Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Betel Nut Tax

The extremely rare Scott US RB20 overprinted GUAM by the US occupation government in Guam for taxing betel nuts.  This overprint is unlisted by Scott in the Guam section of the US Specialized catalog.  Betel nuts were considered a substitute for chewing gum by revenue authorities.  Fewer than 10 copies of this stamp are known to exist.

After the seizure of Guam from the Spanish as a trophy in its war against Spain, United States government officials were forced to confront the here-to-fore unknown and rather nasty habit of chewing betel nuts for the first time.  The nuts are bitter, and stain gums and teeth.  By World War II, and after years of active US engagement throughout the South Pacific, the practice would become well known, and even popularized by Rodgers and Hammerstein in their musical South Pacific. 

From the song Bloody Mary:

Bloody Mary's chewing betel nuts.
She is always chewing betel nuts.
Bloody Mary's chewing betel nuts.
And she don't use Pepsodent!
Now ain't that too damn bad!

Whole and split betel nuts

The requirement to tax chewing gum and its "substitutes" according to the 1898 war revenue act, bedeviled US revenue agents assigned to Guam in 1898.  Betel nuts, a substitute for chewing gum, were sold everywhere on the island - from traditional village markets to the shops of foreign traders.  But the products were cheap.  In the United States, chewing gum was taxed at rates that required 2 and 4 cent proprietary stamps as specified in the war revenue act.  The low price of Betel nuts relative to chewing gum required a tax far lower than two cents or four cents. 

Naval Governor of Guam, Captain Richard Leary

The US Governor of the island, Captain R. P. Leary, had to find a solution to at least cooperate with the spirit of the law.  So he issued an order to tax each whole betel nut at a rate of 1/8 cent.  Vendors of the nuts were required to procure the 1/8 cent proprietary battleship tax stamps and apply them to each nut sold.  Unfortunately, there are no remaining examples of the stamp on piece.  After two months of use though, Governor Leary chose to have the stamps for this provisional rate overprinted in large serifed letters "GUAM".  As a result, we are left with a collectible legacy of this curious fiscal situation.

Morton Dean Joyce considered a half betel nut with a fragment of the overprinted 1/8 cent proprietary stamp attached to be the highlight of his 1898 material.  Unfortunately, the nut disintegrated with time and the remaining on-piece example no longer exists. 

In a written report, Leary stated that several sheets of RB21, the quarter cent proprietary, were overprinted GUAM for the use of vendors who sold nuts in pairs.  There was little demand, as a local taboo kept vendors from selling their nuts by the pair.  No examples of the quarter cent stamp overprinted GUAM are known to exist. 


A less scarce collectible from the US occupation of Guam can be found in this Spanish coin with a US occupation overstamp.


If you have an unusual 1898 Revenue item in your collection, please consider sending a scan of it to so it can be featured on this site.  For an example of other material of interest, read the story of the stamp below by clicking here.

Express Volume in 1890

Several posts ago I wrote briefly about the book American Railway Transportation, by Emory R. Johnson.  The book was published in 1903 and provides a nice summary of many logistical and economic aspects of the railroad business at the turn-of-the-century and the 1898 tax period.  Today I include an essential paragraph for the collector of express cancels and documents and a collector of the 1 cent documentary battleship.

From page 165:

There are no available statistics of the volume of express business done annually, because, unlike the railroad corporations, the express companies are not required to make yearly reports to the United States Government.  The only figures are those compiled by the the United States decennial censuses, and the statistics to be gathered in connection with the census of 1900 have yet to be published.  According to the census of 1890, the toal mileage of railways, waterways and highways covered by the service of express companies was 174,534 miles, of which 92.6% was under the control of the six large companies--the American, Adams, United States, Pacific, Southern, and Wells Fargo & Co.  during the year ending June 30, 1890, there were transmitted 98,118,430 packages, weighing 1,646,273 tons.  The waybills of money shipments numbered 17,258,682, and the sales of express money orders numbers 4,598,567.

This leaves me with some homework to find the 1900 census and track the changes in these figures, especially since they help account for a fair portion of the 1 cent documentary battleships ever used.  Also until this paragraph, I never realized the dominance and control of the following companies:

United States Express

Adams Express

Southern Express

Wells Fargo & Company Express

American Express

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bank of Hawaii

David Thompson sends in the scan below of a R182 block of four with Bank of Hawaii box cancels:

JUL  25  1901
Honolulu, H. I.

Hawaii became a territory of the United States in July, 1898, while the Bank of Hawaii got its start the year before in 1897.  The bank remains in operation today.

