Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Insurance Cancels: A Travelers Insurance Album

Since June 2023, I've featured stamps cancelled by insurance companies and their agents.   But I've not done much to link agents and the companies they represent, as so often an agency might represent multiple companies.  But a recent "find in the market place", to borrow an American Revenuer feature title (and perhaps I should write this up for the journal), was found on Ebay a few months ago that linked the Travelers Insurance Company and some of its agents that sold its policies across the United States.  The Travelers hand-made stamp "mini-album" contained a handful of stamps cancelled with the Travelers circular date stamp, and provided no direct indication that the hundreds of stamps in the album were linked together through an association with The Travelers.  With just a bit of sleuthing, and with the assistance of a rather remarkable commercial journal published monthly called The Travelers Record, the basis for building this mini-album by its original and now unknown collector was established.  The original Ebay listing looked like this:

Unfortunately, though the listing title states there were R153s included, none were present.

The rather humble home-made album looked like this from the outside:

with typical pages that looked like this (I've removed stamps from the book as you can see) that seem to be made from what looks and feels like black construction paper:

And with pages like this that would have appealed to the value-driven collector browsing Ebay lots that featured the scarce used R161 1/2 cent orange battleship:

But for a collector focusing on insurance company and insurance agent cancels as I was doing for my collection and with this website over the course of the past 9 months, the appearance of this album was a gift!  The manuscript canceled R161s were a distraction from the album's real value as a collectible, though the manuscript cancels on these orange stamps come from agents of the Travelers, and could be identified with some real digging.  But for insurance cancel specialists, the key pages were those that clearly set out the Travelers nature of the album that included a page of examples of the Travelers circular date stamp that looked like this:

and then 20 pages of examples, ranging from R162s to R168s, of Travelers' initial straight-line handstamped cancels that looked like this:

T. I Co. cancels on R164.  This is the most common type of cancel in the album.

and then another 13 pages of cancels of Travelers' agents, which will be a focus of posts for this coming month.  The T. I. Co. cancels can often be found in collections of miscellaneouos battleship documentary cancels; this album helped establish their identify for me as I've placed them with my Teutonia Insurance Company cancels by mistake in the past.  

Of potential philatelic import are pages early in the album that hold insurance document fragments from H. D. Eichelberger & Company of Richmond, Virginia.  Like the 1/2 cent orange page, the value driven collector might be enough in the weeds of the Scott Specialized catalog to note the presence of a listing for a used bisect on document for R154, the large IR overprinted 1 cent Franklin.  The price is one of the highest for an individual used stamp among all the listed battleship issues, whether documentary or proprietary, and is likely based on the sale of this and a similar document, most recently to my knowledge by Siegel in an associated sale of Henry Tolman's material.  The documents consisted of New York Plate Glass Insurance Company policies (below image borrowed from SAN):

The Eichelberger documennt fragments clearly show they are clipped from insurance policies/contracts, and hold both R154 and R163 bisects made to make up a half cent fraction tax payment.  The R154s contain HDE manuscript cancels; the R163s have H. D. Eichelberger handstamps. Most examples tie the stamps to the document fragments.  A  couple examples:

I'll cover Eichelberger cancels in a dedicated post a bit later this month.  For now it is important to understand how it became clear that this entire album of 50 or so pages consisted entirely of Travelers-related stamps.  

The Travelers, which primarily wrote accident insurance (and you can see in the above R163 document fragment two "accident" references), published a monthly journal called The Travelers Record.

The Travelers Record covered major news stories of interest to the insurance business, told stories of agents and their clients, and published abbreviated letters of thanks from their customers following policy payouts, among other items.  It is those abbreviated letters of thanks that were the key to getting to the bottom of the album.  

The thirteen or so pages of agent cancels included clusters of cancels by the same agent, with some full names spelled out and others just simple initials.  For agents using full named cancels, like F. E. Ford, the search for an origin was simple.

Plugging in F. E. Ford and Travelers into a search engine actually took me to Travelers Record pdfs available online, as did cancels by agents like D. B. Bell and Homer Gilmore.  So for Mr. Ford, acknowledgments like this can be found:

The cancels that would be nearly impossible to identify without an established Travelers tie-in were the initial-only cancels, like this:

G. M. B.
AUG  30  1898
Portland, Me.

But just a little time with the Travelers Record yielded thank you letters like this:

from The Travelers Record, January 1901

Mr. G. M. Barney of Portland Maine is acknowledged by George Small for prompt settlement of his insurance claim, making it clear that GMB of Portland is Mr. Barney.  This same situation repeats itself for all but one of the initial cancels in the album, and I think it likely that the missing cancel was simply an agent that was never acknowledged in the Record.  In general, all the stamps canceled with full names in the album also cross-check with agents acknowledged in The Record.  

So I'll be going agent by agent this month, but first starting with the Travelers Insurance Company itself.  The pages of manuscript cancels present the biggest challenge for identification, and I've yet to start with those, but I would guess at least a few initials can be found in editions of the Travelers Record.  

There is a video review of this book in a separate post put up today.

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