Thursday, March 31, 2011

Theodore Roosevelt's Proposed National Parks Tax

A little known moment in US fiscal history finally comes to light today at 1898 Revenues.  As the title of this post indicates, President Theodore Roosevelt, the first great conservationist President, considered extending certain Spanish-American War taxes in order to support and expand his goal of preserving some of America’s great natural areas.  According to National Geographic, nearly 230,000,000 acres of the United States were placed under public protection by Roosevelt.  And the President considered how these great reserves would be cared for, and in turn, how that care would be supported. 

Practically, Roosevelt wondered whether the American public would tolerate new taxes or fees to cover what was, at the time, a radical concept.  Preservation of natural wonders was not something the common man considered a public priority.  So Roosevelt considered whether a minor extension of existing taxes set to expire would be little noticed and accepted.

Realizing that the Spanish-American War taxes on checks and drafts were to expire at the end of June, 1901, Roosevelt proposed to some of his trusted advisors whether a one-year extension of the check tax (2 cents per check) could raise the revenue necessary to support to National Parks programming through the end of his term. 

In a short time, John W. Yerkes, Roosevelt's Commissioner of Internal Revenue had done the calculations and assured Roosevelt that not only would the revenue be sufficient for expected costs of the national parks, but would far exceed the needs.  Roosevelt then devised a strategy to make these "new" yet old taxes acceptable to the American Public.

Looking over a 2 cent battleship documentary stamp while at his home at Sagamore Hill, New York, Roosevelt took it upon himself to create a redesign.  If the check tax was to be extended to make the tax seem as non-intrusive as possible, why not make a subtle change to the existing tax stamp, one more in-line with the ruggedness and the spirit of park preservation?  Just as private die proprietary users like Johnson and Johnson made subtle changes to the battleship design, Roosevelt thought that the replacement of the battleship with a canoe, the well known water craft of the rugged and self-reliant American Indian, would make a perfect center for a new stamp.

Roosevelt at the stand-up desk in his study at Sagamore Hill.  The design for the stamp below was created by Roosevelt at this desk.

Four water colors of canoes were on the wall of his study at Sagamore Hill, and Roosevelt took his inspiration from one of these.  Carefully scraping away the battleship off the stamp with a new razor blade, Roosevelt created a blank center in the stamp for which to draw his own vessel.

The Roosevelt designed "Canoe" check tax stamp.  This is the actual stamp created by Roosevelt at Sagamore Hill.

One canoe was chosen for the design, much like the single battleship in the original stamp.  Roosevelt used a fountain pen and placed a canoe on the waves, with two native -Americans with paddles in the canoe.  He then sketched in mountain outlines above their heads. 

Once back in Washington, Roosevelt took the stamp design to Yerkes to be considered for engraving and actual use.  John Yerkes liked the design, but while Roosevelt was in New York, Yerkes began to look into whether general revenues might cover Roosevelt's new and growing parks program.  After consultations with the Secretary of the Treasury Lyman J. Gage, Yerkes and Gage agreed that an extension of the check tax would be unnecessary.  This would make Roosevelt's search for revenue much simpler.  Yerkes promptly told Roosevelt of the lack of a need for a tax extension, and the matter, and the stamp above, were soon forgotten.

Looking back on this little known moment in philatelic history, it is amazing that this stamp and story have survived.  But Roosevelt family members preserved the stamp and the legend, and 1898 Revenues is proud to finally tell the story.

BTW:  Roosevelt would often place hidden messages in his letters, often by coding them in the first letter of each paragraph.  1898 Revenues uses the trick on occasion. 

Stock Certificate Maidens

Dave Thompson cropped these images from two of Frank Sente's stock certificates from his post from yesterday.  Seems Dave couldn't help notice that this maiden showed up twice on the certs for two very different companies.  Perhaps they are identical twins.  Where do you think they bought their hats?

Miss Automatic Sprinkler and Supply Company

Miss St. Joseph Switch and Transfer Company

Frank's post from two days ago contained Miss Verde King. I think there were identical triplets!

Miss Verde King Copper Company

Cancel for March 31: Arkansas Valley Town & Land Company

MAR  31  1900
A.  V.  T.  &  L.  Co.

