Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Updating the Joyce/Chappell Lists: Benjamin Brandreth's Allcocks Manufacturing and Porous Plaster Company

This is Mr. Benjamin Brandreth.  He was born 1807 in England and died in 1880 in Ossining, New York.  Mr. Brandreth was one of the first great proprietary medicine manufacturers in the United States, and pioneered mass marketing and advertising to generate sales for his "purgative' pills which were touted to purge the blood of toxins.

In 1849 a congressional committee reported that Brandreth was the largest proprietary advertiser in the United States, and that for 1862 and 1863 Brandreth's average gross income exceeded $600,000.  Brandreth's pills were mentioned in Melville's Moby Dick

Benjamin Brandreth's business was known as the Brandreth Pill Works when he first opened the business.  He purchased Allcock's Porous Plaster from Thomas Allcock in 1848, and eventually renamed the firm to Allcock Manufacturing. 

During the Civil War tax period, Brandreth had a private die stamp printed for Allcock Manufacturing:

The firm's proprietor, B. Brandreth, is listed on this stamp, as are the two key products of the company: Brandreth Pills and Allcock's Porous Plaster.

Private die stamps like the example above were powerful branding tools.  In the years following the Civil War and after the proprietary tax was lifted, many companies that used private die stamps had labels printed similar to their original private die stamps to place on their product's packaging.  Many proprietary pharmceuticals of the time were neither efficacious or safe, yet a US Government tax seal for many consumers implied the imprimateur of the government.  So when the taxes were retired, many private die users replaced their tax stamps with labels that looked the same as the stamps.

Allcock Manufacturing used these labels after the Civil War tax period:

By the time of the 1898 war tax period, the labels were still on the Brandreth products, though new taxes and new stamps had to be applied to the pills and the plasters.  The labels above were applied to their products along with 5/8c tax stamps.  The top A. M. Co, example is for Allcock Manufacturing; the bottom P. P Co. example is for Porous Plaster Company.  Examples of these labels with battleship stamps attached are not uncommon -- both Frank Sente and J.W. Palmer have sent scans from their collections. 

The original Joyce/Chappell list for the Allcock or A. M. Co. cancels is very short, indicating only 5 collectable varieties. Three of the varieties listed are present due to printing issues associeted with planing or a shaving down of the 12-12-1900 canceling plates. The original J/C list lacks an explanation for what Joyce and Chappell note to be cancels with these "planed electros". I am not expert in printing techniques during the 1898 period, however, from the stamps I have and those noted in the J/C list, it is clear to me that several philatelically significant things were happening when Allcock Mfg decided to print new cancels for the year 1901:

  • The 12-12-1900 cancelling plates had their dates planed down to create new dates. The first 2 was planed off to yield a January or 1 months, and the final zero in the year was planed off to yield a slightly curved 1, so that the cancel would appear as a 1 -12-1901.
  • Inconsistency in the planing process would yield different widths of the remaining piece of the zero, so that each cancel might appear slightly different, so that there may be many varieties of this cancel, though J/C only list the major variety of a zero having been left unplaned on the 5/8c stamp.  There is an example below of a cancel with nearly all the zero gone, with only a small fragment of the original numeral left.

Planed electro example - following the first 1 was a 2 on the orignal canceling plate.  It is gone in this example, as is 2/3s of the final zero. 

 Planed ectro example as in the second stamp above.

Example of a dramatic printing variety of the planed electro in the year date.  The final zero is, to use the words of Henry Tolman "all but obliterated".
I would be very interested in examining a large group of these Allcock cancels to gauge the varieties of planed zeroes.
ex-Tolman, now Langlois Porous Plaster cancels.  Two handstamp examples at bottom and a third at left with label attached.

Frank Sente's Porous Plaster cancels with J/C unlisted variety at the top left.

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