Circular date stamp from George Bancroft and Company with a neat little four point diamond at the bottom. George Bancroft and Company was a brokerage firm based in New York. George Bancroft was the son of Aaron Bancroft, and they were partners together in George's firm. The New York Times in January 1900 posted a story of George Bancroft's suspension from the Consolidated Stock and Petroleum Exchange for misbehaviour in recommending a Mr. Hidreth for a seat on the Exchange.
As of today I've been blogging here for 6 months. I started the blog so that I could keep active with parts of my collection, even though I have it all packed in safe keeping in the US while I live and work in Nairobi, Kenya for several years. Instead of travelling with the stamps I travelled with scanned images of the stamps. And the scanned images have proved to be a great collecting tool, enabling close examination without actually handling the stamps themselves and allowing for the creation of this "virtual collectors blog".
The daily readership of the blog has taught me a few things. I'm not sure this blog has ever had a visit by a serious collector of US revenue stamps. I can't be sure because nobody of this description has ever sent an email or made a comment in the comment sections of the blog. Through tracking software I know that occasionally I do get a visitor that lingers on the blog and explores the different feature areas, but mostly I get people interested in valuing battleship stamps that they found in a relative's collection. In six months less than a dozen people have ever viewed the blog in more than just a passing way and then returned at a later date. I'm not really sure yet what this says about US revenue and 1898 revenue collecting, but I figure some combination of the following factors are present:
Few people collect 1898 Series revenue stamps anymore;
Of the few that do collect them, few use the web or search engines like Google as a collecting tool;
I am absolutely certain that nobody that could be considered "young" (<40) has much interest in these stamps. Otherwise there would be many more stopping by. Especially with the relative lack of this kind of material and information available on the web;
The blog just hasn't been around long enough to pick up any sort of momentum.
This blog stinks!
The last bullet shouldn't effect first time viewers. However, I do realize that this blog is a work in progress and might in fact not be so good. But I like doing it, and it helps me stay in touch with a collection of mine that with the way I have been busy with work and family over the years has been more of an accumulation than a collection. It is now on its way to becoming a collection.
With regard to the second bullet above, as of September 26 a google search of the following search strings yields interesting results:
Search Phrase Google Rank 1898 Revenues #1 Battleship Revenues #4 2 Cent Documentary #1 1898 Series Revenue #4 US Revenue Stamps >100
I searched 1898 Revenues since that is the title of the blog. The blog comes up number one in a google search. Battleship Revenues comes up number 4, behind a website with that name. 2 cent Documentary was searched because I feature so many of them. It came up number 1 in the search. 1898 Series Revenue was searched because the battleship stamps I feature right now have the words on the stamp. Lastly, a search for the general term US Revenue Stamps yielded no result for this blog. All in all, this blog is showing up high in these searches for the specific terms. What this shows me, despite the fact that I am getting few hits on this blog, is that collectors in the specific field (if there are any) don't really use the web for their collecting interests. Time to modernize this hobby, bring it to the web, and make it more virtual!
Thanks for your interest if you are reading this. I have some plans for the coming months and years that involve several general areas of work and posts:
An exploration of the Chapelle/Joyce proprietary printed cancel lists
An exploration of the available literature and research on these stamps
In September 1883 a consortium of flour mill owners in Minneapolis formed the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie and Atlantic Railway to build a railroad between Minneapolis and Sault Ste. Marie to bypass Chicago. By 1888 the Canadian Pacific acquired control of the railroad and combined it with two other railroads to create the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Sault Ste. Marie Railway.
The line took the name Soo Line because of the common pronunciation of the French word Sault.
This past weekend I drove down to Tsavo West National Park from Nairobi with my family. Tsavo is famous for its lions and other wildlife, especially elephants. In preparation for the trip I had my Toyota Landcruiser serviced. Above is the receipt for the services, including a close up of the Kenya revenue stamp used to pay the 2 shilling documentary tax.
The park is one of the lesser known parks in Kenya compared to internationally famous parks like Amboselli and Masai Mara. But the park is worth a visit. We stayed in the park warden's former house with a waterhole in front and the elephants and lions kept us awake during parts of the night.
The Connellsville and Monongahela was absorbed not long after the cancellation of this stamp by the Monongahela Railway. The larger Monongahela Railway was created in 1900 by the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie as a line south of Brownsville Junction where the P&LE met up with the Pennsylvania Railroad. The MR led to an active coal mining region and primarily hauled coal. The MR expanded its operations by leasing the C&M Railway which took a different approach to connecting Brownsville Junction to mining areas to the south.
I don't own this either. Steve Wittig does, and he is currently selling it on Ebay for $3,295. See here: Wittig Ebay RB29 Plate Block. I wonder where the demand is for this type of materiel selling for this much these days.
