Tuesday, January 31, 2023

New York Stock Brokers in Caricature: George F. Cummings

AUG 27 1901


Mr. Cummings must have had a past that included acting.  By 1901 he was one of the most senior members of the New York Stock Exchange.

George F. Cummings in The Stock Exchange in Caricature from 1904:

Advertisement, Blue Pencil Magazine, September 1900

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Triple Cut Cancelling Devices

Featured last Sunday on this site was a stock memorandum of sale with four pairs of $1 R184, all stacked on top of each other and cancelled with three cuts that penetrated all 8 stamps and the memo itself.  The cuts were simple, penetrating the paper and not perforating or removing paper in the process.  The purpose of that post was to feature the eight stacked stamps; today will feature the cutting devices and other types of cut cancels.

Down below is reprised the circular from the Commissioner of Revenue and the Treasury that mandated these cuts that was initially issued on December 1, 1899.  By January of 1990, businesses had rushed in to supply the necessary equipment to apply the 3 cut cancels efficiently.  Two firms advertised their new cutting devices in the January 6, 1900 edition of The American Stationer.  David Thompson tipped me to the first of the adverts below:

Advertisement references the new regulations requiring the cutting of revenue stamps.

The circular ordering the mutilation with three cuts:

There are numerous types of this three cut cancel mandate that show up on the dollar value revenue stamps.  Here are a few examples:

DeHaven & Townsend stock sale memo for 100 shares of Western Union Telephone Company to Eames & Moore.  The three cuts are prominent on the left stamp.  The sale of the shares took place less than two weeks before the end of the tax period, June 30, 1902.  Curiously, a section of overprint on the right stamp is missing.  Both stamps show the varnish square.  This type of cut cancel with the somewhat jagged cuts is one of the most common.

Thomas Denny & Company cancelled R184 with three very close parallel and non-jagged cuts aligned with the bottom and centered on the ink cancel .  It appears as if the cancelling device combined the ink cancelling and the cutting processes.

G. M. Carnochan & Company cancelled R185 pair.  The cancelling device, like the Denny device above, includes the cutting device with the inking device.  However, the cuts are to the side of the cancel and not the bottom and the device supplies ink to the cuts as well.  A curiosity is that the date tablet is upside down relative to the company's initials.

Harry Content's cancelled stamps commonly feature these more dramatic 3 parallel perforations.  Often they serve to mutilate the stamps beyond collectability.  The stamp on the left is practically confetti despite being hinged to an album page.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Cotton Brokers: Lehman Brothers

NOV  16 1899

Lehman Brothers are most famous as a New York financial firm that crashed and burned during the 2008 financial crisis.  I'm not a scholar of their collapse but I would assume they speculated just a bit too much on the long side of mortgage derivatives.  But while the firm grew in the 20th century to become a major player in finance, their origins were a bit more humble, as they began as southern "cotton factors" that brokered cotton between producers and American and European industrial buyers.  

Lehman Brothers has several types of cancels that can be found in the 1898 period.  The normal circular dates stamps I would assume were part of regular New York trading activity.  But the more interesting type shown here might have been from transactions at their more southerly operations.  I'm looking for on-document Lehman Brothers examples to know.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Bill of Exchange Fragments: The Canadian Bank of Commerce

The Canadian Bank of Commerce merged with the Imperial Bank of Canada in 1961 to form the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), now one of the Big Five Canadian banks.

 Reverse side of document fragment:


front side of document fragment:

Seal of Canadian Bank of Commerce:


While the Canadian Bank of Commerce was in the business of facilitating international trade, in part through the example of the bill of exchange fragment above, the bank also played a significant role in the expansion of businesses to Canada's extensive western prairie regions.  Vestiges of that expansion remain:

Canadian Bank of Commerce National Historic Site of Canada
201 Main Street, Watson, Saskatchewan
General view of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, showing its neo-classical style, evident in its three-bay facade with classical decorative treatment, particularly the pedimented front gable with bulls-eye window and heavy dentilled cornice, fluted pilaster © Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1990.

