Saturday, August 30, 2014

E. S. Wells: Another Documentary Printed Cancel

The pursuit of documentary printed cancels continues.  Today is presented a new cancel to me from the proprietary medicine firm E. S. Wells.  The term medicine here is used somewhat loosely, as the firm was well known for making a rat poison it called "Rough on Rats".

The firm used printed cancels on proprietary stamps, and used what appears to be the same canceling plate on 2 cent documentary stamps, likely for their use on checks.  Blocks that include the manuscript-style red printed cancel are illustrated here on the 5/8c proprietary and the 2c documentary.  In both cases it appears the 1898 plate was used.  But for the 2c, part of the second 8 has been removed so that the number more closely resembles a 9.  If anybody has an example of an E. S. Wells 2c documentary on a check, please write or send a scan of the check to  We'll post the scan here.

E. S. Wells
JUL  11

E. S. Wells

The last 8 in 1898 has had the lower left portion of the number planed off to resemble a 9

Sheet music cover the E. S. Wells smash hit, Rough on Rats

From Matt Reynolds, in a comment at the East Carolina Digital Collection website:

"The Wells Company, based in Jersey City New Jersey, offered a wide range of products including Rough on Corns, Rough on Itch, Rough on Toothache, and Wells’ Health Renewer. Wells promoted all of the company products far and wide in both newspapers and via advertising cards. He even produced a Rough on Rats song touting the effectiveness of the poison, which included the chorus: “R-r-rats! Rats! Rats! Rough on Rats, Hang your dogs and drown your cats: We give a plan for every man to clear his house with Rough on Rats” Sadly, some purchasers of the product chose to misuse it both to take their own lives and to take the lives of others. The most notorious case of the latter was the poisoning of Ada Appelgate by her husband Everett Appelgate and his mistress Frances Creighton. Both were convicted of murder in 1936 and were sent to the electric chair at New York’s Sing-Sing prison shortly after.

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