Monday, February 28, 2011

Cancel for March 1: Helmholz & Remick

Helmholz & Remick

Frederick Helmholz and Frank Remick were partners in a firm with a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cancel for February 28: W. A. Mathies


A W. A. Mathies was a resident of San Francisco in 1870.  I am not sure whether this cancel and that man are one and the same. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cancel for February 27: Provident Institution for Savings

FEB  27  1899

The Provident Institution for Savings was established in 1816 in Boston.  It was the first chartered savings bank in the United States. 

In 1986 the Hartford National Corporation bought the Provident and after 170 years of independence it became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Hartford.  It has now been merged into Shaumut Bank.

Portrait of founder James Savage.
Savage lived from 1784 to 1873
The portrait was painted posthumously in 1886 by David Dahloff Neal

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2ct Documentary: Cancel and Plate Markings

D. Appleton & Company was a publishing company located in the United States.  The company published many famous and best-selling books, including:
  • The Red Badge of Courage
  • Uncle Remus
  • Memoirs of William Tecumseh Sherman
  • The Works of Rudyard Kipling
The company no longer exists, having been merged with The Century Company in 1933 which was in turn merged with F. S. Crofts.  That company was purchased by Meredith in 1960, which was then purchased by Prentice Hall in 1960...and so on.

Meanwhile, this stamp has a couple of other interesting characteristics independent of its cancel.

The C in Cents has a layout dot or marking in the lower portion of the C.  This plate anomoly was documented in this post from January 5, 2011.

The right 2 shows a thin line running through the top portion of the numeral.  This is likely to be some sort of layout marking.  I have seen many of these lines and they usually run across the stamp and both 2s, this stamp only appears to have the line running through the right 2.

Havana Hits

Interesting milestone for this site today as the first known page view from Havana, Cuba occurred.  There have been a few posts on historical moments in the Spanish American War, and the site's title painting is of a battle that took place in Cuba, so I would expect occasional web traffic from the island.  However, there are there are very few computers that have access to the internet in the country, so internet use per capita is low in Cuba. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Johnson & Johnson Battleship on Carbolated Cotton

A nice, clear Johnson & Johnson cancel has already been shown on the Blog. This one is barely readable, and its only claim to fame is that it is still on the box of Carbolated Cotton where it was placed more than a hundred years ago.

The stamp.

The box.

Carbolated cotton is created by soaking absorbent cotton in a solution of carbolic acid, alcohol and glycerin, and allowing it to dry. The glycerin will bond the carbolic acid to the cotton fiber. It was most probably used to alleviate the pain of toothache due to an untreated cavity.

Johnson & Johnson was formed in 1886 when Robert Johnson walked away from the firm of Seabury & Johnson and went into business with his brother Edward. Today it is a Fortune 500 company with some 250 subsidiaries in 57 countries. We use it when we buy the original Band-Aid brand, Tylenol, or Neutrogena products.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Frank Sente's R163 Exhibit: The Workhorse of the US 1898 Battleship Revenues

A Study of the One-Cent Documentary Issue
Exhibit Synopsis


The print run for the one-cent documentary issue was 1,124,972,000, the first time the Bureau of Engraving and Printing produced more than one billion copies of a stamp, making this revenue stamp the most common US issue of the 19th Century. It was the most commonly and diversely used of the twenty-four battleship revenues issued when Congress enacted the War Revenue Law of 1898 to underwrite the cost of the Spanish-American War. Mint copies are plentiful, however no plate or die proofs exist, and only three trial color proofs are known. One of those is in this exhibit.

Shown are examples of plate singles from the three plate layouts used over the four-year tax period. Few production varieties exist, given the quantity produced. A block demonstrating the horizontal imperforate error, an example of a dramatic offset horizontal perforation, and a used vertical pair showing an unusual jagged vertical perforation are exhibited.

Documents illustrating the relevant taxes are presented as well as a selection of cancellations from railroad and express companies, the primary users of the stamp. A unique usage of a one-cent Porto Rico overprint is presented and explained.


Primarily used to pay the one-cent tax on bills of lading and express shipping receipts, this “workhorse” stamp carried the nation’s freight. With a one-cent tax on telegrams and railroad parlor car tickets, it also “carried” words and travelers. Often the one-cent issue was used with other stamps to pay “make-up” tax rates, in particular on present or future delivery commodity sales at boards of trade for which a one-cent tax was charged for each $100 in value, or fraction thereof. These usages provide a historic “snapshot” of the nation’s commerce at a time when the United States was emerging into a true nation-state with world-power status.

Knowledge and Research

Most documents are self-explanatory, although study, research and experiential common sense are required to correctly interpret unusual transactions and puzzling circumstances. Without a clear understanding of the tax schedule one might not have noticed that Wells Fargo required an additional one-cent stamp for a shipment of bullion because that represented a transfer of money requiring two-cents tax rather than the penny required on an express receipt.

The phrase, “comes with baggage”, now most often used in a derogatory sense, stems from an 1898 Treasury Official’s ruling voiding the bill of lading tax on excess baggage. Treasury ruled “baggage, no matter in what amount” could not be considered as a “separate” shipment from a passenger and while an excess fee might be appropriate, a tax thereon was not. Hence a traveler “comes with baggage”.