Heritage Value
The Canadian Bank of Commerce was designated a national historic site in 1976 because of its prefabrication technology and the entrepreneurial imagination of the bank. The heritage value of this site resides in its historical associations with the expansion of eastern banks into the Canadian west as illustrated by the building’s physical characteristics.

The former Canadian Bank of Commerce (CBC) bank at Watson, Saskatchewan is the largest surviving example of the prefabricated bank buildings erected by the CBC in railway towns across the prairies. Designed by Toronto bank architects Darling and Pearson, and prefabricated in Vancouver by British Columbia Mills, Timber and Trading using a patented sectional wall system, the bank structures were shipped by railway to newly established towns and assembled within days. The neo-classical styling of these wood-frame buildings mimicked the stone and brick bank buildings of larger urban centres at a minimum cost, and projected the same air of respectability and confidence. By erecting these buildings quickly and early, the bank hoped to monopolize local trade. The use of three standard designs created by Darling and Pearson allowed the bank to convey a consistent and immediate impression of stability, at a minimum investment. Erected in 1906-07 using the largest of the three designs, the Watson Bank is the most intact example. While other banks also made use of prefab technology, it was the CBC that most fully exploited the potential of the prefab banks and made them enduring features of the western Canadian landscape.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1976.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

New York Stock Brokers in Caricature: Sylvester L. Blood

Stock Memo of Sale for 20 shares of what appears to be Consolidated Ice Company to John Wallace & Company
Stock memo of sale for 100 shares of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway to Eames & Moore

Mr. Blood must have owned an early automobile powered by benzene in addition to his yacht, somewhat standard equipment for wealthy New York bankers and brokers of the day.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

"Stacked" Use of R184s on a Stock Sale Memorandum

Stamp washing and reuse was somewhat common on the 1898 dollar values, prompting ink experimentation that would help prevent effective cancel washing, and rules regarding stamp cancellation that required not only ink cancellation but mutilation through cuts or punch-outs.  

By late 1899, cancel washing and stamp reuse had become so common that the Commissioner of Internal Revenue made it mandatory for all revenue stamps of 10 cents or more be mutilated by three parallel cuts into the stamp.  So from January 1900, many of the dollar denominated revenue stamps are found with cut cancels.  The regulation seems to have been mostly ignored for the documentary battleships.

Today is featured 8 $1 stamps that have been appropriately cut cancelled.  However, they have been stacked on a stock sale memorandum.  While the regulations regarding cancelling don't address stacking the stamps this way, I do not believe this way of applying the stamps to the document would have been approved by revenue agents.

A Malcom & Coombe sale memorandum to Eames & Moore for 400 shares of Southern Railway requiring $8 of revenue stamps:

The stamps are stacked rather than spread out across the memo, making it difficult on quick inspection to insure that $8 worth of stamps were used.  Careful inspection indicates that there are 4 pairs of $1 stamps.

On the right side it is possible to see four layers of stamps

Reverse side of sale memo, focusing on the area behind the stamps.  The cut cancels penetrate all of the stamps and through the memo.

The main problem I see with this way of applying the stamps is that the bottom 6 stamps could have been used previously, all cancelled with ink and cuts, and we would never know as they are covered by the top two stamps.  Clearly, this way of applying high value stamps to documents is not common, as this is the first instance of stamp stacking I've come across on stock sale memos.  I am fairly sure that revenue agents would have fully disapproved of this practice.

I wanted to check whether there may have been a specific prohibition against this practice.  An 1899 internal revenue circular spoke to the new requirment for 3 parallel cut cancels.

Though certainly published in December 1899, the content of a circular from the US Commissioner of Internal Revenue was reprinted in The Official Gazette of the United States Patent Office, January 16, 1900:

A review of section six of the earler 1898 war revenue law makes no mention of a prohibition of stacking stamps before cancelling them.  However, the law does say:

That in any and all cases where an adhesive stamp shall be used for denoting any tax imposed by this Act, except as hereinafter provided, the person using or affixing the same shall write or stamp thereupon the initials of his name and the date upon wich the same shall be attached or used...

It seems to me that it is implicit that in order for the above to be enforced, all the stamps on the document must be visible.  At least in this sense the stacking on the Malcom & Coombe memo is not permitted.