The Arkansa Valley Town and Land Company was a part of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad.  The company managed the land that the railroad controlled along its right of way, and developed and established many Kansas towns and communities.  The company is closely interwoven with the building of the state of Kansas.

The AT&SF Railroad Map shows how the railroad followed parts of the old Santa Fe trail and cut right through the State of Kansas.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stock Certificates -- Why All The Errors?

The Schedule A documentary taxes were not concisely worded in the War Revenue Law of 1898 and various exemptions often applied. The Law also lacked any quick reference chart detailing the specific taxes, yet the law regarding stock certificates was pretty clear. Original issue stock was to be taxed at the rate of 5-cents/$100 in value or fraction thereof, and any resales of stock were to be taxed at 2-cents/$100 or fraction thereof based on the original face value. Seems simple enough, but in practice many mistakes or misinterpertations seem to have been made, perhaps some intentionally.

$325 Original Issue Stock Certificate
Walter Baker Sanitarium Company
March 19, 1902

As an original issue, this $325 certifcate of The Walter Baker Sanitarium Company should have been taxed 20-cents, not 8-cents. Considering the date, March 19, 1902, in the fourth year of the tax it's hard to believe this was a mere error or misinterpertation of the law.

detail of Walter Baker Sanitarium Stock
stamps cancelled by Henry M. Fowler, Treasurer
H.W.F./Mar 19/1902

$250 Original Issue Stock Certificate
Boston Bichloride of Gold Company
September 7, 1901

It wasn't until I began gathering material for this blog about errantly taxed stock certificates did I notice that the officers for the Boston Bicloride of Gold Company, James M. Marden, President and Henry M. Fowler, Treasurer, were also the respective president and treasurer of the Walter Baker Sanitarium Company. Not surprising then we find the same mistake on the Bichloride of Gold Company stock; it too was improperly taxed at the resale rate rather than the original issue rate, 6-cents as opposed to 15-cents.

The two companies apparently were connected. The Walter Baker Sanitarium, Roxbury, and later Boston Massachusetts was founded in 1892 to treat nervous disorders and alcoholism. Bichloride of gold, or Keeley's cure, was then considered a useful curative for alcoholism. I've not researched the matter, nor these companies, but at first blush it all sounds a bit like snake oil and I suspect Charles J. Douglas, who bought both stocks, got snakebit by his investment in them.

$100 Original Issue Stock Certificate
Homestake Gold Mining Company of Tuolumne
July 20, 1898, August 22, 1898, September 4, 1898

The Homestake Mining Company made a similar mistake when issuing its stock in July 1898. Curiously the certificate above is dated July 20, 1898 but wasn't taxed until August 22, and then improperly so at the 2-cent/$100 resale rate rather than at the initial issue rate of 5-cents. At least the company corrected the error on September 4 by adding a 3-cent stamp to the certificate.

split image detail of stamps from Homestake Gold Mining Stock
3-cent stamp cancelled SEP 4 1898
2-cent stamp cancelled AUG 22, 1898

$250 Original Issue Stock Certificate
U.T.D. Automatic Sprinkler and Supply Company
August 8, 1899

The U.T.D. Automatic Sprinkler and Supply Company, at least recognized that original issue stock was to be taxed at the rate of 5-cents/$100, but they incorrectly prorated the tax on this $250 certificate applying only 12 1/2-cents rather than a full 15-cents. The law clearly states, that the 5-cent rate applies to fractional amounts less than $100.

detail of stamps from U.T.D. Automatic Sprinkler stock

$400 Original Issue Stock Certificate
The Saint Joseph Switch and Transfer Railway Company
July 10, 1899

The Saint Joseph Switch and Transfer Railway apparently simply ignored the law and failed to tax the above certificate when first issue on July 10, 1899. As shown below, when the purchaser, James Hull, chose to sell the stock BOTH the proper original issue tax of 20-cents and the resale tax of 8-cents was paid.

