By Robert Hancock
Senior Curator & Director of Collections
One thousand electrotype replicas of the original Great Seal of the Confederacy were manufactured in 1873. Coated in gold, silver, or bronze, they were placed on sale with all generated revenue intended for the relief of Southern widows and orphans. Lawyer John D. Pickett arranged for Navy Lieutenant Thomas O. Selfridge, who was in possession of the original seal, to loan it to him for the purpose of having copies made. New York electrotyper Samuel H. Black completed the task for $778, and gave Pickett his Masonic oath that he would never divulge information about the seal’s owner. The amount that Pickett raised from the sale of the electrotypes is unknown.
Electrotyping is the process of using an electrical current to coat with metal a mold of wax or gutta-percha (a natural latex) suspended in a electrolyte solution such as copper sulphate and sulphuric acid.