Monday, December 1, 2014

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Industrial Cancels: Union Foundry and Machine Company

JUL      7     1898
&   MCH.  CO.

Langlois scan

From Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Manufacturing and Mercantile Resources Of The Lehigh Valley, 1881:

These works, located at the corner of Front and Pine streets were established about thirty-years ago and in 1869 were purchased by a company, and have since been kept in operation by them. They are situated on Front street, at the corner of Pine, and are convenient to the Central Railroad or Lehigh Canal. The works occupy a considerable plot of ground, upon which are large and necessary building, together with ample yard room, the whole being supplied with much new and improved machinery fur producing the various specialties of manufacture. The Company are particularly engaged in manufacturing all kinds of rolling mill work, controlling in this branch of its work a large business from the many mills located in the Valley, possessing very superior facilities, they are enabled to compete in this work with any concern in the Valley; and their productions are known over a wide extent of country. All the buildings, including machine shop, foundry, blacksmith shop, pattern building, etc., are substantially erected, the whole forming an active centre of industry. In the various departments of the works there are employed thirty hands, and a twenty-horse power engine furnishes the motive power for running the machinery, much of which ingenious and particularly adapted for the specialty of work for which it is employed.

The Company is composed of several prominent gentlemen, the works being under the direct control of Mr. David Williams, the managing partner, who is thoroughly conversant with the business. The Union Foundry and Machine Company have a well earned reputation for doing first-class, work and are rapidly building up a large trade. They exercise an important influence in the prosperity of the town.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


If its not one thing its another conspiring to keep me from writing posts for this website.  This week finds your correspondent in Liberia.  I am a part of the US Agency for International Development's Disaster Assistance Response Team or DART, detailed to Liberia to support the US Government's response to the ebola epidemic.

In the 1990s, in what was essentially a different career life for me, I was an epidemiologist with the World Health Organization in Liberia.  The country was in the middle of its civil war, and the health situation in Liberia was a boggling and complex emergency.  I gave up that work when I was asked to run The Carter Center office in Liberia.  Former President Carter had involved himself with the war's belligerents to help mediate and resolve the conflict, and I ran the Carter Center's front line office in Liberia for two years.

Back to the present.  In August the capital city Monrovia was a hot zone.  Dead bodies could be found on the streets and the public had become so fearful that public places were abandoned and the streets were quiet.  Medical centers were overwhelmed and patients were turned away.  Today Monrovia is different.  The epidemic has cooled.  There are empty beds in the new Ebola Treatments Units.  Fewer patients are showing up each day.

But ebola remains, and patients are coming in, just not in the August numbers.  In contrast to the quiet city of August, Monrovia in November has come back to life.  Public spaces are lively and many can be found in the streets.

While no one is yet certain why there is a trough in the number of ebola patients, it may be because of the healthy dose of fear that drove everybody inside and to keep away from each other.  But today, knowing that some people are still carrying the virus in town and in the rural areas, rapid human to human transmission can be reignited.  And the life in the streets that I saw today may signal that we could have a new spike of cases in the coming weeks, simply due to increased opportunity for human to human transmission of the virus.

I will be here for several weeks on this trip and may, if time allows, put up another revenue post.  But for now I am immersed in the work of renewing relationships with Liberian colleagues and friends on the front lines of the ebola epidemic.  

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Colorado Springs Bankers and Brokers: William P. Bonbright & Company

Advertisement in 1900 edition of The Giles City Directory of Colorado Springs, Colorado

The Bonbrights were a prosperous east coast family.  William P. created an international banking and broking firm with offices in New York, London, and Colorado Springs.  The firm would specialize in capitalizing energy projects.


David Thompson scan

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Documentary Printed Cancels: Provident Savings Life Update

Red and black Provident Savings Life cancels on 1898 series revenue stamps.  All are printed cancels except for the bottom right stamp, which displays a handstamp cancel.  Five different documentary values are shown here with Provident Savings Life printed cancels.  Are there more?