Reverse of St. Joseph Switch and Transfer stock certificate
tax for BOTH original issue and resale affixed and cancelled 4/2/1901

We'll look at some higher value stocks in further blogs. While the tax seems to have caused problem for small stakes companies like the ones shown here, I've yet to find a high value stock that was errantly taxed. Failing to abide by this provision of the tax act was considered a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 with the additional possibility of imprisionment for not more than six months.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stock Certificates - The Basic Tax Rates

The tax on stock certificates is detailed in the first paragraph of the War Revenue Law of 1898 Schedule A Documentary Stamp Taxes. Full of bureaucratic jargon, the provision is lengthy and verbose. Cutting to the chase, original issue stock certificates were to be taxed at 5-cents per $100 in face value or fraction thereof, and upon resale, any stock certificate was to be taxed at the rate of 2-cents per $100 in original face value or fraction thereof.

Wall Street brokers had lobbied Congress against taxing resales based upon their actual resale value, arguing that doing so would be tedious as clerks would have to spend extra time calculating the tax on multi-share certificates. Hence the flat 2-cents per $100 resale tax on original face value.

Original Issue Stock Certificate Verde King Copper Company
Jerome, Arizona Territory
April 2, 1901

At $1 per share, the 100 share certificate of the Verde King Copper Mine shown above demonstrates the 5-cents/$100 tax in its simplest form with the embossed impression of the company's seal serving to cancel the R167 5-cent battleship stamp. Although this certificate likely was issued from the company's Los Angeles headquarters, the company was incorporated under the laws of the Arizona Territory in 1900 and the mine was located in Jerome, on the other side of Mingus Mountain from Prescott, the current residence of this blogger.

Since moving to Arizona in 2004, I've kept a watchful eye out for on-document usages from the then Arizona Territory; Arizona did not become a state - last of the lower forty-eight - until February 14, 1912.

At its height the copper mine boom town boasted a population of 15,000+ and held the dubious title of "wickedest town in the west." Today's Jerome is a bit more refined; a genteel artist community peppered with B&Bs, inns, and trendy restaurants.

Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad Co.
Resale of Stock December 10, 1901

John previously has blogged about a printed cancel on a $1000 share certificate for the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad Car Trust issued through the Girard Trust Company in 1902 and how earlier stock issues from the company were bought up to force the sale of the road in early 1902 thus allowing the formation of the new 1902 trust agreement.

The stock pictured above undoubtedly was one of those earlier stocks accumulated just prior to that 1902 sale process as it bears a resale date of December 10, 1901 and was subsequently cancelled by Girard Trust on May 1, 1902. Actually there is more going on with this stock than meets the eye; the original owner, Atlee H. Tracy, resided in Sevenoaks just outside of Kent, England. For the purpose of this blog, however, it neatly demonstrates the 2-cents/$100 tax on a resale of stock with an original value of $100 or less. The single share here originally sold for $50.

1898 Original Issue Stock Certificate
Wisconsin Telephone Company
Patetta scan

Bob Patetta kindly has provided a nice example showing BOTH the 5-cent/$100 original issue tax and the 2-cent/$100 resale tax on the same document. At $100 per share the 1000 share certificate of the Wisconsin Telephone Company shown above originally sold for $100,000. At 5-cents/$100 it was properly taxed $50. The R178 $50 Commerce issue in the upper left corner provides a hint of some of the wild, high-value stamp combinations we'll feature in upcoming blogs.

Resale Endorsement
Wisconsin Telephone Company Stock Certificate
Patetta scan

Two $10 Commerce issues on the back of this 1000 share Wisconsin Telephone Company certificate neatly document its resale at 2-cents/$100 in original value.

The Wisconsin Telephone Company was founded in 1892. Today it's part of the "new" AT&T.

Two Year Anniversary of 1898 Revenues

Today is the second anniversary of 1898 Revenues.  The first post was published on March 28, 2009. 

When 1898 Revenues first when online, the background was all black, and there was no title art.  The first post included Milwaukee Road printed and handstamp cancels on a 2 cent documentary battleship.  And I knew far less about these stamps than I do now.

screen capture from 1898 Revenues old look -- back when the site was far less complex

In the past two years the site has managed to collect a few loyal readers and some knowledgeable contributors.  Thanks to all for reading and stopping by, and I look forward to continued publishing for at least another two years. 

Big thanks go out to all those that have added so much to this effort, especially Frank Sente, Dave Thompson, and Bob Hohertz. 

I will keep the site's current appearance the same for the next couple of months, but I may do some tinkering  during the summer.  For now I like the look, though I'm always interested in suggestions.  Bob Mustacich is now going for a battleship revenue stamp appearance in his site art.  Hmm...

