Sunday, October 30, 2022

Color Changelings and Scott R190 to R194

Examples of Scott R190 showing color changeling progression. Stamp #1 is a normal stamp for reference. Stamp #s  2 & 4 are unused with original gum.

The post from October 9 explored fugitive ink on R183.  The unusual quality of that ink returned my attention to the R190 to R194 series of dollar values, which also seem to have an unusual type of ink, but unlike R183, there is no term or explanation like "fugitive" to explain this quality.  To the casual eye, these stamps were printed in green, with a black ornamental overprint corresponding to the value of the stamp.  Underlying the overprint, and not always noticed by the casual observer, is a small square of varnish (Scott notes that the varnish is on "some" stamps), added to show evidence of cancel "washing" -- the varnish is water soluble and washes off, taking with it the center of the ornamental overprint as well as any overlaying cancel.  

The green R190-R194 set of documentary dollar values is less common than the other sets as they were issued only months before the expiration of the tax period.  Production required three passes through the presses to create the final product - from original stamp impression to varnish to overprint/surcharge.

Occasionally a collector of these stamps may come across a color changeling -- a stamp in which the green has begun to change, and in some extreme cases change to a color that nearly matches the so-called "gray" color of the R184 to R189 series of stamps (the color of these stamps is a warm, sepia-like tone, not a cold gray in any way). An unused copy of R191 demonstrates this phenomenon (stamp #7 below):

The back of the stamp is marked in pencil by a previous collector as a copy of R185 with an R191 overprint.  The collection that it came from (I believe a different collector than the one that wrote the pencil note on the back of the stamp) also had a note from the collector on the side as an R185 with an error.  The color change on this stamp is extreme and seems rare according to my limited experience.  But the ink changeling phenomenon on these stamps exists, is capable of fooling relatively advanced collectors, and doesn't seem to have a clear explanation by my limited research.  More common are stamps that show lesser hints of color change, like those in examples 2-5 above.

I've never seen ink change like this on any other US issues, revenue or postage.  What is certainly unique about these stamps among US issues is the varnish square.  Richard Friedberg figures that the varnish is somehow responsible for the color changes, and it might have been, but the evidence doesn't lend itself neatly to thinking that varnish contact made the difference.  Consider stamps 3 and 4 below, where the stamps remain somewhat green closer to the varnish.  And, if the varnish was the cause of a change like that in stamp #7 below, why don't we see more of these changelings?

Another question is the timing of the color changes.  Did the changeling occur soon after printing?  I discount washing as a cause since some of the changelings I possess are unused stamps.  I've often wondered whether or not I've got slow changes happening to these stamps as they sit in my collection.  But I haven't noticed any color changes in the years that I've held some of them.  

Examples of Scott R191 showing color changeling progression. Stamp #1 is a normal stamp for reference.  Stamp #s 5 & 7 are unused with original gum.

Lastly, the $5 stamp, R192, provides an interesting opportunity to test varnish as a cause, as some of the stamps were issued without the varnish square or the overprint.

Examples of R192a, without overprint, and, apparently, without a varnish square. The left stamp is normal and provided for reference.  The right stamp is a color changeling.

The R192a on the right never had varnish applied.  Yet its color is clearly yellowing like many of the examples of R190 and R191 above.  In this case the explanation must involve the nature of the green ink itself.  The knowledge is likely long-gone from the BEP regarding the ink on these stamps.  But I suspect the right sort of chemist could help tell us what is happening.

I have a couple of non-changeling related questions, both involving how Scott lists these issues:  

  • Scott refers to these overprints as surcharges, though the overprint does not revalue the stamp.  Why does Scott call these surcharges?
  • In the "Warning" section below the image of R190 in the catalog, Scott tells us that the varnish was only applied to some stamps.  This needs to be unpacked a bit doesn't it?  First, most stamps appear to have the varnish, not "some".  Second, if cut cancels are sublisted for the 1898 dollar values, why isn't the presence of a clear overprint on used copies of R190-R194 sublisted?  And why isn't the presence of varnish sublisted?  I recognize that dealers and collectors don't seem to discriminate here and that is almost certainly the reason that varnish presence isn't listed.  But even without collector interest, the varnish clearly has an effect on these stamps, certainly with regard to how used, soaked stamps appear.  Used copies that have been soaked but retain the overprint are much more collectable to me, a bit like the lack of a cut cancel on these stamps.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The "What time is it?" Cancel: Commercial Stock Company

Neither David Thompson or I can find much on the Commercial Stock Company.  Likely located in Boston, though there is a Water Street in the financial district of New York.  Whatever the case, the cancel is an interesting one, with a time but no date other than the year.  Or am I missing something?

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Cotton Brokers: Gassner & Company

FEB  9 190x
New Orleans, La

For years I've had the Degas painting, Cotton Exchange, posted on this website.  The painting was done in my home town of New Orleans, a major cotton center and port.  Degas spent parts of 1872 and 1873 in the city.  The painting shows men examining cotton samples at a large table, presumably to make decisions regarding large purchases of cotton for industrial buyers, both domestic and overseas.  Others in the painting are individually examining cotton samples, reading a newspaper, or engaging in other cotton trade functions.