Provident Savings Life cancels have featured on this website over the years.  New examples continue to emerge and expand the list of the use of printed cancels on 1898 documentary revenue stamps. The standard reference for documentary printed cancels, the Fullerton List, only covers documentary printed cancels by railroads and express companies.  Provident Savings Life and Assurance Company is the only known insurance company to use printed cancels.

In addition to the stamps seen above that are found in my collection, David Thompson sent in a scan of the R170 pair below:

R170 Pair
David Thompson scan

Several years ago I had an email discussion with Frank Sente regarding the status of these cancels and whether they were printed are not.  This post from 2010 includes some of that discussion, and the argument was made then that these cancels were printed.  The above pair of stamps does a fine job of presenting proof of their status as having been printed, which the orientation and the precision, placement and clarity of the cancels makes clear.  One hitch though is that the separation between the cancels is not proportional to the stamp dimensions.  The cancel on the right stamp above is centered to the left relative the the stamp on the right.

Below are larger versions of the stamps shown above.  I've included three copies of R170 in the stamps above because of color issues with the cancels.  There are two red and one black, and between the reds, there is a clear color difference.

R170 roulette, orange-red printed cancel

R170 roulette, red printed cancel

R170 roulette, black printed cancel

R172 roulette, black printed cancel.   

This stamp has been featured in the stamp montage at the top of this website for years.

R173p hyphen-hole, red printed cancel

R174p hyphen-hole, red printed cancel

R175 black printed cancel

R175 roulette black handstamp cancel

All of the examples of Provident Savings Life printed cancels that I have seen with a date have shown a 1900 year date.  Where are other years of the 1898 series?  Even if the firm did not begin printing cancels until 1900, shouldn't there be 1901 examples?  Or did they simply run out and chose to print no more, necessitating the production of the handstamp illustrated immediately above?

A question I have is why these cancels, now shown on many documentary values, are orphans?  By orphans I mean their apparent neglect by established collectors and catalogs.  Fullerton and others raised the status of the documentary railroad and express printed cancels; while the proprietary printed cancels have always had a special place in the revenue hobby.  Where have these stamps and their cancels been?  Have they just been ignored?  Does anyone know of an old philatelic article on the subject or a collector that may have had a small collection of these?

The small collection above began with the R170, and has been pieced together over several years through multiple purchases and one gift from Bob Hohertz.

I am always looking for new Provident cancels like these, on new stamp values or with new colors.  If you have examples, please write

Saturday, October 4, 2014

John Alexander Dowie's Zion Lace Industries

John Alexander Dowie
In his robes as "Elijah the Restorer" c. 1904

During my years in the early 80s at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, the town of Zion, Illinois, occasionally came to my attention, as it was north of Evanston just before the Wisconsin state line.  But I never gave the town much thought, except that a favorite pop band of mine, Shoes, was based in Zion.

But then a curious 1898 revenue item came my way this past month that brought Zion, Illinois to my considered attention and led me to research the origin of Zion Lace Industries, the town of Zion, and its Christian theocrat and faith healer founder, John Alexander Dowie.

The curious item 1898 item is the interest coupon below:

Zion Lace Industries interest coupon - 12th coupon, from certificate 502, with the signature of John Alex. Dowie at the bottom, who was, according to the coupon, sole proprietor of Zion Lace Industries All land in Zion, Illinois, and Zion City Bank was wholly owned by John Alexander Dowie.

Reverse side of the coupon, with a 2ct documentary stamp to pay the promissory tax.  Stamp cancelled: 

FEB  15  1901

Interest was paid semi-annually, in January and July, so coupon 12 was year 6 from the certificate's issue date.  John Alexander Dowie's newspaper, The Coming City, advertised (see at left) the sale of the preferred share certificates represented by this coupon in December 12, 1900.

$400,000 worth of $100 certs were available, so the above coupon came from certificate 502 out of a total of 4000.  Dowie advertised that he would pay increasing amounts of interest over time, yet this coupon and subsequent coupons in my possession indicate he or Zion Lace Industries only paid 6% interest per year as all the semi-annual coupons were exchanged for $3.  There may have been a supplementary coupon that paid what the advertisement to the left calls "contingent" interest, but the semi-annual coupons do not provide an indication that the contingent interest was paid.