Any speculation out there about why a new bank would use dollar tax stamps in this manner?  Are there any on-document examples from the Bank of Hawaii during this time period?  Please send examples or comments to

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Garfield-Perry Stamp Show Wrap-up

Bob Hohertz's impressive 5-frame exhibit of the revenue stamp paper of the Spanish American War Era won a show gold award and an American Revenue Association gold award.  Judged to be the best of the ten revenue exhibits on display it also was awarded the ARA's Grand Award.  It also garnered one of the prestigious American Philatelic Society Medal of Excellence awards as the best exhibit of pre-1900 material in the entire show. Congratulations Bob!

Below is a shot of Bob standing in front of the first three frames of his exhibit.

The highlight of the show for me personally was the opportunity to rendevous with Bob Patetta who has been of great assistance in providing scans of material to augment my on-document blogs about the usage of the adhesive stamps of the 1898 tax period.  Bob and I first met at a Garfield Perry show some 25 years ago and hadn't seen each other since then.  We had renewed contact in recent years via the Internet -- specifically through eBay and the 1898 Revenues blog.  I'm writing this wrap-up on Monday morning because Bob and I spent hours last night reviewing the 1898 material we each had brought to the show for a show and tell session. 

I'll be featuring much more of Bob Patetta's material in upcoming blogs!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

New York Stock Brokers: Sternberger, Fuld & Sinn


Langlois scan

From the corporate history of Gruntal & Company:

The company was founded as Sternberger & Fuld in 1880 by Maurice Sternberger, who entered a partnership with Ludwig Fuld.  Sternberger bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange in 1881 for $20,000.  They were joined in 1884 by a third partner, Samuel Sinn, and the firm became Sternberger, Fuld & Sinn, with an office at 52 Broadway in lower Manhattan.  There is little documentation to tell the exact nature of the firm's business, but Wall Street men of the time were known as merchant bankers.  They would visit the city's merchants and businessmen in the morning to purchase IOUs, which they would stick under their hats. About noon they would walk uptown to the large banks to sell them. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of similar small partnerships were formed, each specializing in certain kinds of investments.

New York Stock Brokers: Theodore W. Myers & Son

Theo. Myers & Son
AUG 22 189X

David Thompson scan

Theodore W. Myers Sr was New York City Controller from 1888 to 1894.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cleveland, Ohio's Forest City Stone Company

The Forest City Stone Co.

The Forest City Stone Company mined bluestone sandstone in what is now South Euclid, Ohio, an inner suburb of Cleveland. 

Euclid bluestone was mined by the Forest City Stone Company in the late 19th and early 20th centuries along Euclid Creek.  This is how Euclid Creek appears today.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Revenue Exhibits at March Party and a Big 4 Bill of Lading

I'm not certain how the Garfield-Perry Stamp Club's annual exhibition came to be called "March Party" although I've always had a good time whenever I've attended the show.  They do sponsor a nice wine and cheese reception the evening of the show's opening day; perhaps that's the "party".  The club itself is named in honor of James A. Garfield, and Oliver Hazard Perry; for more details go here.

According to list of exhibits, there will be 10 revenue exhibits at March Party totaling 56 frames, although just one exhibit of 1898 revenue material.  Bob Hohertz is showing his Revenue Stamped Paper of the Spanish American War Era exhibit. You too can view much of  the material right here on 1898Revenues as Bob is a major contributor to this site particularly in the area of revenue stamped paper.  Although I've seen his exhibit several times, I'm eager to see it once again as Bob advised in an email some months ago that he was revising the focus away from a "fiscal history" aspect to a more "traditional" presentation.  To learn more about the jargon associated with philatelic exhibits, the basic types of exhibits, and how they are judged take a look at the APS Manual of Philatelic Judging.  

Again, the Garfield Perry March Party Stamp Exhibition runs Friday, March 23 through Sunday, March 25 at the Masonic Auditorium in downtown Cleveland, Ohio.

Enough about the show, let's look at another Cleveland related document.

Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, & St. Louis Railway Bill of Lading
Bellefontaine to Dayton
April 4, 1899


detail of boxed cancel
The C.C.C. & St. L. Ry. Co.
APR  6  1899

Simon Lindemoth ships a box of meat and a can of "wired?" lard from Bellefontaine Ohio to H. S. Bergen in Dayton, Ohio.  It didn't matter how much material was shipped, nor how far, nor how many rail line transfers were necessary to complete a shipment, a bill of lading covering a shipment from one domestic destination to another was taxed a flat 1-cent.

I won't go into the history of the C.C.C. & St. L. Railway, better known as the BIG 4 Railroad, as that's been briefly covered in several previous BIG 4 blogs.  I wrote about C.C.C. & St. L. Railway Corporate Bonds, Bob Hohertz showed some Parlor Car tickets, and John featured a cancel of a subsidiary line in one of his cancel of the day blogs.  