It is possible that one or more of the men in the painting were conducting business on behalf of Gassner & Company, a Liverpool-based cotton merchant.  I'm no expert in the tax laws of 1898, so I am not sure of the exact types of taxes this $1 stamp might have paid.  However, Gassner would have been active buyers, warehousers, and shippers of cotton.  The process, likely including exchanging pounds for dollars, would have involved taxable events.  If the stamp was still on its document, the use of the stamp would be clear.  But for now, we have an interesting relic of the cotton trade in New Orleans.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Industrial Cancels: Bay City Sugar Company

JUL   6   1901

Thanks to David Thompson for sending in another sugar-related cancel.  

Historical marker in Essexville, Bay County, Michigan:

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Stock Brokers Reorganize: From Brown, Bruns & Company to Seneca D. Brown & Company

At the beginning of the 1898 tax period, Seneca D. Brown, Edwin G. Bruns and William Freudenstein were partners in the NYSE brokerage firm Brown, Bruns & Company.  Among them, only Edwin Bruns held a seat on the exchange.  By 1901, however, Brown, Bruns was no longer listed as a firm.  Edwin Bruns would still be listed as holding a seat, but without a firm. Meanwhile that year, Seneca D. Brown would create his own firm, with what appears to be his son, Frederick W. Brown.

The following memorandum of sale shows Brown Bruns still trading as of late 1900.  

300 shares of Southern Railway @ $13 3/8 sold to Eames & Moore on Nov 7, 1900

I have no sale memo for Seneca D. Brown's self-named firm, but the stamp below, likely used in 1901, has the initials of his firm for a cancel:
S.D.B & ?
SEP 30 ????

Frederick W. Brown held a seat on the NYSE by 1901 and was the Seneca D. Brown firm's seated partner.

I'm still looking for cancel evidence of Mr. Bruns and his trading activity.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

1898 Dow Industrials Components: American Sugar Refining Company

Incorporated in 1887, the American Sugar Refining Company would become one of the original 12 companies in the Dow Industrials Stock Index when it was created in 1896.  By 1907 the firm owned or controlled 98% of sugar refining capacity in the United States.  I've yet to learn what American Sugar transactions that might have taken place during the 1898-1902 tax period that might have required the stamp below, though the firm was very active with corporate acquisitions that might have required documentary stamps.


scan courtesy of David Thompson

Meanwhile, trading in American Sugar Refining was very active, as it was one of the largest companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.  A few examples of those trades are provided below:

Charles Head memorandum of sale to D. Bacon.
100 shares of American Sugar @129.00 on Dec 29, 1899

American Sugar Refining was big and dominant enough that the simple "sugar" moniker was all that was necessary on the share line.

J. H. Griesel memorandum of sale to Eames & Moore on behalf of G P. Mellick.
100 shares of American Sugar @ 102.25 on Mar 5 1900

Pearl & Co memorandum of sale to Eames & Moore.
100 shares of American Sugar @ 135.50.  no date.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Fugitive Ink and Scott #R183

Unused Scott R183, $3 Lake block of 4,
 with fugitive ink that's yet to go fugitive

"It wasn't me, it was the one-armed man!" said Harrison Ford's character, Dr. Richard Kimble, in the film The Fugitive.  Kimble, falsely convicted for the murder of his wife, escapes a prison bus and leads the police on a 90 minute chase scene while he works to prove it was in fact the one-armed man who did it.  R183 isn't nearly as exciting.  But the stamp was printed with something called fugitive ink.  So it does have something in common with Dr. Kimble.  R183 is uncommon, and few collectors have more than one copy if any at all in which to compare stamps and color condition.  So for many collectors, the only reason for awareness of the use of fugitive ink on this stamp comes from two entries for R183 in the recent versions of the Scott US Specialized Catalogue: 1) After the entry for the color of the stamp, which is the color lake, is the entry "fugitive ink" in parentheses;  and 2) the little note at the bottom of the entry for R183 that says, Warning: The ink on No. R183 will run in water.  There is no further elaboration or comment.  

Over the years I've managed to accumulate the unused block of four above.  I also have a few used copies off-piece with which to examine the fugitive quality of the ink.  The conditions of the used stamps exposed to water are all very different.  Prompting this post was a stamp recently sent to me by David Thompson -- it is the stamp at the bottom left in the examples below.  This stamp is clearly one that has been affected by the combination of water and fugitive ink to make the ink run, much like the stamp on the bottom on the right, which is even lighter in color.  The two bottom stamps are no longer lake in color.  

The top four stamps represent a progression in just how fugitive the ink can be.  The stamp on the upper left, with the "ATCH" cancel (a cancel for the broker William D. Hatch), appears to have never seen any water.  The second scan shows the back of all the stamps, in the same sequence as the scan showing the front of the stamps.  By looking at its back, it appears that Mr. Hatch's stamp was removed without any water -- gum remains and some of the original document is still attached.  So the stamp appears much as the block of four above.  

