Tuesday, August 31, 2010

BALPEX and ARA Meeting 2010: 1898 Exhibits

BALPEX 2010 occurs this week from September 3 through the 5th.  BALPEX is the annual stamp show of the Baltimore Philatelic Society.  The event includes the annual meeting of the American Revenue Association and 13 revenue exhibits. 

Three of those exhibits include 1898 material, all one-frame exhibits:

The Workhorse of the U.S. Battleship Revenues:  A Study of the One Cent Documentary Issue

"I.R" Overprinted 1898 1c Franklin Postage Stamps:  A Study of the I.R. Overprints of the 1898 1c Franklin Postage Stamp Arranged by the Treasury Department, Including the Production, Production Varieties, Revenue and Postal Use; and the Provisional Overprints of Dr. Kilmer & Company

Revenue Imprinted Parlor Car Tickets 1898 - 1902:  A Comprehensive Look at the Imprinted Parlor Car Tickets of the Spanish American War Period

We'll see what we can do to get some of this material up online in the coming weeks -- I have it on good report that at least two of the exhibitors already contribute to this site.  Good luck to all!

Bank Checks - Postage Used to Pay Tax

In the May-June 2010 issue of The American Revenuer, published by the American Revenue Association there is an excellent article by ARA member Len McMaster entitled, Revenue use of postage stamps during the Spanish-American War. Below are pictured four examples of postage used to pay the bank check tax, but first some background from McMaster's article.

Using contemporary newspaper reports and correspondence McMaster documents the failure of the government to adequately distribute tax stamps by July 1, 1898, the date the new tax laws took effect. He further documents the confusion that situation created for the public and district tax collectors, and how some citizens and firms lacking the proper tax stamps resorted to using postage stamps, postage due stamps, and even devalued revenue stamps from the Civil War era in "good faith" attempts to comply with the current law.

I've never seen usages of postage due stamps, or previously devalued revenue stamps used to pay Spanish-American War taxes and McMaster doesn't show any, but the use of postage stamps, the subject of his article, was widespread. Because of the problems with distributing the appropriate tax stamps the use of postage, at least for a while, was generally accepted and tolerated.

The practice, however, raised serious concern for the Department of Internal Revenue because when postage was used the revenue accrued to the Post Office and not to the Treasury. To forestall further loss of revenue, IR Commissioner Scott, with the approval of Treasury Secretary A.D. Gage, issued rules relative to the payment of the taxes that specifically forbid the use of “ordinary postage stamps”. The rules, pictured below, were part of Commissioner Decision 19935 dated August 22, 1898. By then the tax stamps were well distributed and widely available to anyone needing them.

Rulings relative to documentary and proprietary stamps

from Internal Revenue Decision 19935 dated August 22, 1898

Cloverdale Creamery, Ellensburg, Washington

July 1, 1898 First Day of Tax Period check

with ordinary 2-cent Bureau Issue postage stamp

detail of check showing the stamp was not an official I.R. overprint

Apparently tax stamps were not available in Ellensburg, Washington on July 1, 1898 and the Bank of Ellensburg choose to accept without question the use of a 2-cent Bureau Issue postage stamp in payment of the war tax.

Fuhrmann & Schmidt, Eagle Run Brewery, Shamokin, PA
July 9, 1898 check with 2-cent Bureau issue postage stamp

detail of Fuhrmann & Schmidt check showing stamp

with manuscript I. R. endorsement

Postage stamps manually endorsed I.R. by customers attempting to pay the internal revenue tax did not qualify under the Internal Revenue rules as the funds expended for such stamps still accrued to the Post Office and not the Treasury Department. Only postage stamps officially imprinted I.R. by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and distributed by the Internal Revenue qualified as the funds used to purchase those stamps did accrue to the Treasury Department.

September 9, 1898 Ross & Williams' Bank, Mansfield, PA check
with two 1-cent Bureau Issue postage stamps used to pay the war tax

detail of Ross & Williams' Bank check
showing abbreviated signature cancel of Katharine Swan and 9/8/98 date

By September 9, 1898 revenue stamps were well distributed and as this use was after Commissioner Scott's published decision expressly forbiding the use of postage stamp, the bank should not have accepted them. Clearly though, the practice continued to be tolerated in many locales.