Certainly, stacking wasn't necessary to fit all the stamps on the memo of sale.  Here are two examples of extensive real estate use on stock sale memos:

Mr. Feuchtwanger sold 600 shares of Southern Railway to Eames & Moore, requiring $12 of revenue stamps.  He or his clerk placed 12 $1stamps on the reverse side of the memo.

A. H. Combs & Company sold 1500 shares of Texas Pacific, requiring $30 of revenue stamps.  11 $2 stamps were placed on the front of the memo; 4 on the reverse.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Bill of Exchange Fragments: Bank of Montreal

While I don't have absolute confirmation of the identity of this cancel, I'm pretty certain that these stamps were canceled by the Bank of Montreal:

B. of M.
SEP  27  1901

Note use of R170p

Front side of document fragment:

from The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, July 4, 1903:

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

New York Stock Brokers in Caricature: Elias C. Benedict


FEB 23 1899

Weak cancel but still legible with close scrutiny.

Last year I first posted images from a volume called The Stock Exchange in Caricature from 1904.  There are many more brokers and their cancels that can be highlighted.  Today is Elias Benedict, friend of President Grover Cleveland, and famous for ownership of his steam powered yacht the Oneida.  The Stock Exchange in Caricature has Mr. Benedict aboard his yacht in the caricature, and the accompanying poetry refers to his friendship with Cleveland.  In 1893, Cleveland secretly had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor while aboard the Oneida.  The surgery was kept secret to prevent panic in the markets.  The story of the surgery is covered in a May 28, 2020 article in The Rotation.

In the modern media era, it is virtually impossible to imagine how much surgery on a sitting President would dominate the news cycle. Live updates through cable news, streaming services, and social media would be constant, while panels of pundits would deliver constant interpretations of what was happening in and around the White House while the President was under.

Now imagine the reaction if it was discovered a President had that surgery in secret, aboard a wealthy banker’s luxury yacht, in a bid to prevent an economic panic from worsening.

Incredibly, that all happened back in 1893 when, somewhere in Long Island Sound, President Grover Cleveland had a cancerous tumor removed from his jaw.

Despite rumors of the surgery leaking shortly after it took place, the first-ever surgery performed on a sitting president would be covered up for more than two decades before one of the surgeons eventually revealed what took place.

A plan was hatched for Cleveland to have the tumor removed while on a friend’s yacht, as it traveled from New York City to a holiday home on Cape Cod.

Though presidents as far back as Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) suffered from diseases and other ailments, only Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush joined Cleveland as those who have ‘gone under the knife’ when they lived in the White House.

Eisenhower (who also suffered from a heart attack and stroke while in office) underwent surgery to treat Crohn’s Disease in 1956, while Reagan had six surgeries during his two terms in the 1980s, including the removal of a bullet from an assassination attempt, in 1981.

More recently, George George W. Bush underwent two colonoscopy procedures in 2002 and 2007. While they were unconscious, both Reagan and Bush temporarily transferred the power of the presidency to their Vice-Presidents, George H.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, under the 25th Amendment.

That constitutional lever was not available in 1893, nor were the vast improvements in medical technology that would ensure the continuing health of future Presidents.

The road to Cleveland’s historic, and unusual, surgery began on May 5, 1893, when the President discovered a bump on the roof of his mouth. It would take a month before he finally had it checked out by his personal physician Dr. Joseph D. Bryant, who diagnosed the growth as cancerous.

“It is a bad looking tenant,” Bryant reportedly told Cleveland. “Were it in my mouth, I would have it removed at once.”

The proposed removal of the growth came at a bad time for the president. Cleveland was dealing with the start of a four-year recession, later known as the Panic of 1893, and was worried that news of him going under the knife would scare Wall Street further.

A plan was hatched for Cleveland to have the tumor removed while on a friend’s yacht, as it traveled from New York City to a holiday home on Cape Cod.

Yacht Oneida. Later converted to a tug, she was USS Adelante in 1918-20
Photo by USN Photograph NH 100588 (public domain via US Navy)

While the press was told he was enjoying a four-day fishing trip, the ‘Oneida’, an impressive steam-powered cruiser owned by prominent New York banker Elias C. Benedict, was made ready for the presidential procedure.