Advice and comments on the blog are always welcome.  Please write to me at


Sunday, March 27, 2011

New Appearance and Content at Battleship-Revenues

Bob Mustacich has begun a major update of his Battleship Revenues website.  The layout is new and there is new content, especially in the listings and illustrations of railroad cancels.  I am in the process of providing new scans for Bob's effort. 

As some of you know, Bob's site is the home for his work the Battleship Desk Reference, which provides an extensive listing and datebase of pharmaceutical and drug firms during the 1898 tax period.  The book and the website are a major work and reference for collectors of proprietary battleships, especially those with handstamps and indecipherable initials.

Now Bob is adding much more documentary data, especially with regard to railroad hanndstamp cancels.  More about railroads after a shot of the home page immediately below:

Screen capture of the new home page

A new feature unavailable on the old site is a database of railroad handstamp cancels, partially based on an old list of Tolman cancels in Bob's possession.  To get to those lists, navigate by clicking on US Revenue Stamps right below the title.  You will then get a page allowing you to open a folder of Documentary Stamps.  Then click on Battleships, then click on Railroad Cancels.  You will then have access to a set of .pdf files of scanned images of railroad cancels: 

Screen capture of navigation page for railroad cancels inventory

Thanks Bob, for this work, and I look forward to expanding the listings and inventory of known cancels.  This will be a great complement to an update of the Fullerton lists.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Important Finding Coming Soon

I'm putting the finishing touches on a post due out soon on a major discovery regarding the 1898 War Revenue Law.  Keep checking this site over the next week to read the full story.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Position Dot (?) on the Half Cent Stamp in Yesterday's Post

Rereading yesterday's post I focused a bit on the stamp.  I've recently received a deluge of examples of so-called postion dots on the battleships, and I've become accustomed to looking for these near the top center of the stamp.  Yesterday's stamp presents an example of a dot in the center of the L in HALF at the top of the stamp. 

These so-called dots are everywhere once I start looking for them.  Is it the case on postage stamps that these dots were always so carelessly placed or not burnished off the plate?  What gives?  I understand that the Bureau was busy.  Is this the only explanation?

In the coming week I will post a few more examples of these kinds of dots.  Stay tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cancel for March 22: West Jersey Title

West Jersey Title
3/22   1899
& Guaranty Company

The West Jersey Title & Guaranty Company was incorporated in 1888 by William Casselman. His brother-in-law, Thomas French, was a prominent Camden attorney, whose firm is still in business today, as Capehart Scatchard Attorneys at Law. The firm acquired the property at the southeast corner of 3rd and Market Streets in Camden NJ in 1889, and was still at that location as late as 1947. By 1959 the company had moved to 518 Market Street. Around 1974 the firm was absorbed by the Continental Title Insurance Company, and moved its offices to Pennsauken NJ. In 1995 the firm became the to Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company of New Jersey.

During its heyday, West Jersey Title also engaged in real estate and banking throughout South Jersey, including the the West Jersey Title and Guarantee Bank of Woodbury, NJ. West Jersey Title acquired the Montgomery Stafford Farm East shortly after a railroad station was established at Laurel Springs NJ, and was instrumental in advertising and developing the area which became the Borough of Laurel Springs.

Cancel Help

Can anyboy help identify this cancel?  There is enough information that it should be recognizable by anyone familiar with the firm.  Dave Thompson sent in the scan of this plate number single.


BTW:  Within the next two weeks, this site will report a major finding regarding a proposed extension of the 1898 tax act by President Theodore Roosevelt.  Not reported in the philatelic press until now, this story will intrigue collectors of this series and all US revenue stamps.  Keep checking the site.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A St. Louis Puzzle -- A Sight Draft Taxed in 1903?

Unlike John, who serves half-a-world away, I have been fortunate enough to attend the annual meeting of the American Revenue Association in St. Louis this weekend. I've traveled through St.Louis before (stopped long enough to visit the Arch and photograph the famous Eds Bridge), but this is my first real visit to the "Gateway to the West," and to the annual St. Louis Stamp Expo World Series of Philately qualifying show.

Eads Bridge photo from the City To River Blog

It's always a joy to meet long-time friends and make new ones at philatelic events, and the folks who run the St. Louis Stamp Expo have been great hosts. Kudos to them for a great show!