January 18, 1899 Rutland (VT) Savings Bank check
with ordinary 2-cent Bureau Issue postage stamp

detail of Rutland Saving Bank check showing
"Attach 2c Revenue Stamp as required by Law" endorsement
and a postage stamp with a manual "I. Revenue" endorsement

I find the use of a ordinary postage stamp on the Rutland Saving bank check particularly amusing in view of the bank's printed "Attach 2c Revenue Stamp as required by Law" endorsement. Clearly the bank's officials knew the law required appropriate revenue stamps, and likely the clerk who processed this check did too, but ignored the infraction.
Tomarrow we'll examine some checks where the clerks processing them were less tolerant and required proper revenue stamps be affixed in addition to the illegally used postal issues.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Collectors Weekly

A few days ago 1898 Revenues was added to the Collectors Weekly website as a "Hall of Fame" collector's site.  A little recognition is always nice, and 1898's inclusion puts the site next to those of Bob Hohertz and Richard Frajola. 

While I would hesitate to call 1898 an encyclopedia, I sure hope we can approach that after a few years of posts.

Bank Check Tax

notice regarding the upcoming tax on checks and promissory notes
mailed to customers by Kingston, New York area banks
postmarked June 23, 1898

Beginning July 1, 1898 bank checks, drafts, or any orders for the payment of any sum of money, whether drawn upon or issued by any bank, trust company, or any person or persons, companies, or corporations at sight or upon demand were taxed two cents. As there had not been a tax on checks since the early 1880s, some banks sent out notices, like the one above, alerting customers of the new tax. As discussed in a prior blog about a cashier's check there were problems with the distribution of the tax stamps in some areas of the country.

The new tax stamps, however, did reach Fort Smith, Arkansas in a timely manner as evidenced by the July 1, 1898 Merchants Bank check pictured below. Note that both the check and the initialed stamp affixed to it are dated July 1. As shown by the double-ring Merchants Bank PAID cancel in the center of the check it also was processed on July 1, 1898.

As we'll explain in a future blog the most important element confirming that this is a first day of taxation check is the bank's dated PAID cancel, and not the date written on the check or the stamp.

July 1, 1898 First Day of Bank Check Tax Period
Merchants Bank, Fort Smith, Arkansas

June 30, 1901 Last Day of Bank Check Tax Period
Yellow Aster Mining and Milling Co., Randsburg, California

The documentary tax on bank checks, and many other legal documents ended June 30, 1901. Taxes on some other documents including shipping receipts and bills of lading continued for another year until June 30, 1902.

Last day usages of the bank check tax are scarce, especially so from a business, as June 30, 1901 was a Sunday. Likely this check was for a bill due at the end of the month, or was an end of month paycheck prepared prior to, but dated, June 30 so as to prevent it from being cashed beforehand.

check detail showing
Y.A.M. & M. Co. June 30,1901 cancel

Like many California gold mines, the Yellow Aster in the Randsburg Mining district had a colorful history. It eventually would produce more than $12,000,000 in gold.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bob Hohertz on 1898 Series Stamped Paper Part 4: Scott RN-X5

Bob Hohertz' series on 1898 stamped paper continues here with examples of Scott RN-X5:

The Scott Specialized listing for X5 is particularly messy. It begins with 1¢ green, unused and used. Since they list tickets later, this presumably refers to non-ticket items. There are three of these.

Figure 19

Figure 19: Freight receipt with a green imprint. The tax on a freight receipt was one cent from July 1, 1898 through June 30, 1902.

Figure 20

Figure 20. Telegram. Telegrams were taxed one cent during the four-year tax period.

Figure 21

Figure 21. Cablegram. Cablegrams were taxed the same way as telegrams.

No telegrams or cablegrams are known used. A copy of a used freight receipt was sold at auction some years ago, but I have not seen it. Also, a peculiar sort of use of these receipts was made in 1905, but I doubt that is what the Specialized means by used.

Figure 22

Figure 22. Receipt used as a menu.  This philatelic curiosity was produced in the city of Chicago, also the headquarters of the Pullman Company.  A member of the Chicago Philatelic Society was probably an employee of the Pullman Company and managed to acquire receipts on which to print the menu.

In the next line, Scott lists “Partial.” This makes no sense in reference to receipts, telegrams or cablegrams, and probably belongs below the next line, which is X5a, Parlor Car ticket.

At least three different kinds of unused non-Pullman parlor car tickets are known. They are quite rare, and the Scott price ($65 in 2008) is not realistic.

Figure 23

Figure 23. The only known Hocking Valley parlor car ticket. These would have been cut into two parts, one of which would have remained with the issuing agent and the other of which would have been collected on the train.

Figure 24

Figure 24. An unused chair car ticket. A chair car was very much like a recliner, and counted as a berth for tax purposes. This ticket also may be unique.