Dowie's private newspaper advertised a preferred stock issued by the Dowie owned Zion Lace Industries, sold by the Dowie owned Zion City Bank.

Dowie was an extraordinary figure in American history and American Christian Evangelism.  When he died in 1907, he had left behind a new city, collapsing under debt, governed under theocratic laws, and totally created and built by Dowie and his followers.

Zion City's lots were first made available to the public in mid-1901, while Dowie and his staff busied with the creation of the skeletal elements of a new city, including laws, streets and public utilities.  Ultimately, Dowie had a stroke in 1905 when he was 58 years old, and never fully recovered before his death in 1907.  Because of the dire financial circumstances of the city of Zion, Dowie's managers seized control of the enterprise after his stroke and worked to salvage the viability of the city.

But before Dowie became seized with creating a new Christian city in northern Illinois, he had led a life as a Christian faith healer and businessman with a giant vision and ego, going so far as to consider himself the second coming of Elijah.

Dowie was born in Scotland, moved to Australia with his parents, where he became seized with his evangelical and faith healing passion before moving to the United States.  He made a major name for himself in the US by setting up operations across from the entrance to the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, where he conducted faith healing services and preached sermons daily.

Through his Christian Catholic Church and his publications like Leaves of Healing, a weekly paper, he criticized doctors, pharmacists, and Freemasons.  He espoused flat-earth theory, while preaching that Anglo-Saxons were a lost tribe of Israel, opining that Saxons are Isaac's sons.  He pointed out the inevitable since "Isaac's sons" and "I-sax-sons" are homonyms.  

For Dowie, Zion Lace Industries was an important business to try to keep Zion City solvent.  His project was largely completed, though Zion's insolvency meant that the lace plant was sold to Marshall Field & Company in September 1907, shortly after his death.

Dowie's thinking behend the lace plant can be found in the The Coming City, December 12, 1900, John Alexander Dowie, Editor and Publisher:

The Importance of Zion Lace Industries.

God is giving His people Zion Lace Industries in a most wonderful way.  That is the first and greatest argument for its importance.

The story cannot all be told now, and there is much of it which can never be told.

Nevertheless, many things have been and will yet be recorded which will show how marvelously God has led, all the way along.

The working out of God’s plan for Zion Lace Industries began years before the General Overseer came to America; indeed, it is not for man to say how far back in history the beginning of that work may lie.

God’s direct guidance, however, can be traced back many years.

Every step of the way, in recent years, shows with remarkable clearness the evidences of Divine intervention for Zion’s sake.

How God raised up and trained the man Samuel Stevenson and sent the Little White Dove to bring him and his brothers into Zion with all their skill, artistic ability, executive force and intimate knowledge of the art of lacemaking has already been told.

It was God who directed in the purchase of the factory at Beeston, Notts, England, for Zion Lace Industries, and brought about so wonderfully all the various transactions necessary, smoothing out all difficulties.

God’s power was manifested in giving great success in the ordering and purchasing of just the machinery needed for the industries.

God gave Deacon Stevenson and the General Overseer the right men to bring to America to teach Zion workers the art of lacemaking.

He gave victory over all the foes who tried to prevent in this work.

God gave His servant, Attorney Samuel W. Packard, great wisdom and skill, so that he was enabled to make an argument which is now famous in the two hemispheres, and to win a glorious victory over all the Labor Union and other enemies, open and secret, who attempted to prevent these Lace Experts from landing in America.

God gave this same attorney such wisdom the drafting of the Articles of Agreement between Zion Lace Industries and the shareholders that legal experts have declared it to be a marvel as a legal document.  “It gives the shareholders,” say the lawyers, “all the advantages of a corporation and a partnership, with none  of the disadvantages of either.

Another grand argument for the importance of Zion Lace Industries to Zion and to the extension of the Kingdom of God, is the fierce and determined fight which the Devil and all his forces is making against their establishment.

With a curious mixture of reckless daring, diabolical cunning and helpless fury, he has attempted to block Zion’s every move in the matter.