Preparing for the show got me thinking about St. Louis-related material in my 1898 revenue collections. I've previously blogged about some of my better St. Louis items: a letter of credit from the National Bank of Commerce in St. Louis; a wonderful $2.50 promotional credit certificate taxed as a promissory note from the Hammar Bros. White Lead Company of St. Louis; and two days ago, an export bill of lading from the Luedinghaus-Espenschild Wagon Company for wagon parts being shipped to Cuba.

Collins Collection Company Sight Draft
St.Louis, Mo.
June 12, 1903

In comparison, today's subject document, a sight draft from the Collins Collection Company is extrodinarily unremarkable, save its June 12, 1903 date. June 1903? That's nearly TWO years after the July 1, 1901 repeal of the tax on checks and drafts drawn at sight. Even if one considered this to be a draft other than at sight (note the endorsement "with exchange and cost of collection") which were subject to taxation until July 1, 1902, this is still nearly a year later.

Why it was taxed 2-cents has long puzzled me with the document languishing in my "what's up with this file" for years. One might expect a year date problem occurring in January, not June. Regrettably the back is blank suggesting the draft was never paid and offering no clue about a dating error. Most collectors I show it to simply shrug and hand it back.

One plausible explanation, offered so long ago I forget by whom, is that an ambitious clerk had pre-stamped a stack of blank forms with the two cents required for sight drafts and the Collins firm never bothered to attempt to obtain a refund for the unnecessary stamps when the tax was repealed. That makes some sense, but to still be using forms one, or more likely, two years late still seems a bit suspect.

I'd appreciate hearing from anyone with other explanations, or access to early 1900's St. Louis City directories, as I've not had much success tracking the Collins Collection Company either.

The 2012 ARA annual meeting will be held in conjunction with the Garfield-Perry March Party show in Cleveland, Ohio March 23-25, 2012.

ARA Meeting in St. Louis this Weekend

As I'm on the other side of the world I'm afraid I can't make the meeting in St. Louis (apologies to Judy Garland).  But the fact of the meeting in the city with the arch got me thinking about all the associations between St. Louis and some of the more remarkable and collectable 1898 revenue items.

photo by Bev Sykes

Hermann Ivester and Jim Kloetzel of Scott have been kind enough to grant permission to republish Hermann's St. Louis Provisionals article here. 

The Antikamnia Chemical Company, one of many St. Louis pharmaceutical firms in 1898, is well known for its use of provisionals like that above, printed cancels, and a 2 1/2 cent private die stamp.

St. Louis was an important railroad hub in the midwest and a primary departure city for points west.  Many railroads took the name of the important city of St. Louis for their own:

 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, & Southern Railway is one example.

The St. L. I. M.& S. was a part of a much large system that ran out of St. Louis that included the Missouri Pacific.

Some railroads, like the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, started in St. Louis but never quite made it to their other namesake.  In the case of the St. L. & S. F., or Frisco, the system never even got close to making it to San Francisco.

Others, like the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, intended to reach St. Louis, but never did.  You could have never used this railroad to meet Judy Garland in St. Louis.

As a kid, St. Louis always had a mystique to it, as I would listen late at night under the covers to Jack Buck calling Cardinals baseball games on KMOX.  The station was clear all the way down in New Orleans, as KMOX had a 50,000 watt clear channel medium wave signal at night.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ebay: 50 Copies of R154 Cancelled July 1, 1898 on a Bond

A spectacular example of 50 copies of R154 on document from the first day of use just sold on Ebay.  Listed by the seller without even a note that the document was cancelled on the first day, and indeed it appears as if each stamp has a July 1 handstamp cancel in blue, the item was clearly stalked by collectors that appreciated the fact.

The bid remained in the double digits for days; in the waning moments snipers came in to raise the final price to $787.  Obviously I watched this one, and figured it might go for a high price but this exceeded my estimate by about $200. 

Front cover of the bond from the Wisconsin Mutual Loan and Building Society in Milwaukee

This document would be a perfect addition to Len McMaster's one cent Franklin exhibit.