The current federal telephone tax had its origin in 1898 when telephone calls costing 15 cents or more were taxed one-cent each, but you will not find an example in the exhibit. Without the requirement of a tangible document, as was the case with telegraphic dispatches, stamps were not used to pay this tax. Instead phone companies were required to submit a monthly statement along with an appropriate payment directly to their district internal revenue collector – a rare example of a tax not borne directly by consumers, as it is today.

While the Schedule A taxes were enumerated in a scant four pages; the Treasury Decisions interpreting them make up four lengthy volumes. Interpretative nuggets gleaned from those Decisions and from other official resources were useful in explanations for additional exhibited documents. For example, the explanation for the usage of the one-cent Porto Rico overprint was found in the First Annual Report of Charles H. Allen, Governor of Porto Rico.


Telegrams, bills of lading, and express receipts often were discarded upon receipt. Frequently they were printed on sulfur-laden paper causing serious deterioration over time. It’s a wonder that any of these casual use documents ever survived, and most that have are either dog-eared or foxed. The ones chosen for this exhibit are in better condition than collectors usually find.

Rarity and Presentation

The tax was in effect for just four years, and in some instances, only three years, considerably less time than for the Civil War tax era, so the window of availability for taxed transactions is narrower. While bills of lading are common, the exhibit contains the earliest known use of the one-cent documentary on one, and a last day of use on another. Renewals of insurance policies are uncommon and one requiring just a one-cent tax, extremely so.

Suggested Reading

Schedule A (4 pages) from the War Revenue Act of 1898

Remembering the Maine...One Stamp at a Time, Vol. 112, No. 8, The American Philatelist August 1998. A schedule of the 1898 documentary taxes by fee amounts appears on page 748.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Steamboat Chickasaw


Dave Thompson sent me a scan of this cancel months ago, and I never posted it because neither of us were sure at the time what Str Chickasaw meant.  During the intervening period, Dave figured it out, and we now know this stamp was cancelled by the Steamboat Chickasaw, a riverboat on the Mississippi that varied its area of operations over time.  In a photo below the boat was described as working rivers around Memphis in the early 1880s. 

The annual report page at the bottom of this post clearly shows the boat operating in Louisiana near New Orleans with a home port of Brashear by the late 1890s.  Funny how management showed the boat to lose $407 dollars in 1899 following receipts of more than $70,000.  Good old fashioned Louisiana book-keeping!

Enhanced Chickasaw cancel from the stamp above

Cancels for February 20 and May 20 on 2 Cent Proprietary Block of Ten

Block of 10, RB27 Proprietary battleship
plate number and partial bureau imprint

February 20, 1901 handstamp dates in left column
May 20, 1901 handstamp dates in right column
Manuscript initials

Unknown company, interesting piece.  What firm producing proprietary articles would cancel columns of stamps within the same sheet with dates three months apart?  2 cent stamps would indicate wine or chewing gum companies primarily.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Cancel for February 20: Kettle Creek Coal Mining Company

Kettle Creek
FEB    20    1900
Coal Mining Co.

Scan courtesy of Bart Rosenberg who added this:  Kettle Creek had 6 mines around Bitumen, Pa from 1874 to 1929, and has been the site of a major environmental cleanup in recent years because of these mines and associated strip mining.

From The New York Times, November 5, 1888:



WILLIAMSPORT, Penn., Nov. 4.--Word reaches here to-day of a terrible mine horror at the Kettle Creek Coal mining Company's mines at Cook's Run, Clinton County.  On Saturday afternoon about 4 o'clock George L. Miller, Superintendent, heard a terrific report, and arriving at No. 2 mine found that an explosion had occurred.  He immediately carried the air to the face of the work, entered the mine, and within one hour had recoverd 14 dead bodies.  Six injured miners were removed, one of whom died soon afterward.  It is feared that one or two more will die from injuries sustained...
  The general theory is that in working a blast a gas feeder was struck, filling the chamber with gas, which, coming into contact with a miner's lamp, caused the fearful explosion.  A gas-feeder is a pocket of gas embedded in the coal, and as soon as a pick is struck into it the gas escapes with a rush.  Mr. Miller, the Superintendent, is a thorougly practical man, and is at present one of the board for the examination of mine inspectors, holding his commission from the State.  The Kettle Creek Mining Company is composed of Williamsport men, and its mines have been in operation about four months.

The American Revenuer, November-December 2010

Page 110, The American Revenuer, November-December 2010

Thanks to Ken Trettin for publishing my article regarding the search for new printed cancels on 1898 documentary revenues. Click the image above to get a full sized version of the page.  As the article details, I am looking for additional and unknown examples of printed cancels on 1898 documentary revenue stamps as part of an effort to create an updated and more complete list of Richard Fullerton's printed cancel catalog.

I can be contacted through my email address,  Tell me if you have contributions you could make to this list, and if possible, send scanned attachments of any material you might have.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cancel for February 19: National Black River Bank, Windsor County, Vermont

Proctorsville, Vt.

