The registered cover was addressed to Aug Dietz Esq, 900 West Clay Street, Station A, Richmond, Virginia, United States and had a magenta 8d ‘Lyre Bird’ New South Wales stamp canceled with a REGISTERED/ OC 7/96/ SYDNEY postmark as well as a large ‘R’ in an oval. The reverse was not seen, and unfortunately the sender could not be identified (Figure 1).
Dietz was born in Prussia on October 19, 1869, and he moved with his parents to Richmond, Virginia in 1871 and began collecting stamps as early as 1880. He became an engraver trained in lithography and typography so that he understood the printing processes necessary for the preparation of the various Confederate States of America postage stamps. With his in-depth knowledge and interest in Confederate postal history, it was confirmed that he obtained information directly from postmasters and printers that had firsthand knowledge of many of the philatelic items used during the Civil War.
By 1896, Dietz was editor of the Virginia Philatelist, a monthly stamp magazine printed in Richmond. In March 1901 he started his own company, the Dietz Printing Company, Virginia. A picture of ‘philatelic luminaries’ including August Dietz (the young man with large moustache fourth from left), pose in front of the office of the Virginia Philatelist in 1898. The building is the old heritage ‘Goddin Hall’ which housed the last post office of the Confederacy in Richmond and was the location of August Dietz’s first printery (Figure 2).
In 1924, as an avid researcher and collector, he began writing informative articles on the subject of Confederate postal history to aid the increasing number of Confederate collectors. In subsequent years he operated his printing firm with his son August Dietz Jr. as business manager and published The Southern Philatelist (1924-29), The New South Philatelist (1929-33), Stamp and Cover Collecting (1933-36), and Stamp and Cover Collecting Review (1937-39). His most famous publication was in 1929 which had 320 pages, The Postal Service of the Confederate States, with subsequent updated editions in 1932-37-45 & 59, whilst he was alive, plus a last edition in 1986. Today, August Dietz Sr. is regarded as the Father of Confederate Philately. In October 1948, The Confederate Stamp Alliance conferred on Dietz the honorary title of ‘General’. A short biography of Dietz was published in the September 1900 issue of The Virginia Philatelist.
The American Philatelic Society (A.P.S.) bestowed the Lindenberg Medal on Dietz in 1938, and he received the first Luff Award in 1940 for Exceptional Contributions to Philately, and the Lichtenstein Medal in 1955. On September 26, 1963 Dietz died in Richmond, Virginia and he was inducted into the A.P.S. Hall of Fame in 1964. A photograph of August Dietz Snr. is seen in Figure 3.