The yacht’s saloon was transformed into an operating theatre, with all but a harmonium that was bolted to the floor, removed. The room was completely disinfected, while a large chair, where Cleveland would be seated, was tied to the mast that came through the center of the saloon. A single bulb powered by a portable battery provided light.

Along with Bryant, five other surgeons were brought aboard, having been ferried from different piers to avoid suspicion. Dr. William W. Keen, Jr, credited by many as America’s first brain surgeon, was involved.

Just after midday on July 1, 1893, Cleveland went under anesthesia (ether), and the surgeons went to work.  According to a recent article in The Surgery Journal, cocaine solution was injected around the growth, while nitric oxide was used to manage pain.

In a 90-minute operation led by Bryant, the tumor was removed, along with five teeth, a third of Cleveland’s upper palate, and part of his upper left jawbone. All were kept for further examination.

Because the tumor was removed through Cleveland’s mouth, there would be no major scarring. The president’s famed bushy mustache made for a perfect cover for any that did exist.

Even for modern surgeons with a far more extensive range of instruments and equipment, operating at sea is a hugely difficult task. Though the president would require further surgery to install a rubber palatal obturator, the operation was a great success; evidenced by a speech Cleveland gave to Congress a month after the tumor was removed.

The press described Cleveland, who was never troubled by cancer again, dying of a heart attack in 1908, as “in perfect health” and “looking well and not the least weary” when he spoke.

Thanks to confirmation from one of Bryant’s six-strong team, Philadelphia Press journalist E.J. Edwards would report about the secretive surgery later in 1893.

Cleveland denied Edwards’ reportage and even launched into a smear campaign against him. In 1917, Keen would write about what happened, finally proving Edwards right.

Regardless of Cleveland’s cover-up and the risks involved on the ‘Oneida’, Matthew Algeo, who wrote The President Is a Sick Man about the incident, described the first ever surgery on an American president as an “extraordinary achievement in American medicine.”

“The doctors took incredible risks. I mean, it was really foolhardy,” Algeo told NPR, in 2011.

“I talked to a couple of oral surgeons [while] researching the book, and they still marvel at this operation: that they were able to do this on a moving boat; [that] they did it very quickly. A similar operation today would take several hours; they did it in 90 minutes.”

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Acid Sensitive Ink and Color Changelings on R184-R189

Dave Thompson found a gem of an article in a short-lived publication called The Virginia Philatelist.  From the September, 1900 edition is this little piece, which apparently covers original reporting by Joseph Holmes, the editor of the New York-based Metropolitan Philatelist.  Holmes provides a contemporaneous report of a specially prepared acid-sensitive ink on R184 to R189:

More work needs to be done to find the source article from The Metropolitan Philatelist, but for now I'm fascinated by the mention of acid sensitive ink.  This report of a specially prepared ink has prompted me to look over my collection and examples of R184-R189 to find ink anomalies and to review other reference documents.  The scan below has examples from my collection showing a range of ink tones and varieties, including #6 which appears to have been the subject of an attempt at washing.  The set below appears to show that these stamps experience a color changeling phenonemon, though one that is less obvious than on the R190-R194 series due to the light color of these stamps.  The question then is whether or not these stamps were printed with a special ink, and one that might be at least partially responsible for the color differences that you see below that range from darkest to lightest, 1-6.

It may be that the acid-sensitive ink report is true, but we are certain that the overprinted numerals were all printed in black rather than multiple colors.  So there reasons to doubt the overall veracity of the report. 

Consulting Elliot Perry's. aka Christopher West's, work in Mekeel's from nearly 100 years ago, there is a report that the ink on these stamps is "far from being a permanent color", and was special in such a way that chemical treatment of the stamps would disfigure and perhaps radically alter the stamps appearance.  After 120 years, the overprints appear to be quite colorfast; the so-called gray ink is more mercurial, and it could be because of the use of an acid-sensitive ink: 

From The Revenue Stamps of the United StatesThe $1, $3, $5, $10, $50 and a $2 stamp in the same design were printed in a dull olive gray color in October, 1900.  The designs do not differ from the previous issues, except that each stamp is overprinted with a large outline numeral corresponding to the denomination.  The 1, 2, 3, and 5 are 20 mm. high and the 10 and 50 are 12 mm. high.  The numeral is printed in soluble black and the gray ink is also far from being a permanent color.  It was believed and hoped no chemical treatment which would remove a cancellation, could fail also to remove the overprint, or to disfigure the stamp and thereby make re-use without detection impossible.