The National Black River Bank of Proctorsville was located in Windsor County, Vermont.  One of the most remarkable printed cancels on the documentary series of battleships was made on the one cent battleship by the Windsor County Clerk's office:

I do not know why this printed cancel was made.  I understand that there is another type of this cancel with another name other than J. R. Pember.  Does anyone have an example?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Finally A $5 Ocean Passage Ticket Usage -- Hawaiian Line

This is a continuation of a series of blogs about Ocean Passage Tickets.

Finally an ocean passage ticket illustrating the $5 tax on tickets costing more than $60 has surfaced. Serendipitously, I spotted this one on eBay in December 2010 just a few weeks after inquiring via this blog about possible usage examples for the $3 and $5 rates. We've previously blogged about several $1 tickets, but until now, no $3 or $5 tickets had been reported.

Hawaiian Line Ocean Passage Ticket
San Francisco to Honolulu
July 21, 1899

The Hawaiian Line ticket above covered cabin passage for W. S. Dole and wife (Walter Sanford Dole and Miriam Dreier Dole) from San Francisco to Honolulu via the Irmgard, a barkentine mostly used to transport sugar cane and supplies between the Hawaiian Islands and San Francisco. A typical trip to the Islands from San Francisco took 10 or 11 days, so presumably they arrived in Honolulu around the end of July 1899. The ticket cost $80 and was taxed $5, the proper rate for any ticket costing in excess of $60.

Left @ 1892 Cornell University
Right @ 1918 US Army

Walter S. Dole was a nephew of Sanford Dole, the first President of the Republic of Hawaii and subsequently the first Governor when Hawaii became a US Territory in 1900. Another uncle, James Dole, who actually was a few years younger than Walter is the credited with planting the first pineapples and starting the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in 1901.

Walter was born July 30, 1868 at Koloa and spent his childhood on the Islands. He graduated from Cornell University in 1892 with a degree in civil engineering. According to a notice in the May 1899 Cornell Alumni News he then was living in Chicago on Greenwood Ave. He married Miriam Dreier of Chicago on Christmas Day 1897. They apparently continued to reside in Chicago after marrying as their first son, Carl, was born there in October 1898. Although not mentioned on the ticket, it is possible that Carl, who then would have been 9 months old accompanied them on this voyage. Presumably, they were moving to the Islands as the February 1900 Cornell Alumni News indicated Walter was the superintendent of a sugar plantation in Hawaii.

But by 1902 Walter and Miriam were in California where they lived thereafter, except for a short period in Tucson Arizona in the early 1920s. Perhaps the death of Carl in 1900, at age 2, had something to do with their return to the States. They would have four more children. Walter died August 15, 1945 in Los Angeles and Miriam died March 12, 1947.

Williams, Dimond & Co., the agents for the Hawaiian Line, and from whom this ticket was purchased were highly involved in the Hawaiian sugar trade with nine ships, the Irmgard being one of the smallest, in operation in 1900. At this time they also maintained a branch office in New York City and according to Lloyd's 1901 Register of Shipping, the firm's San Francisco based ships also served Atlantic Coast ports and Cuba. In the early 1900's Williams, Dimond brokered the transplantation of many Puerto Ricans to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations.

The firm continues in business today as a ship chandler at Pier 15 in San Francisco. Williams Dimond also serves as a ship broker and liner agent with offices in other major US port cities. A History of Williams, Dimond Co. Since 1862 by Michael Nerney was published in 1988.

This Hawaiian Line ticket is just the eighth ocean passage ticket from the Spanish American War tax period to be reported and the first illustrating the $5 tax rate. We're still looking for a usage of the $3 Commerce stamp, appropriate for tickets costing more than $30 to $60.

Anyone having knowledge of other taxed ocean passage tickets is invited to report them, with scans if possible, to

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cancel for February 17: A. L. & T. Co.

A. L. & T. Co.

Unconfirmed set of initials, though possibly the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company.

Arizona Lumber and Timber Company building and employees in 1899 in Flagstaff, Arizona Territory

Ed. Note:  Arizonan Frank Sente points out that the cancel is likely for the firm Arizona Lumber and Timber, not Arizona Land and Timber as I originally wrote.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cancel for February 16: William B. King, Washington DC

Wm. B. King.
FEB  16  1899

Mr. King's law firm continues today under the name King & King LLP.  The firm initially specialized in litigating against the United States government in claims involving the Civil War.  It now specializes in construction and engineering litigation.  William B. King was the son of firm founder Charles King.  Charles King retired in 1899 and left the firm to his two sons, William and George.  The firm today continues to be known as King & King, from the names of William and George.

Used R161 Half Cent Orange Documentary Stamps

As promised, and from Bob Patetta's trove of these stamps, here is a pile of used half cent orange battleships, with many partial cancels.  I am interested in help in identifying many of these cancels.

JUL 22 18

JUL   14   1898

NS CO. N. A.
UG 9 1898

A. & G.


B. P. L.


AUG  XX  1898





D.  &  R.
JUL 30  1898

E.  A.  D. CO. OF MD.

Fidelity & Deposit Co.
sep 2x  1898