Figure 25

Figure 25. This Chicago, Saint Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway parlor car “seat check” was issued and trimmed at the left, but not used. I know of one other of these.

Used (non-partial) X5a tickets are perhaps the most common imprinted tickets now available, although they should not exist. All of them should have been collected on the train and destroyed. However, early in the last century a sizeable box of the ones used by the Pere Marquette Railway must have been salvaged. Virtually all of these were used in the early months of 1902.

Figure 26

Figure 26. A Pere Marquette ticket, used in February of 1902.

Figure 27

Figure 27. At least one Chicago and Northwestern simplex ticket stub survived somehow.

There are partial tickets that fall under X5a, which probably prompted the listing just above it.

Figure 28

Figure 28. Four Florida East Coast Railway stubs are known. One or more Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul Railway stubs with green imprints also exist.

X5b covers Pullman tickets. Only unused and partial are covered, but entire used copies also exist.

Figure 29

Figure 29. There are four styles of unused Pullman tickets with green imprints. This is the only currently known two-part multi-station one. They are rarer than X4a unused Pullman tickets, but priced lower.

Although there is no listing for them, used Pullman tickets containing substantially the entire imprint are known.

Figure 30

Figure 30. A used Pullman ticket that probably does not qualify as a “partial.”

There are four basic types of partial Pullman tickets with green imprints.

Figure 31

Figure 31. One of the less common Pullman stubs with green imprints specifies the origin and destination of the trip. It was used in June of 1900. Beginning in the last half of 1901 the imprints were placed on the back of multi-part tickets.

Initial Punch Cancels

A few months back I posted the copy of R170p below with the punched initials of the New York securities firm De'Coppet and Doremus.  Recently I was looking through my collection of cancels on the dollar values and noticed the Wassermann Brothers initial punch cancel on the $2 stamp below.  I am looking for examples of other firms that used this type of initial punch cancel.  Do you have these in your collection?

My interest at this time is not in examples of perfins, which consists of a series of period shaped perforations that form initials or numbers.  The punch cancel itself should form the letter or number. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

R161 Usage Census Update - Accident Policy Application

Masons Fraternal Accident Association Policy
Westfield, Mass. August 2, 1898

2-cent I. R. provisional overprint and 1/2-cent orange documentary
tied by a blue oval cancel, illegible except for the date.

I've chosen not to unfold this document from how I exhibit it traditionally as it is fragile and has some repairs on the reverse. It's also a bit too large for my scanner, so while the corporate seal appears to be cut off at the bottom, there is an additional inch of space remaining below it and the stamps that is not shown.

It's an accident policy for John B. Shaw, age 43, a merchant of dry goods and furnishings from Sherman, Texas. The premium for this $5,000 death benefit accident policy was $3 per quarter with a one-time $5 application fee. The two and on-half cents affixed to the policy certificate paid the tax on the initial $5 application fee.

Fraternal organizations like the Masons performed a great service in the latter half of the 1800s by offering insurance plans that otherwise were a luxury beyond the means of most people. There were hundreds of such companies by 1900 and while few exist today many provided a needed service well into the 20th Century. My paternal grandfather, who emigrated from Hungary in 1905, and was a coal miner, had a policy with one of the small fraternal groups which today has evolved into the William Penn Association.

The Masons Fraternal Accident Association appears not to have been as successful. Founded August 15, 1887 in Westfield, Massachusetts, it fell into receivership in 1905 via a suit filed by the Attorney General of Massachusetts.

The R161 on-document usage census stands at seven. If you have information about additional on document usages, please email us, with scans if possible, at

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

R161 Usage Census Update - 1 Day Travel Insurance

1 Day Travel Policy September 2, 1898 on B. & O. Railroad
The Travelers Insurance Company, Hartford, Conn.

Camden Station Baltimore B. & O. R.R.
inverted date slug of SEP/2/1898

I saved what I consider the best of Bob Patetta's three on-document usages of R161, the 1/2-cent orange battleship documentary, to show last. Bob's Providence Rhode Island check with a combo usage of R161, R162, and R163 to pay the 2-cent bank check tax is stunning. But most fiscal history collectors, I think, prefer usages that are relevant to the purpose for which a stamp was issued.

The 1/2-cent value was created because most documentary insurance taxes, except life insurance, were calculated at 1/2 cent per dollar of premium paid or fraction thereof. And this one-day-travel accident policy for a journey on the B. & O. Railroad with a single one-half cent stamp demonstates that tax rate in the purest way. The premium for the accident policy was just twenty-five cents so only a single 1/2-cent stamp was needed. I wonder how they made change? Actually, the insurance company likely absorbed the tax.