Nevertheless, three months had hardly elapsed before the newspapers and philatelic press contained reports of extensive stamp washing and again the Bureau set to work to over come the difficulty.  In June, 1901, it was reported that the Bureau was experimenting with glycerine in the ink for the overprint on the dollar value denominations and the experiments apparently continued for several months, as not until January, 1902, were the green stamps with overprint reported on sale.  

Again, the design remained unchanged, but as the $3 denomination had been discontinued June 30, 1901, there are only five stamps of this set -- $1, $2, $5, $10, $50.  The color selected was blue-green.  Each sheet required three impressions.  First--the green ink of the stamp itself.  Second--a colorless overprint about 14 mm. square in the center of each stamp.  Third--a large black numeral on each stamp, corresponding to the denomination, part of which always falls on the colorless overprint.  The overprinted numerals measure 24 mm. tall on the $1, $2, and $5, and 19 1/2 mm. tall on the $10 and $50, and instead of being a simple outline, are filled in with a net work pattern.  These stamps were in use barely six months and seem not to have been successfully washed.  They turn blue readily and even careful soaking in pure cold water is liable to remove part of the overprint numeral.  

Perry reports the numerals on R184-R189 to have been soluble; again, as with the Holmes article regarding the nature of the numerals, this also appears to be inaccurate.  However, we may have a possible answer to the existence of the color changelings on R190-R194 that was not reported by the BEP.  Perhaps the acid-sensitive ink was applied to this set of stamps, which has made their coloring less stable over the years.  

Overall, the last set of 1898 series dollar values, the dark green R190-R194, have prominently displayed a tendency to change color.  But it is also clear, with closer inspection, that the "gray" stamps also have an issue with their color-fastness.  I would be interested if other collectors have examples of dramatic color changelings on R184-R189.

Here are a few additional examples of color issues on this series:

Stamps canceled by the NYSE firm Hopkins Brothers.  Did someone try to wash the $2 stamp on the left, or did it fade with soaking and time?  The state of the cancel on the left stamp may have faded, but the cancel on the right stamp with the darker background ink also has a weak cancel.  There is practically no image remaining of the original printing on the left stamp, while the right stamp retains much of the integrity of the original tone of the ink.  Why do these two stamps, used roughly 2 1/2 months apart, have such different appearances?

Stamps attached to a stock sale memo and canceled by the NYSE firm Herzog & Glazier.  The stamps are fading while still on the document.  I figure it highly unlikely that these stamps were washed prior to use on this sale memo, and highly likely that the stamp colors have faded with time.

Nearly bleached-out appearing R184 pair with NYSE firm Baring, Magoun cancels.

NYSE broker Dwight Braman canceled R185 still on its original sale memorandum with stamp ink that has a nearly bleached appearance.  The cancel remains strong.

Bleached out looking R185s on an Arthur S. Leland memorandum of sale.  As usual, the overprints remain dark and strong even though image in the background has nearly disappeared.  Scan sent by David Thompson.

David Thompson's example of a nearly completely bleached out copy of R185, with a perfect Albert Loeb cancel with ink that has been unaffected by the phenomenon that lightened the ink of the stamp.  The overprint also remains strong and clear.  The scan appears a bit overexposed, but it helps highlight the dramatic loss of color in this stamp.

I have numerous other ink anomaly examples from this stamp set in my collection.  There clearly is something about this ink that is different.  Is it because it is acid-sensitive, or is there another chemical explanation?

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Bill of Exchange Fragments: Commission Merchants Frederick Vietor & Achelis

 Reverse of document fragment:


Front of document fragment:

Advertisement, Dun's Review, May 1901