Here's another C.C.C. & St. L. Railway cancel on a 1-cent R163 documentary that likely also is from a bill of lading.    

C. C. C. & ST. L. RY. CO.

I'd be remiss if I didn't close with a link to the American Revenue Association website; it's their annual meeting that I'm attending at the Garfield-Perry show prompting these Cleveland-related blogs.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ARA Meeting at Garfield-Perry March Party and an interesting RN-X7 usage

After another several month hiatus, I thought I’d resume blogging by giving a shoutout to the upcoming American Revenue Association Meeting at the annual Garfield-Perry March Party Stamp Show in Cleveland this weekend and, at the same time, feature some 1898 document usages from Cleveland, Ohio.

The show runs from Friday March 23 through Sunday March 25 at the Masonic Auditorium in Cleveland. It is open to the public at no charge and features 180 frames of exhibits, more than 50 dealer booths, and postal stations for both the USPS and UN. The March Party show is a major World Series of Philately qualified philatelic exhibition and any collectors or readers of this blog residing in the Cleveland environs would surely benefit from attending. For more detailed information go here.

I don’t often blog about 1898 revenue imprint material that being Bob Hohertz’s prime area of expertise, but since altering my 1898 documentary revenue exhibit to focus more on the fiscal history of the 1898-1902 tax period rather than usages of specific stamps, I’ve included some interesting revenue imprint material to the exhibit. So I’ll depart from my normal blogs about adhesive revenues and write occasionally about some imprint usages.

Interest Bearing Security Deposit Receipt
The Cleveland Gas Light and Coke Company
October 5, 1900

The Cleveland Gas Light and Coke Company required a $5 deposit from each customer as a security for the payment of bills or other indebtedness which amount was to be refunded when a customer ceased requiring service. To obtain the refund , one needed to return the receipt issued when the initial deposit was paid. Simple payment receipts were not subject to taxation under the 1898 War Revenue Act, but this is not just a receipt.

As noted on the receipt the security deposit bore interest at the rate of 4% so in effect this gas company receipt was treated as a certificate of deposit and was taxed as such, hence the 2-cent revenue imprint printed in the center. In this instance service lasted just 6 months and the customer earned and received 10-cents in interest. I wonder who actually paid the 2-cents tax, the customer or the gas company?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bibliography: American Railway Transportation

American Railway Transportation
by Emory R. Johnson
1903, D. Appleton & Company, New York
-available used from sources like Ebay and Amazon

I found a nice little volume, published in 1903 but largely written during the 1898 tax years, that provides a wonderful source of information on some of the most frequent users of 1898 tax stamps, especially of the 1 cent documentary.

Dr. Emory Johnson covers the state of the railway business at the beginning of the 20th century, with chapters very relevant to the 1898 cancel collector including: 

Chapter 5:  The Present Railway System of the United States
Chapter 9:  The Freight Service
Chapter 11: The Express Service of the Railways

In brief: 

Chapter 5, on the railway system in the US, groups major railroads by region and ownership.  As far as utility to the collector, this was the first source I've found that explained to me the difference between the Pennsylvania Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad, both frequent users of documentary stamps.  The Penna Co and The PRR were parts of the same railroad company.  The PRR included the the system east of Pittsburgh, while The Penna Co. included the company's operations west of Pittsburgh.  The book is valuable for the maps of ownership groups. 

Chapter 9 on freight services discusses revenue stamp relevant subjects such as bills of lading and fast freight lines.

Chapter 11, on express companies,  is a short and clear explanation of the role and relationship between the express companies and railroads.  The major companies and their origins are included.  There is background material on the Adams, American, Pacific, Southern Expresses and more. 

Copies of this book can be found on Ebay or through Amazon, usually in the $10 to $20 range.

New York Stock Brokers: Edward Sweet & Company

New York Tribune advert, December 1898

perfin cancels

Langlois scan


Thompson scan

William L. Bull, Member of the NYSE and Edward Sweet & Co. Senior Partner, was President of NYSE in 1888-1889.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Box of Powder from the "Other" Tetlow

On February 2, 2011 I posted scans of items from the Henry Tetlow firm, one of which was a package of face powder with a battleship revenue attached. The next day John followed up with a check from Daniel Tetlow, Henry's brother who had left the family firm and established his own, the Tetlow Manufacturing Company. Apparently, for some forty years there were two Tetlow firms manufacturing beauty products in Philadelphia.

This is a package of face powder manufactured by the "other" Tetlow, Daniel. It has a 1/4 cent battleship revenue on it (cancel only readable for date,) as did the package I showed in my original post. Apparently the brothers' products were similarly priced. One wonders how the consumer chose between them?

