United States Confederate Passport Of Georgia 1863

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United States Confederate Passport Of Georgia 1863 issued to Hansford D. Norrell who was a high level Confederate courier from Augusta, Georgia. The passport measures 16-1/2″ x 10″ and is signed by Judah P. Benjamin, Secretary of State, September 29, 1863. The imprinted passport has a very crisp Confederate States of America blind stamp exhibiting a shield with the St. Andrews Cross with stars. This is a rare document not often offered, very fine condition.

United States Confederate Passport Of Georgia 1863

Hansford Duncan Norrell (1834-1914) was a bookseller in Augusta, GA before the Civil War. From clerk in the Confederate treasury department, to treasury courier between Richmond and the deep south, to courier on a secret mission to France, to Confederate representative based in England until the end of the war. On 24 July 1861, Secretary of Treasury Christopher Memminger hired him as a clerk, followed by a 3 June 1862 appointment as a courier. He often was often entrusted with delivering enormous sums of currency; receipts shows that he brought 5 boxes of treasury notes worth $3,000,000 to Jackson, MS and $2,000,000 to Charleston, SC. The treasury department had difficulty printing its notes, and sent Norrell to Europe to secure new engraving plates. He received his orders from Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory on 28 September 1863:

“Herewith you will receive from this department two packages, each containing one thousand Confederate cotton bonds, which you will take charge of and deliver to Hon. Colin J. McRae in Paris. You will proceed in one of the war department’s steamers . . . without delay. . . . The bonds must be so placed as to render their immediate destruction easy and certain should this be necessary to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy.” 

The next day, Mallory suggested destroying the bonds if necessary “either by throwing them into the furnace of the steamer, or overboard so arranged as to sink them.” Newspaper clippings show that his blockade runner only narrowly escaped the Union patrols under heavy fire. However, a 30 November 1863 receipt from his Parisian contact McRae shows that the mission was a success. 

Four letters from 1864 are addressed to Norrell in Liverpool. Most notable is a 27 June letter from Secretary Mallory: “You express confidently the opinion that not only vessels of the Alabama class can be built, but that rams may also be built and sent to sea. . . . Such vessels are greatly needed of both classes, and the man who will furnish them to the Confederacy will be regarded as a public benefactor.” At the close of the war, Norrell was faced with the challenge of returning to America as a defeated enemy. He requested a passport in May 1865, apparently under the false identity of “William Martin (British subject) travelling in America.” (not the above shown).

Norrell papers

United States Confederate Passport Of Georgia 1863

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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...