteville, NC, March 23, 1863, page 1.
- “Columbia’s Old Confederate Mint Was Never Anything of the Sort.” The State, Columbia, SC, October 7, 1930, page 14.
- “Counterfeits.” Yorkville Enquirer, York, SC, May 20, 1863, page 2.
- “Comptroller’s Report.” Semi-Weekly Standard, Raleigh, NC, December 29, 1863, page 2.
- “Dr J. T. Paterson, Dentist.” The Daily Constitutionalist, Augusta, GA, June 24, 1859, page 4,
- Evans & Cogswell Advertisement. The Daily Confederate, Raleigh, NC, February 17, 1864, page 1.
- Evans & Cogswell Invoice for Treasury Department dated January 15, 1865. Citizens Files, fold3.com, Jan 15, 1865. https://www.fold3.com/image/30971929 (accessed October 4, 2019)
- Evans & Cogswell Invoice for General Beauregard dated February 28, 1863. Citizens Files, fold3.com. https://www.fold3.com/image/30971911 (accessed October 4, 2019)
- Fricke, Pierre. Confederate Currency. Oxford, UK: Shire Publications, 2012, pages 21-23.
- “General Orders.” The Daily Confederate, Raleigh, NC, April 8, 1864, page 2.
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- “Large Warehouse Sold Yesterday.” The State, Columbia, SC, November 5, 1912, page 12.
- Letter from Evans & Cogswell to Sanders Jamison dated December 31, 1864. Citizens Files, fold3.com. https://www.fold3.com/image/30971948 (accessed October 4, 2019)
- “Lithographic Engraving and Printing Establishment.” The Daily Constitutionalist, Augusta, GA, August 19, 1862, page 3.
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- “Macaria.” Richmond Dispatch, Richmond, VA, December 10, 1863, page 2.
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- “New Books Just Published by Evans & Cogswell.” The Camden Confederate, Camden, SC, July 14, 1864, page 2.
- North Carolina Map Blog. “James T Paterson –Confederate Dentist and Map Publisher.” William P Cumming Map Society, 2016. https://blog.ncmaps.org/index.php/james-t-paterson/ (accessed September 3, 2019)
- “Old Dispensary Building.” The State, Columbia, SC, February 17, 1930, page 10.
- “Our Charleston Printers.” Daily Courier, Natchez, Mississippi, MS, March 13, 1963, page 2.
- “Printing, Binding, Paper, etc.” Daily Confederate, Raleigh, NC, Feb 17, 1864, page 1.
- Rice, James Henry. 100 years of WECCO: a history of the Walker, Evans & Cogswell Company manufacturing stationers, 1821-1921. Charleston, SC: Walker, Evans & Cogswell, 1921.
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- Simms, William Gilmore. A City Laid Waste: The Capture, Sack, and Destruction of the City of Columbia. edited by David Aiken, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2005, pages 58, 59, 68.
- The contents of Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the evening of his assassination. N. D. Online Text. https://www.loc.gov/item/scsm001049/ (accessed October 6, 2019)
- “The Seven Days Battles.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, August 23, 1862, page 2.
- Todd, Cecil. Confederate Finance. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009, pages 85-120.
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- “We have ascertained…” Weekly Advertiser, Montgomery, AL, April 5, 1864, page 3.
- Williams, James Franklin. Old and New Columbia. Columbia, SC: Epworth Orphanage Press, 1929, page 105.