Dowie and his followers tried to escape the lawlessness and sin of American society by establishing a utopia, Zion City, in northern Illinois, with Dowie as "general overseer." In the first issue of his paper The Coming City (June 27, 1900), he wrote: "Zion City will be built by Theocrats. It will be run by Theocrats. It will aim to overthrow Democracy, and establish Theocracy over all the earth, and sea, and in deepest hell, even as God rules in highest heaven."

As of 2014, Zion City is a secularly governed city.  Democracy was not overthrown, and the US Constitution remains the law of the United States.


Interest coupon #22 front and back from July 1911; interest payment 6%:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Documentary Printed Cancels: Is the C.E.C. Found on Half Cent Gray Documentaries a Charles E. Cornell Printed Cancel?

Yesterday I posted stamps canceled by Dr. Fahrney & Son, a proprietary medicine company based in Maryland.  Dr. Fahrney used printed cancels on the 5/8c proprietary and 1/2c documentaries.  Today is presented Charles E. Cornell, who used printed cancels on the 5/8c proprietary, and, if the initials are any indication, on the 1/2c documentary as well.  Additional confirmation is needed for the 1/2c documentaries, as all we have is a match with the initials, C.E.C., though not the type font.  Courtesy of Frank Sente, we have multiple examples of the 1/2c documentary.

Based in New York, Charles E. Cornell made a variety of soaps and skin products.  

C.  E.  C.
August,   1899

Langlois scan, ex-Tolman

Below are three examples of 1/2c documentaries with August 6 1900 dates and C. E. C. printed cancels.  Are these by Charles E. Cornell?:

C.  E.  C.
Aug.  6th  1900

Langlois scan

C.  E.  C.
Aug.  6th  1900

Sente scan

C.  E.  C.
Aug  6th  1900

Sente scan

Sometime ago, Frank Sente sent the stamp above with an off-center C.E.C. cancel that includes perpendicular to the stamp printed letters at the upper right.  He offered the following comments in an email:  

"I have a gray 1/2 cent documentary with what I believe is a printed cancel that also bears some extraneous printing on it. I always figured it had been placed on the document BEFORE it was printed and picked up some of the printing either because it wasn't properly placed on the document to begin with, or the printing went a bit askew.  Look at the upper right corner of the right of the R162, 1/2 cent just above. See the extraneous lettering? Another stamp with presumably printed C. E. C.cancel is provided for comparison. Puzzling n'est-ce pas??

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Documentary Printed Cancels: Dr. Fahrney & Son

Dr Fahrney's shop window display
Library of Congress 

Dr. Fahrney, like Mrs. Winslow, liked to make medicine from morphine.  One of the pusher's, excuse me, Doctor's, favorite active ingredients was morphine.  And the company put it in products like Dr. Fahrney's teething syrup.  Nothing like a 2 year old junkie.  The 1898 tax period became a peak period for these companies, just before the crash induced by the progressive era and pure food and drug laws.

We are now left with the remnants of these companies.  Bottle collectors that contained these nostrums stay busy with Dr. Fahrney & Son's material.  And revenue collectors the same.  In the case we have today, Frank Sente and Ron Lesher sent in scans of Dr. Fahrney cancels.  The 5/8 cent stamp immediately below would be expected: a proprietary stamp that was used on a proprietary medicine bottle.  But below the proprietary stamp is Ron Lesher's find of a 1/2 cent documentary stamp with a similar Dr. Fahrney cancel.

Dr. Fahrney & Son
2 23 1899.
Hagerstown,  Md.

Sente scan

Dr. Fahrney & Son
8  9  1900
Hagerstown,  Md.

Lesher scan

Why did Dr. Fahrney produce printed cancels on 1/2c documentaries?  One theory is that they might have been used on combination with 1/8c proprietary stamps to produce a 5/8 cent total.  Whatever the case, we now have another documentary printed cancel, and one that joins the series that includes stamps canceled by proprietary medicine companies.  

