Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Philatelic Hat Trick!

Yu=Kan Headache Cure - Three Dose Packet
Yu=Kan Chemical Company
Baltimore, Maryland

Reverse side showing usage of three types of stamps
Mailed May 9, 1901 from Baltimore MD to Pittsburg(h) PA

Continuing our weekend "Baltimore" theme in recognition of the ARA meeting at BALPEX, here's an unusual item featuring simultaneous, legitimate usage of three different types of stamps. Postage, revenue and postage due stamps all combine to make a philatelic "hat trick" on this tiny 1901 envelope containing a proprietary headache curative manufactured by the Yu=Kan Chemical Company of Baltimore, Maryland.

The drug industry in the United States was largely unregulated until passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906. Competition was fierce and product curative claims often were outrageous, with some products simply containing alcohol or a narcotic as the primary active ingredient. The constant onslaught of pharmaceutical advertisements we endure in today's media actually pales in comparison to the volume of print advertising that appeared, even in philatelic magazines, during this heyday for patent medicines. And those ads did not contain the obligatory usage cautions and soft-spoken side-effect descriptions required of today's ads.

Gimmicks, giveaways, celebrity endorsements were all the rage. Many of today's popular marketing strategies, including mailings of product samples, trace their origin to the colorful history of how patent medicines were hawked.

This Yu=Kan Chemical piece probably resulted from a product fulfillment mailing sent to respondents replying to an offering of a free or low-cost product sample. Presumably most respondents resided in Baltimore, where Yu=Kan was located and where this item was mailed using a 1-cent stamp, the correct rate for a local delivery drop letter. Regardless of whether the item was offered as a free sample, or actually was sold for ten cents, the stated price, the applicable revenue tax was required and was paid by the manufacturer with a precanceled 1/4-cent RB21 battleship proprietary issue. Because the addressee resided in Pittsburg(h), not Baltimore,the local drop rate was not applicable and thus when the underpaid cover arrived there, a typical Pittsburgh precanceled postage due stamp was added, completing this uncommon philatelic "hat trick".

Can anyone provide any historical information about the Yu=Kan Chemical Company: when was it founded; how long was it in business; did it become part of another company? Other than seeing several other proprietary stamps bearing the firm's cancellation, I've been unable to find information about the firm.

1 comment:

  1. State of New Jersey Capital Stock Assessment Report (1904) indicated they had a stock value of $12,000. There is one other reference to the company for 1905.