Any usage of the 1/2-cent orange is scarce because the orange version was replaced with a gray version very early in the production of the battleship stamps. The orange color was close to that of the 3/8-cent proprietary issue and to avoid possible confusion, the shade of the 1/2-cent documentary was thus changed to gray.

Only two singular usages of the 1/2 orange documentary have been recorded so far. The other, also used on a travel policy, is pictured near the bottom of Bob Mustacich's website homepage. If anyone has information about any other R161 on-document usages not listed in this census please so advise and, if possible, send scans to 1898revenues@gmail.com

I may be mistaken, but about ten years ago I'm sure someone, whose identity I also don't recall, showed me a check with a block-of-four of the 1/2-cent orange paying the check tax. If it does exist in reality and not just in my imagination, we'd like to add that usage to the census which now stands at seven known usages.

Known today as The Travelers Companies, Travelers traces its history back more than 150 years. Recognized today by its distinctive RED UMBRELLA corporate symbol, Travelers is credited with issuing the first automobile policy, the first commerical airline policy, and the first policy for space travel. Since June 9, 2009, Travelers has been part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Monday, August 23, 2010

BIG 4 Entire

One month ago Tim Kohler sent in this entire for the J.W Stowell Printing Company's BIG 4 advertising stunt, an item that I don't have in my collection and could not add to my original post on this cancel.  I was able to show a dark image taken from an article I cited on this unusual cancel. 

The contents of the envelope contained an advertisement for four stamp publication products of the J.W. Stowell firm.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

R161 Usage Census Update - Another Fire Policy

New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company of Manchester Fire Policy
August 20, 1898

This is the second of three on-document usages of R161, the 1/2-cent orange documentary, reported by Bob Patetta.
It's a fire policy, similar to the one reported by Bob Hohertz that we blogged about previously.

The tax for fire policies was 1/2-cent per each dollar of premium paid or fraction thereof. So the premium for this $3,000 policy must have been between $16 and $17 as the tax stamps affixed, a pair of R166 4-cent, and a single R161 1/2-cent orange documentaries, total 8 1/2 cents.

The New Hampshire Fire Insurance Company of Manchester was founded in 1869. Today it is part of AIG doing business as the New Hampshire Insurance Company.

We'll cover a couple more R161 usages in days to come and then we'll switch to something different: interesting usages for the two-cent bank check tax.

If you have, or aware of, any R161 usages not yet reported, please email us, including scans if possible, at 1898revenues@gmail.com

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bob Hohertz on 1898 Series Stamped Paper Part 3: Scott RN-X4

Bob Hohertz' series on 1898 stamped paper continues here with examples of Scott RN-X4:

Since Scott RN-X3 was assigned to yellow imprints and is no longer listed in Scott, I’ll cover those and the orange ones under RN-X4. The shades range from one to the other anyway, and sorting them out is not a very productive pastime.

Scott lists one-cent orange unused, then X4a as on a Pullman ticket, unused, used, and partial. X4b is a Pullman ticket with the imprint on the back, only listed as a partial.

Figure 10. The tax on freight receipts was one cent from July 1, 1898 through June 30, 1902. This is the only type of non-ticket document currently known that bears a yellow or orange one-cent imprint. None are known used.

Although Scott lists all of the X4 tickets under “On Pullman ticket,” two other companies used that color of imprint.

Figure 11. The Chicago and North Western Railway had a split-concession agreement with the Pullman Company which allowed it to operate its own parlor cars during tax period, so it did not use Pullman tickets. This is a simplex ticket that used a special cutter to indicate the destination. The top part of the ticket was kept by the ticket agent, and the bottom half would have been collected by the porter on the train.

Figure 12. The Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul Railway aka Milwaukee Road used Pullman cars prior to 1890, but not during the tax period. Several unused copies of their two-part tickets bearing a yellow imprint are known.

Figure 13. Several types of Pullman tickets with yellow or orange imprints are known. This form was used in the first months of 1900.

Figure 14. The other type of unused Pullman ticket with a yellow or orange imprint was a two-part, used from 1898 until late 1900 when the imprints in red began to appear. This one is an upgrade ticket. The passenger would have been traveling second class, but wanting a berth for the night.

The catalog indicates the existence of a used copy of a ticket with a yellow or orange imprint which apparently is not a partial. This could be the ticket shown below, which probably had at least one more section above it. If so, it was not used, and their pricing is not appropriate. If not, I have not seen anything like what they are referring to and do not know how the listing originated.