An Export Bill of Lading from St. Louis

According to the War Revenue Law any shipping receipt, bill of lading, or manifest, for the carriage and transportation of any goods was to be taxed. The tax on domestic shipments was one cent, and shipments to any foreign destination were taxed ten cents. Domestic bills of lading are quite common, but examples of export bills of lading are surprisingly rare. More on that later, now let's consider the document at hand.

Louisville & Nashville Railroad Bill of Lading for Luedinghaus-Espenschild Wagon Company
St. Louis, Missouri to Havana, Cuba
September 28,1899

As one can see from the size of the stamp in relation to the form, this is an oversized document. It measures 17" x 13.5" and is replicated here by stitching four scans together, hence the minor misalignment at the bottom center. It details the shipment of 3,110 lbs. of wagon parts, (or perhaps the parts for one wagon) from the Luedinghaus-Espenschild Wagon Company of St. Louis to Havana, Cuba. Cuba, site of the start of the Spanish American War, was an American Suzerainty at this time and a likely target for increased American trade.

By the 1890s the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had become one of the premier Southern routes. Originally formed in the 1850s as a small local rail line from Louisville to Nashville (it took years to actually reach Nashville), the company outmaneuvered its competition and absorbed many of them in the process. In 1880 they gained control of the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad thus gaining entry to the important St. Louis market. They also gained access to the Gulf ports in the 1880s and stretched into Pensacola in 1893 setting the stage for this shipment. Service to Cuba via steamships was announced by the L&N in January 1899, just 9 months prior to this shipment.

initials of J. N. Chandler, Agent who signed the document

Luedinghaus-Espenschild Wagon @1894

The Luedinghaus-Espenschild Wagon Company can be traced back to the 1850s; in 1853 the Mormons bought 14 wagons from them for their trek West to the great Salt Lake area. The firm lasted into the 1930s by which time they also were producing trucks.

One can easily find taxed domestic bills of lading on eBay and elsewhere; but export bills of lading are exceeding difficult to find. It was years before I obtained this one and in more than 35 years of collecting I've seen less than 10 and most of those are to Canada (we'll blog about those sometime). One would expect bills to foreign destinations to be less prevalent than domestic bills, but why so rare?

The answer lies in Fairbank v. United States wherein the US Supreme Court ruled the 10-cent tax on foreign bills of lading to be unconstitutional; i.e. the tax was equivalent to a tax on the articles included in bills of lading, and therefore a tax on exports, in conflict with the constitutional prohibition against such taxes. The ruling confirms that the 10-cent tax was not on the document itself but the underlying transaction it represented. Subsequently, by Act of June 27, 1902 the Secretary of the Treasury was authorized and directed to refund sums paid for documentary stamps used on export bills of lading. On July 8, 1902 the Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued rules for making such refunds which required the submission of the taxed documents to the Internal Revenue Department along with refund claims. We'll likely never know how many such claims were made but certainly the decision to refund the tax for documents submitted to Internal Revenue has made them exceeding difficult to now find.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Use of Officially Returned and Redeemed Stamped Paper

Frank Sente and I have been exchanging emails concerning the volumes of Compilation of Decisions rendered by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue under the War Revenue Act of June 13, 1898, which contained a list of printers licensed to furnish imprinted paper. I have been wanting to see the January, 1902 edition to see which printers were still listed, presumably to continue imprinting parlor car tickets until the end of the tax period on June 30, 1902. Frank found a copy online for me, and I eagerly downloaded it. Unfortunately, it didn't contain the usual list of printers, probably assuming that any on the list in the 1901 edition could continue to function for an extra year if requested by a user. However, one section of it did shed some light on another thing that has been puzzling me.
On July 1, 1901 checks and drafts payable on order or at sight were no longer taxable. Imprinted paper could be sent in for a refund of the tax paid. Checks with a round hole punched through the imprint indicate that it was sent in for redemption and returned to the owner for subsequent use. I have been looking for an example used in 1901, or even 1902, without success. The check below, used in April of 1903, is the earliest I have come across so far.