There is quite a mismatch between the block from yesterday's post fetching only a fraction of its catalog value at auction and the price of this plate block. I think I recall a Michael Aldrich catalog from probably 2 years ago in which this block was posted for sale, and it was even labeled as "ex-Wittig." If this is the same block (I recall the centering being the same and there are just too few of these) then it doesn't appear if the block was ever ex-Wittig. Whatever the case, much patience will be required to get the price being asked for this item. Somewhere out there is a collector that might want it at the price. Maybe not. Especially if it has been for sale for more than 2 years!
Post script April 2010: It is likely that the block above was probably consigned to Mr. Aldrich for a period. It likely never sold during the contracted period and was returned to Mr. Wittig. So at least in terms of possession there was an "ex" period for this block.
I don't own the block above. It was sold to someone else in a Michael Aldrich auction on August 26. The price realized page is here: http://stampauctionnetwork.com/b/b6011.cfm#29. I'm sorry I missed the sale, since the block went for $130. The Scott value for this block is $425. Clearly demand for this sort of material is not so great. Especially when I looked today on the same Stamp Auction Network site and find stamps with catalog values of $10 selling for nearly $2000. Stamp grading is generally bad for the hobby, but it does seem to be attracting the faddists and speculators into other areas. The homely battleship seems safe.
All the battleship sheets and contemporaneous postage stamps were printed by the Federal Government's Bureau of Engraving and Printing. In the early years of the BEP's work as the sole printer of US stamps it adopted the practice of the private bank note companies of placing a branding imprint in the margins of the plates and sheets. The top image above is of a 2 cent documentary with a short margin and a partial branding imprint. The bottom image is comes from a plate block of the 2 cent proprietary, but clearly shows the imprint.
The 2 cent documentary battleship stamp above had a peculiar sort of margin marking added by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to enable the printers to distinguish the value and type of the stamp on the plate. Between the proprietary and documentary series there were more than 20 types of stamps, all with the same design. And without any color differences to set them apart the plates looked all much the same. Added in the margin of at least some of the battleship plates was an identifier; in the case of the 2 cent documentary above, 2C D. The mark was added to the plate so that it could be read forward, instead of in reverse. The result is a reverse 2C D in the final printed copy.
This same technique was used on other battleship stamps, including the fractional proprietary values.
Click on the image to download the page for better viewing.
Plate markings/positions of the 2 cent battleship documentary. Stamps a bit foxed and a plate margin single has lost its selvage, but study neatly displays most of the collectable positions of this stamp (margin and corner positions are missing, as is the 2cD identifying margin imprint). Rouletted and hyphen-holed stamps are mixed in this study. Page acquired in the Tolman sale.
In future posts I will break down the individual positions and highlight other examples of similar plate markings. Margin arrows, center lines, and margin markings make for many collectable positions on the battleship stamps. This is true for most stamps printed by the BEP during this time period.
I think this study was compiled by Curtis Chapman. See the letter from the BEP posted in the blog entry for September 7, which lists the plate numbers used for the 2 cent battleship doc. The plates listed in that letter to Mr. Chapman correspond with those listed above, including the specific reference to plate #8004 as having never been used. The stamps used to create this study match many of the companies and cancels in the nearly complete 2 cent 3 year calender I acquired in the same lot. This calender has notes made in Mr. Tolman's hand in the margins in which he identified some of the railroads and cancels and speculated about others. While not conclusive, the collector that compiled the calender was likely very familiar with the companies and railroads used to build the collection and more familiar than Mr. Tolman as indicated by his notes.
------------- At number 52 Front Street in the coffee and tea district in New York in 1910 (and presumably in 1900 too) was J.W. Wilson & Company. In 1910 the company was the largest importer of goat skins from Mexico. They also imported coffee beans.
The National Car Company has an interesting story. Based in St. Albans, it was originally created to purchase the patents for dual gauge rail cars for the St. Albans Foundry. A fast freight service from Boston to Chicago at the time ran through Vermont and connected with the Grand Trunk Railway in Canada. The Grand Trunk ran broad gauge rails when the fast freight service was started and the dual gauge cars allowed for ready transition from US standard gauge to the GTs broad gauge. After the GT switched to standard gauge the National Car Co became a refrigerator car holding and leasing company. National Car spent most of its life as a refrigerator car operating company, at one time operating 4000 Tiffany refrigerator cars. It never built or repaired its own cars.
Letter from a Deputy Commissioner of the Office of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue of the Treasury Department to Curtis Chapman of Cleveland, Ohio. The letter was acquired in the 2007 Tolman sale.
Not nearly as interesting as yesterday's letter. A few references to the Acts and Statute that determined the tax period. The Internal Revenue Office was far less forthcoming than the BEP.