Figure 15. A partial but unused Pullman ticket for an upper berth on a trip between Washington and Jersey City.

Figure 16. The standard two-part Pullman stubs are very much like those used by the Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul.

Figure 17. Figure 18. Pullman used a variety of other ticket formats, such as these. Some are even larger, to accommodate a longer list of destinations.

Scott RN-X4b is a partial ticket with the imprint on the back. This listing originated in 1979 in the Handbook for United Revenue Stamped Paper by Joseph Einstein, Tomas Kingsley and W. Richard De Kay. They do not explain what they mean by front and back, and they imply that there are a number where the imprints are on each. All one-cent yellow and orange imprints I have seen are printed on what I consider to be the front, so I would be interested to know how they split them up. At any rate, I can’t illustrate RN-X4b for you.

Friday, August 20, 2010

R161 Used on a Check

I recall how excited I was about 10 years ago when I obtained my first on-document usage of R161, the 1/2-cent Orange Documentary. I had been searching for one for at least that long. And I was thrilled to find a second usage just last year. But my jaw literally dropped when I opened the scan of the check shown below provided by fellow 1898 revenue collector Bob Patetta.

The 1/2-cent battleship documentaries were issued specifically for use on insurance-related documents as the tax on most insurance policies, other than life insurance, was 1/2-cent per dollar of premium paid. To find both the R161 Orange and R162 Gray 1/2-cent values used together on a check with an R163 1-cent battleship to pay the two-cent bank check tax is extremely unusual.

The battleship revenues were the most colorful stamps of their era and usages featuring more than one denomination can be visually attractive. This one is simply stunning. Thanks, Bob, for sharing it.

George C. Arnold Worsted Yarns Check
Providence, R.I. November 4, 1898

The small strip of tape on the back of the check likewise is unusual. Its red color highlights the $200$ security punch used to confirm the amount of the check.

George C(arpenter) Arnold was a life-long resident of Rhode Island whose ancestors first arrived in 1635 and were associates of Roger Williams. Subsequent ancestors fought in the American Revolution and George, himself, was an officer in the Rhode Island Militia.

Arnold was engaged in the worsted yarn business for more than twenty-five years and also served as an officer or director in several other Providence businesses. He was interested in numismatics and geneology. A brief biographical sketch can be found in the
1919 SAR National Yearbook.

Bob Patetta has provided two other R161 uages that we'll show in coming days. The census of reported on-document usages of the R161 1/2-cent orange documentary stands at seven. If you are aware of additional usages please email us, with scans if possible, at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

R161 Usage Census Update - Fire Insurance Policy

Earlier this month when describing an accident insurance policy bearing a scarce usage of R161, the 1/2-cent Orange Documentary Battleship issue, I suggested conducting a census of on-document usages of R161 via this blog. Several additional usages now have been reported bringing the total number of known usages to seven. In due course we'll show them all, and any more that are reported.

Today's example, a homeowner's fire insurance policy from the Home Insurance Company of New York, comes courtesy of ARA President Bob Hohertz.

At left: 1898 Policy for dwelling in Frederick City, Maryland
At right: Headquarters of the Home Insurance Company
119 Broadway, New York, New York circa 1898

bottom half of the policy interior with stamps

Despite the errant year date on the front of the policy, it was written to provide coverage for one year, from noon August 25, 1898 to noon August 25, 1899. It insured damage by fire, not to exceed $1670. $1000 was for a two and one-half story shingle roof dwelling at 82 E. Patrick St., Frederick City, Maryland. Additional coverages included a frame shoemaker shop, a grain warehouse, a stable, a carriage house, and another warehouse off-site.

It included a gasoline permit for a stove, no artifical light permitted in the room when being filled, among other standard provisions of the day. A tipped-in Lightning Clause covered damage caused by lightning, but not tornado, cyclone, or windstorm damage.

Marine, inland, and fire insurance policies, like accident policies, were taxed at 1/2-cent per dollar of premium paid or fraction thereof. The tax for the $8.89 premium thus was 4 1/2-cents, properly paid by a pair of 2-cent I.R. overprint issues and a single R161, 1/2 cent orange documentary. It appears the local agent, Noah E. Cramer may have absorbed the tax as his initials appear on the stamps.

We'll be showing more interesting R161 material in the days to come. If you know of other on-document usages please email us at 1898revenues@gmail.com.

The Home Insurance Company was founded in 1853 and had a long run, but it has been in liquidation since June 13, 2004.