One item in the 1902 Compilation explains why I never will find a 1901 example, and why 1902 use may exist, they will be few and far between. From pages 193 - 194:
Redemption of imprinted stamps.
Under existing laws it is not possible to return checks to the owners after the imprinted stamps have been redeemed, but they will be preserved subject to future action of Congress.
Washington, D.C., August 15, 1901

To collectors of internal revenue and others concerned:
Application having been made to this office by banks and bankers for the return, after redemption of the stamps, of checks on which stamps have been imprinted, you are advised that when the war-revenue act imposing a tax on checks and notes went into effect, at the request of the bankers, and to meet their convenience, a system of imprinting the 2-cent stamps on checks was devised by this Bureau, which was a great saving of annoyance and trouble to the banks and their customers.

Upon the repeal of the stamp tax on checks by the Act of March 2, 1901, the question arose as to the redemption of such imprinted stamps, and instructions were issued March 22, 1901 (Circular N. 596), relative to redemption of documentary and proprietary stamps.

This office has been requested to cancel the imprinted checks, after allowance of the claim for redemption, in such a manner as to render their future use possible, and return them to the original owner in order to effect a saving to the owner or bank of the cost of stationery and the binding of the checks and drafts in book form.
The extent to which these imprinted stamps are being presented shows that a large pecuniary loss will fall upon banks and owners if the checks and drafts are destroyed, after refund is made for the stamps thereon.
After careful consideration of this whole question, the conclusion reached is that, under existing laws, it is not possible to return these instruments to the owners, but this office will proceed as rapidly as possible to consider the claims for redemption, and refund to the owners the amounts due by reason of the stamps imprinted; will cancel those instruments so as to allow their future use; will preserve the various checks, and will recommend to Congress, at its session in December next, to pass a law under which it will be possible and legal to return these checks and drafts to the claimants and owners.

It is understood that the banks will also petition Congress for relief, and in this way it is believed speedy action may be had.
J.W. YERKES, Commissioner

The 1903 Compilation volume contains the following:

Cancellation of imprinted stamps and return of imprinted instruments to their owners.
[Circular No. 42 - Int. Rev. No. 623]
Washington, D.C., April 25, 1902.
The joint resolution authorizing the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to return bank checks, drafts, and certificates of deposit, and orders for the payment of money, having imprinted stamps thereon, to the owners thereof, approved February 26, 1902 provides:
That the Commissioner of Internal Revenue be, and is hereby, authorized to return said imprinted instruments to the owner or owners thereof, where said return is demanded within one year after the passage of this Act, after the redemption and cancellation of stamps printed thereon, and said cancellation and return to the owner or owners shall be made in such manner and under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and approved by the Secretary of the Treasury. All such checks and drafts, and so forth, remaining unclaimed by the owner at the expiration of one year after the passage of this Act shall be destroyed in such manner as may be prescribed by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and approved by the Secretary of the Treasury.
In pursuance of the authority conferred by the resolution aforesaid, it is herein provided that all revenue stamps imprinted upon checks, drafts, and other instruments shall, after their redemption and before the return of the said instruments to the owners thereof, be canceled by perforating or cutting a round hole about one-fourth of an inch in diameter therein, or through the instruments on which the said stamps are imprinted. After the redemption and cancellation of the stamps as aforesaid, the imprinted instruments may, upon the request and at the expense and risk of the owners thereof, be returned to said owners either by freight or express, as may be desired.

Requests for the return of imprinted instruments must be made in writing, addressed to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, signed by the owner or his duly authorized agent, and shall specify distinctly by description and number the instruments to be returned, the manner of return, whether by freight or express, and give plainly the address to which the instruments shall be forwarded.

All imprinted instruments remaining unclaimed by the owners on February 26, 1903, shall be destroyed by burning under the supervision of the committee appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury to superintend the destruction of stamps, notes, bonds, and other Government securities.

Imprinted instruments may be destroyed as aforesaid at once upon receipt of notice from the owner that the return of such instruments is not desired.
ROBT. WILLIAMS, Jr., Acting Commissioner,
Approved: L.M. Shaw, Secretary of the Treasury


Since Congress did not pass the IRS recommendation until February 26, 1902 there cannot be any redeemed check uses in 1901. The IRS did not act until April 25, 1902, and, as a practical matter, the process adopted then had to be announced to the banks and made available to the public.

In the meantime, as banks were using their drafts they might be falling below the required hundred necessary for redemption - the same being the case with individual users. This may account for many of the imprinted ones used after 1901 without the stamp having been redeemed. At first people didn't want to lose their checks, and later they didn't have enough to send in.