Click on the images to download for better viewing. They will download as a .jpg.
1940 Letter from A.W. Hall, Director of Bureau of Engraving and Printing to Curtis Chapman in Cleveland, Ohio.
I acquired this letter in the Tolman sale (lot 2496). It was included in the 2 cent battleship calender lot. Its inclusion in the lot leads me to think that the calender, inclusive for all business dates for the three year period of the tax imposed on most documentary transactions, was compiled by Mr. Chapman. The random notes in Mr. Tolman's hand in the margins of the calender indicate a familiarity with the cancels that would not be of the depth of that needed to compile the collection in the first place.
The "Tolman sale" was a multi-phase auction held by Robert Siegel in New York of one of the more significant US Revenue stamp collections ever put together. Part 4 of the sale was held in May 2009, and this letter was included in that portion of the sale.
The Christopher West/Elliot Perry work from Mekeel's and the Castenholz re-publication lists the total quantity issued of 2 cent documentaries for the 1898 series as 942,066,800. This includes the I.R. overprinted 2 cent postage stamps. If we use the total issued of the 2 cent battleship stamp of 899, 231,00 as stated in this letter then there were 42,835,800 of the 2 cent Washington postage stamps overprinted. Further, Mr. Hall in the letter above tells us that there were 16,395,000 2 cent battleship documentaries delivered in 1898. As all the Washington overprinted stamps were delivered in 1898, we can then figure that a total of 59,230,800 2 cent documentaries were delivered in 1898.
Plate numbers as reported by Mr. Hall in his letter and those by Robert Mustacich on his website differ somewhat. Hall's letter states that 216 subject plates with the numbers 8881, 8885, 8888, and 8895 were used. These are not reported by Mustacich. Hall also reported the existence of plate 8004 that was never used. If anyone has a copy of any of the above listed numbers I would like to see them. I assume the philatelists of the early 21st century to be right, not Mr. Hall.
J.E. Graham was a Justice of the Peace in Fort Wayne Indiana and was in a law parntership with an M.V.B. Gotshall. Seems much of their business was generated through insurance sales as they claimed to respresent $25 million in insurance capital in 1870.
Top plate block of 6, #7958. Horizontal rouletting is torqued across the block, growing more off-center to the right, especially for the rouletting in the top margin. This block comes from one of the earliest plates created by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to print this stamp, a 200 subject plate divided into 4 panes of 50 stamps each.
At Robert Mustacich's Battleship Revenues website (http://www.battleship-revenues.com/) you can find a list of the plate numbers used for the 2 cent battleship documentary as well as all the other battleship stamps. He uses tables compiled by Tony Giacomeli and the Durland Standard Plate Number Catalog for his reference. For the 2 cent documentary, he lists a total of 44 plates used by the BEP to print the stamp, including both 200 and 216 subject plates.
Most plates were used to print stamps that received either rouletting or hyphen-holes only; a smaller group of plates were used to print both, essentially those plates in use by the Bureau during the switchover from rouletting to hyphen holes at the end of 1899.
Quantities issued: Almost a billion copies of the 2 cent documentary battleship were printed, which explains the use of so many plate numbers. After multiple print cycles the plates began to wear and new plates had to be prepared to keep the images of the stamps sharp. In a 1940 letter I have from A.W. Hall, the Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 899,231,000 2 centers were delivered to the Bureau of Internal Revenue through February 11, 1902. I will post this letter on the blog this month.
F.N.B., First National Bank? from September 3, 1898. Diamond handstamp cancel. Stamp has pinhole at top. Likely removed from a bank check with the 2 cent stamp used to pay the bank check tax. I really like the flattened diamond shape.
C.B.T. Co. was the refrigerator car company controlled by Schwarzchild and Sulzberger, the 6th largest meating packing plant in the US at the turn of the century. CBT, like other meat packer associated refrigerator car lines, hauled primarily dressed (butchered) beef out of Chicago and the midwest to distribution warehouses in eastern urban areas. By the time of the cancel of this stamp, shipping live cattle east was in sharp decline and all the growing meat packers were shipping dressed beef by rail. G.F. Swift was the pioneer in the dressed beef business, but other companies quickly imitated the model including Armour, National Packing, Morris/Fairbank, and Cudahy. This stamp was cancelled in Kansas City, a major plant site for S&S.
I can't find a photo of an original Schwarzchild and Sulzberger refrigerator car, but I have found a photo of a model railroad car. Note the C.B.T. CO. on the lower right side of the car.
S&S along with the other major meat packers listed above were part of the industry exposed by Upton Sinclair in his book The Jungle for dangerous labor and unsanitary food handling practices. Outcry from the book helped lead to regulation of the industry, though mostly for food safety and purity rather than worker safety and care.