The top right stamp shows some fading, but its back shows what almost appear to be bloody scars of the ink that has run through the cut cancel while the lake color in front is largely retained.  The middle stamp on the right is lighter appearing on the front than the stamp above it, yet the reddishness of the cut cancel is not as great.  Oddly, the perfined stamp at the lower right has no bleeding appearance around the edge of the perfins, though the ink ran on this stamp more than any other.  And lastly, the bottom left stamp has its back stained pink from the fugitive ink, which hasn't happened on the other 4 stamps that were likely soaked at some point.  

How could soaking produce so many different results?  What is going on here?  Scott's note tells us that think ink will run in water.  But all these stamps represent very different outcomes from a soak.

Consulting Richard Friedberg, I received this answer as a possible explanation for the different conditions of these stamps:  

"if the stamp is carefully put face up in a shallow dish not much water gets to the side with the ink and it doesn't run much if at all. If the stamp remains face down for a longer period in water it will run a bit/a lot."  

So this answer could very well be the explanation I'm looking for.  But what it doesn't help explain is the opaqueness of Scott's note.  Maybe a catalog is not the place to explain how to manage a stamp like this with an unusual and idiosyncratic ink.  But the note only demands that more questions be asked, and that leaves the collector hanging.  For many, a used R183 off cover with little sign of ink fading or dispersion creates nothing but questions.  Just a brief note as to how off-cover, varyingly damaged stamps might exist would be a good idea for the catalogue for two reasons: 1) to explain what we see in the examples above; and 2) to explain how one might safely remove examples from documents in the future (don't do this please - R183s are so much better on document - unless you must).

Lastly, I have a 1971 copy of the Scott US Specialized catalogue.  There is no mention of fugitive ink or its tendency to run when in contact with water.  Maybe old-time revenue collectors just knew these kinds of things.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Stock Brokers Reorganize: Chauncey Brothers & Company becomes Chauncey & Company

On Sunday, this site highlighted the split in the firm of McIntyre & Marshall during the 1898 tax period.  In that case, the partners in the firm created two new firms out of the one.  Today is presented the case of Chauncey Brothers, who, because of the death of a brother, the firm was reorganized and renamed.


By July 1898, the brothers Daniel and Samuel Chauncey ran a Wall Street brokerage firm called Chauncey Brothers & Company.  The brothers each held their own seats on the exchange, with Daniel admitted in 1881 and Samuel admitted in 1885.  The firm used an oval date stamp to cancel their stamps.  They also must have been a firm that specialized in smaller trades (those less than one hundred shares), as many of the cancels that I have seen from their firm are on the battleship stamps.

In August 1899, Samuel S. Chauncey died after a protracted illness.  He passed away in Colorado Springs, as he was traveling to the west and south on the advice of his physician, likely to escape the cold of New York.  His brother Daniel continued to hold his seat at the New York Stock Exchange and continued trading, though he renamed the firm Chauncey & Company.  I do not know when the name change took place, though by July 1900 his firm was listed by the name Chauncey & Co.


Look for "Chauncey" cancels among your battleships.  You may have one by the brothers or by Daniel's newer firm.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Stock Brokers Reorganize: McIntyre & Wardwell becomes McIntyre & Marshall and Wardwell & Adams

McI. & W. and McI. & M.


Over the course of the 1898 tax period (July 1, 1898 - June 30, 1902), many brokerage firms in New York closed up shop, opened for business, or reorganized under new names.  The changes meant new and different cancels over the 4 year period.  The stamps above represent one such case.  

As we've observed on this site before, the majority of dollar value 1898 stamps were used in New York, mostly at the New York Stock Exchange.  For the stamp on the upper left, the cancel indicates that McI. & W. was located in New York, making it almost certain that the firm represented by those initials traded at the NYSE.  A quick look at the list of members from 1898 of the NYSE shows a firm called McIntyre & Wardwell, and it does so because in the list of 1100 members with seats on the exchange, a Mr. Edward L. Adams, and partner of McIntyre & Wardwell, comes first alphabetically.  Henry Wardwell is also listed as having a seat, though there is no Thomas McIntyre among the members.

It appears that this arrangement, with the three gentlemen in partnership, operated in 1898 through sometime in late 1900 or early 1901 when a change was made.  Thus, the McI. & W. cancel can be found on stamps canceled in 98, 99, 00 and possibly 01.

Thomas A. McIntyre, the senior partner of McIntyre & Wardwell, would reorganize himself and his firms many times over his career.  When he broke up McIntyre & Wardwell, he found a new partner in James Marshall, who in 1898 was not listed as having a seat on the exchange.  Meanwhile, the two members of the old firm created a new self-named firm.  So through 1901 to the end of the tax period in 1902 we can find cancels for the firms McIntyre & Marshall and Wardwell & Adams.

McIntyre came to be known as "the great organizer" of Wall Street, but business troubles led to the bankrupty of his firm and subsequent indictment for larceny.