At any rate, it appears possible for checks to have been returned to users in time to be used in the last half of 1902, but not much before that. I'll continue to look for one dated in that year, but I now know why they are not so common as I thought they should be.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cancel for March 15: General Electric

General Electric Company
MAR  15  1899

This stamp was cancelled in GE's first decade of existence.

General Electric was formed in in 1892 from Edison General Electric Company and Thomson-Houston Company, run by Charles A. Coffin.  Coffin would become the new GE Corporation's first Chief Executive.

Charles Coffin
Though less well known than Edison, Mr. Coffin drove GE to become one of the most important companies to the economy of the United States during his years as head of the firm.


Mort de Cesar
Vincenzo Camuccini

Today is the ides of March, the day in 44 BC when one of history's most famous betrayals took place in the Roman Senate.  60 senators murdered Julius Cesar that day, led by Marcus Brutus.

The story of General Electric and its creation is fraught with its own betrayal and savagery, as the inventor and genius behind alternating current power generation and distribution, Nikola Tesla, was marginalized by Thomas Edison who favored and had invested heavily in direct current power generation.


Tesla worked for Edison for a brief period, but Edison dismissed much of Tesla's work and ideas regarding alternating current.  Edison's firm reputedly did not pay Tesla what he was promised, and Tesla quit.  In the late 1800s, a major battle raged between Edison and Tesla's allies like George Westinghouse over the adoption of AC vs DC power.  AC and Tesla won out, though Edison remains more famous.

Edison was so vested in direct current versus alternating current that he created a publicity campaign to discourage the use of AC.  Edison had technicians publicly electrocute and kill animals with AC power to demonstrate the danger of AC.  The first electric chair, using AC, was developed with Edison's support, also to demonstrate how deadly AC is compared to direct current. 

There is a video here of the Edison directed electrocution of the circus elephat Topsy from 1903.  Topsy had recently killed three people, and Edison thought it an appropriate stunt to put the elephant down with the rival electricity.  Find a brief history of the "war of currents" here.

By the time the stamp above was cancelled, AC was emergent.  Charles Coffin's firm, Thomson-Houston, was AC-based, and provided the new GE with the AC experience and capacity the new firm needed to thrive.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2 Cent Documentary Plate Varieties: Scratch

Most lines and dots on the battleship stamps are attributed to the intentional activities of the siderographers in laying out the subjects on the plate.  Here however, is a very obvious example of an unburnished scratch on the plate.  There is a curved red line in the margin above the stamp, independent of the design in the example below.

It is clear to me from this example as well as the broad variety of unburnished dots and lines that these plates were not viewed as tier one items in the BEP's quality control process. 

scratch is located inside the black circle

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ongoing Projects

I have never taken a moment to list some of the open projects on this site.  More than a year ago the posts here began to examine and update sections of the Chappell/Joyce lists of printed cancels on the proprietary battleships.  Then a major development occurred after Frank Sente helped locate the Joyce/Buford data base of an expanded Joyce collection.  For months I've been musing over how to handle this avalanche of data for which we don't have access to the original stamps or scans.  So then a bunch of other projects came up, like posting Hermann Ivester's Scott Specialized St. Louis Provisionals article.  One thing led to another, and well, there are a pile of ongoing and unfinished projects. 

The nice thing about a blog is that subjects can stay open for years -- there is no publication deadline to worry about, and we can keep many projects as works in progress.  A list of those projects includes:
  • Updating the Chappell/Joyce lists of printed cancels on the proprietary battleships
  • Updating the Fullerton list of printed cancels on the documentary 1898 revenues
  • An ongoing discussion and presentation of plate markings and varieties
  • An ongoing presentation of on-document uses, especially by Frank Sente
  • An ongoing presentation of cancels on documentary stamps, matching the days date: a sort of modern, internet-style calendar
  • Ad-hoc online publication of 1898 revenue-related exhibits
There are probably a few more projects out there, but these are the big ones.  All of these are current, and will remain running themes or projects on this site. 

2 Cent Documentary Plate Varieties: Guide Dots with Lines

Here we have two examples of dots at top center external to the design accompanied by a clear line running horizontally across the plate.  The bottom stamp has a dot on the left side of the stamp at top as well.