In the coming day, there will be a post on Charles E. Cornell, who also used printed cancels on 5/8 cent stamps, and appears to have done the same on 1/2 cent documentaries.

Thanks to Frank and Ron for sending these scans several years ago.  I finally pulled them out of the warehouse after matching the C.E.C. proprietary and documentary cancels for Charles Cornell, and I figure we might have a pattern of some kind.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Industrial Cancels: Standard Varnish Works

Standard Varnish Works was establish on Staten Island, New York.  David Thompson sent a scan of the 2 cent documentary below with a Standard Varnish cancel:

N.  Y.

 From the website of the New York City Land Preservation Commission:


The Standard Varnish Works factory is a rare surviving example of the late nineteenth to early twentieth century industrial history of Staten Island. The Standard Varnish Works Company purchased property along the Elm Park waterfront on both sides of Richmond Terrace in 1892-93 and, shortly after, constructed a factory complex and worker housing, moving its factory operations from Long Island. The office building, which fronts Richmond Terrace, is an example of the American round-arch factory style and also incorporates details of late nineteenth century German factory design. The trademarks of nineteenth century factory design which still define this building today, are the prominent tower and corbelled brick ornament, which create interest through utilitarian decorative details. The projecting brick pilasters, also common factory features, are decorative as well as functional, adding texture to the fa├žade and providing additional support for the interior framing. The buildings lining the Richmond Terrace streetwall escaped damage in a “spectacular” fire that caused approximately $200,000 worth of damage to the site in 1900, destroying the dock, gutting storage buildings and exploding several chemical storage tanks.

Some of the success of the company can be attributed to an advantage of the Elm Park site, the close proximity to two modes of transportation, water via the factory’s own dock on the Kill Van Kull and rail via the station located just blocks away. At one time, Standard Varnish Works was one of the largest manufacturers of varnish and enamel in the world, with a seven-acre, forty-five building Staten Island plant, as well as offices or factories in Chicago, Toronto, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Barcelona and Linden, NJ. In 1926, the company merged with Toch Brothers Inc, operating under the name Standard-Toch Chemical Company Inc. In 1961, Montgomery Ward & Co. mail order purchased the firm and managed it as a subsidiary under the name Standard T Chemicals.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chicago Livestock Commission Company

Column advertisement, San Antonio Daily Express May 25, 1899


Monday, September 15, 2014

Steamship Company Cancels: The White Star Line

The American, Great Lakes-bound White Star Line Steamer Tashmoo

APR  16  1902

David Thompson scan

Stamp almost certainly used for passage on the Tashmoo for a ticket of $30 or less.

Steamer Tashmoo pulling away from the wharf

From Midwest Boat and Recreation, by Dale Blanshan. January 2014:

In 1912, the British White Star Line ruled the oceans with the great Titanic.  At the same time, another White Star Line -- this one American -- ruled the Great Lakes with the elegant Tashmoo.  The Titanic's reign lasted for four days.  The Tashmoo sailed for 36 years.

By the end of the nineteenth century, steamship lines on the Great Lakes were taking on another kind of passenger, the excursion boater.  Some travelers wanted luxurious transportation to the resorts that dotted the shores of the Great Lakes.  For others, the ships themselves were the resorts.

To meet that demand, the White Star Line commissioned the Tashmoo.  Launched in December of 1899 at Wyandotte, Michigan, the Tashmoo was 308 feet long and 37 feet abeam, with a gross tonnage of 1,344.

She was fitted with every luxury.  Two grand pianos graced her main salon, and expensive carpeting and polished mahogany furnished her decks.  Six hundred windows afforded passengers unobstructed views of the shore, earning the Tashmoo the nickname "The Glass Hack."

Passengers could picnic on the decks for lunch, watch the shoreline lazily pass in the afternoon, dine in "New York style" restaurants for dinner, and dance to a live band in the evening.

On June 11, 1900, the Tashmoo took on its first customers.  Within three months, she took on her first major challenge.

Races between rival steamships were exciting events.  In September of 1900, a ship called the City of Chicago won such a race, whereupon a Detroit newspaper published an article naming ten boats that it believed to be faster than the City of Chicago.