New York Stock Brokers: Laidlaw & Company

JAN 21

Langlois scan

Charles Laidlaw was a Governor of the New York Stock Exchange for 13 years.

Friday, March 16, 2012

New York and Boston Stock Brokers: Charles Head & Company

New York Evening Post, 1897


Langlois scan


David Thompson scan

The January 13, 1910 obituary writer for the New York Times got a bit punchy with his headline when writing about the passing of Mr. Charles Head:


Wealthy New York Broker Was ex-President of Boston Stock Exchange.

Charles Head, senior member of the Stock Exchange firm of Charles Head & Co., and ex-President of the Boston Stock Exchange, dropped dead of apoplexy in his office on the first floor of the Mills Building, 17 Broad Street, a few minutes after 10 o'clock yesterday morning.  There was difficulty in getting a physician, and finally an ambulance call was sent to St. Gregory's Hospital.

When Mr. Head arrived he seemed to be in good health.  As he picked up a handful of letters he was seen to drop them, clutch at his heart, and then fall from his chair onto the floor.  He was picked up and carried into a private office.  When the ambulance arrived Dr. Clarkson said Mr. Head had died instantly.

Mr. Head had been a sufferer from heart trouble for several years.  His wife's death last spring further tended to impair his health.  He was in his sixty-first year.

He had been senior member of the firm since 1877.  Prior to that the firm was known as Hill, Head & Co.  The present firm is one of the old-time Stock Exchange houses.  Mr. Head was not an active trader himself, as he was not a member of the Exchange.  The floor business of the firm was done by the board members, William G. Borland and Dexter Blagden.  The other members of the firm James S. McCobb, James Sullivan, and Charles C. West.

The firm is mainly a Boston house, and Mr. Head had been prominent in Boston financial circles for several years.  He was also well known socially there.  The firm deals largely in mining stocks, particularly Canadian mines, and maintains a direct wire to Cobalt.  They have branch offices in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Ontario, and Providence, R. I.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New York Stock Brokers: A. M. Kidder & Company

Advertisment, 1901 Poor's Manual


Langlois scan

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New York Bankers, Banks & Trusts: Goldman Sachs

1898 tax period stamps cancelled by the firm Goldman, Sachs. 

Yes, these stamps and this firm have featured on this site before, but this week the firm is headline news, at least here in London where I am at present.  This afternoon's headline from the London Evening Standard reads:  GOLDMAN BOSS:  WE CALL OUR CLIENTS MUPPETS. 

To quote a few lines from the article:

Greg Smith, former Goldman head of US equity derivatives in Europe, said he had quit Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs because of its "moral fibre".  He described how bankers at Goldman Sachs referred to their clients, who include the British and Greek governments, as "muppets".  He said the bank had "veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for." 

While the article contains a response from Goldman Sachs refuting the claims of former employee Greg Smith, UK politicians and news editors have taken note of Smith's reasons for quitting.  From the paper's editorial page:  "The environment, Mr. Smith says, is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it...the interests of the client continue to be sidelined.  At meetings, not a single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients.  It's...about how we can make the most money off of them."

More than 100 years after the firm Goldman Sachs was founded, its decisions and actions can affect clients, nations, and the world.  Ever since the Great Depression and the recent economic downturn, it has been clear that a little bit of adult supervision is necessary for firms like Goldman.   While we shouldn't destroy the energy and creative value added that talented and sophisticated capital managers like Goldman bring to  economies, we also can't let them take advantage of clients. 

Let's see if Mr. Smith's story lasts for more than a day or two.  I'm not giving it much time.

Ebay: Proprietary Plate Strips

There is a lot of low denonmination 10-stamp wide plate strips currently for sale on Ebay through buy-it-now.  From the pictures and description they appear to be all 1/8c RB20s and 5/8c Rb23s.  The sale price is $595, way over what I would consider reasonable, but who knows, maybe there is a buyer out there.

In the desciption the dealer writes in screaming capitals that some of the strips have inverted watermarks.  David Thompson sent this comment by email about the dealer's watermark comments: 

"...this dealer is making a big deal about the INVERTED WATERMARK!  He calls this an error, this is no error, just normal production run handling, all stamps that have watermarks can have an inverted watermark, along with all different type of orientations, what seems to be the hardest to find is a normal watermark.  Of course when you watermark a stamp you start off looking the back of the stamp, so you're already initially confused about the orientation, some people think a normal watermark should show."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New York Stock Brokers: Talbot J. Taylor & Company

New York Tribuine, December 1898

T.  J.  T.  &  CO.
NOV  25  1899

David Thompson scan

Friday, March 9, 2012

New York Stock Brokers: Groesbeck and Sterling

New York Tribune, December 24, 1898


David Thompson scan