The Tashmoo was not on the list, prompting the president of the White Star Line to issue his own challenge, offering $1,000 to any freshwater ship that beat the Tashmoo.  The owners of the City of Erie accepted the challenge.

The race was to be 94 miles in length, from Cleveland, Ohio, to Erie, Pennsylvania.  Boats filled the Cleveland harbor, and spectators lined the shore. A cannon boomed, and the race was on!

The City of Erie jumped out to an early lead, but the Tashmoo caught and passed her.  Mechanical and steering problems put the Tashmoo behind again.

However, by the time the finish line was in sight, she was closing quickly.

Nonetheless, the gap was too great.  The Tashmoo finished 45 seconds behind.

Another great moment for the Tashmoo was the 1902 visit of President Theodore Roosevelt to Detroit.  For an afternoon, the President's blue and gold flag flew over the Tashmoo as the President toured the waterfront.

The Tashmoo came to its end in 1936 when, in the course of a turn, she struck a rock.  The captain was able to bring the ship to a nearby dock so that passengers could disembark before the Tashmoo  settled in 14 feet of water.

A salvage crew accidentally raised one end of the ship too quickly, and her keel broke.

The Tashmoo would never again sail the Great Lakes waters.


The Historic Detroit website has a great feature on the Tashmoo.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Steamship Company Cancels: Boston & Philadelphia Steamship Company

Boston & Philadelphia Steamship Line
Steamship Saxon

The company hedged on the reliability of steam power with the Saxon by running both steam power and sails. 

R163 1c documentary battleship on steam ship document fragment
"PHILADELPHIA" can be made out under the upper left corner of the stamp

B. & P. S. S. CO.
*  *  *

From The Historical Dictionary of the US Maritime Industry, 2011, by Kenneth Blume: 

I recommend this book for anyone research shipping cancels.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Cancel Identification Help: Y. S. R. R.

Help is needed identifying the cancel below.  Almost certainly by a railroad, except that a search of Poor's Manual editions of the period don't yield a likely candidate.  If you have any ideas or are certain of the identity of the cancel, please write

Y. S. R. R.

David Thompson scan and highlight

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Florin Benedict Had Issues Getting to School as a Child

According to David Thompson, Mr. Florin Benedict was a Justice of the Peace for Winchester, Litchfield County, Connecticut.  But as a child he went to school in nearby Winsted, Connecticut. David couldn't find much information about Mr. Benedict, and neither could I. Yet from the stamp below with his name on it, we can guess that he probably dealt in insurance of some kind, as most of the 1/2 cent documentaries were used for insurance taxes.


David Thompson scan and highlight

But I did find one very personal item about Mr. Benedict at the website of the Colebrook Historical Society.  Colebrook is about six miles north of Winsted.  And the Colebrook Historical Society has preserved a few public records, one of which tells us that when Master Florin Benedict was a school boy, he managed in one academic period of 79 days to be tardy for 6 and absent for 25.  Either he was something of a truant, he was sick often, or more likely, there were lots of things to do at home to keep things running.  I prefer to believe the latter, and that the farm work just had to be done.

From the records of the Colebrook Historical Society, Florin's name was in a list of many other boys that I did not paste into this post:

1872 to 1874 (As per a note attached written by Homer P. Deming dated 1948.)

Attendance Record

BOYS                       Tardy       No. Days Attendance (of 79)

Florin Benedict        6               54

No. Boys 27

Wages of Teacher $56.00

Whole No. of Scholars 40

Aggregate Attendance 2660 Days

Length of School – 16 Weeks (80 Days)

No. Scholars Over 16 – 9 (Boys 6; Girls 3) 

Friday, September 5, 2014

New York Stock Brokers: Drake, Mastin & Company


David Thompson scan

During the down months for this website, long time contributor David Thompson continued to work and submit new material for publication.  Thanks Dave for the continued work for the site.  I start today with the first new post of Dave's material in over a year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mystery Fancy Cancel

Looking for answers or clues for the identity of this unique cancel.  Any ideas?  Please write to