From the category archives:

Stamps

This guide book showed everyone who visited my store the stamps that were available to create their art  with. (click image to open the book)_DSC9085a

 

Here is where any possible color required could be mixed and the stamps charged with printing ink ready to be printed onto the clothing

13 paint for stamps_DSC3047_DSC3049

{ 0 comments }

The Conestee Mill Stamp Collection

by admin on 12/01/2017

The internet is an amazing thing, with billions and billions of pages. However, it seems that anyone who Googles for information on trademark stamps or tickets always ends up on this site!
That’s exactly what happened when I got an email from someone who “found a few crates of stamps” while clearing out an old mill in Conestee, SC and, upon looking at some of the stampmakers’ names, found they matched the condor stamp I had purchased a couple of years ago.

I was sent some basic photos of the stamps

IMG_1617and was assured there were also some other ‘pictorial’ designs to go with this one of the Woolworth Building in NYC

20170111_182134Altogether I was told there were over 200 stamps and about 30 original bolt prints like below

20161221_153334As this was really a unique opportunity to create a whole section of American stamps in my collection and stop them being sold piecemeal, I bought the lot.

A few weeks later a pallet arrived with 6 large cardboard boxes containing 450lb of American stamps….

Though initially disappointed to discover that the seller  “didn’t quite know what you meant by pictorial” and that the Woolworth Building stamp was pretty much the only one that wasn’t just text, the collection is remarkable and I soon unpacked, sorted and started cleaning them

IMG_20161111_224911   20161226_194324

From thisIMG_20161111_220828to this

IMG_20161111_220926

As I cleaned, fed the wood with linseed oil and then repaired (removing old nails and fixing bent metal) these forlorn objects, they revealed their history. I always feel like I am polishing long lost gravestones when I go through this process and  stampmakers’ names I had never heard of such such as Parsons & Mealey, Lowell, H H Manning, Lowell, Braidwood Stamp Co, Perth Amboy NJ,  C J Kimbell, J Cosgrove RI, William Yungmann, 46 Beekman St NYC and F Brockman ( at both 607 W43rd st and 440 W36th St NYC) start appearing from beneath years of dirt . 20170111_18231720170112_121014-1

The names of merchants who owned and marked their names on the stamps such Neuss Hesslein (Nehesco), Suffern & Suffern, Garner & Co., Watts Stebbins & Co., J A Doering, Hayward & Thurston, Ultramares Corp, Shall & Co., De Sola & Henriquez, San Salvador, A D Straus & Co, Hispanic Textile Co will all help in dating the stamps.20170111_181151 20170111_18111920170111_183322

What I do know already is that the condor stamp originated from this same collection. It has exactly the same “D.M.” badging that can be found on some of these stamps. I was told that the collection was amassed from different mills as they closed down over the years. “Clifton Mills” appears the most and was originaly built in the 1880’s in Clifton SC.20170111_181759

But there are stamps from other locations and companies such as Nutwood, Castleton, Adsco Mills, The Rising Sun Mf’g. Co., The Callerton Mf’g Co.  and Barnard which I need more time to trace the history of online.

20170111_183208

 

The fabrics most often mentioned on the stamps are Sheeting, Drilling and Shirtings.

20170111_174919 20170111_175922 20170111_181009

There are quite a few Spanish language stamps and they reference Venezuela, El Salvador, Bolivia and Chile, so these merchants were definitely in the export trade…

20170112_115006-1 20170112_122150-1

 

As in the Manchester trade, individual letters could be used to create word stamps and although there were no small letters in this collection, they are evident in these carefully made word stamps…

20170112_123532-1

CONCLUSIONS

After going through this collection, I would say that the American stamps match the English ones both in construction technique and standard height but the design and execution is definitely ‘good’ rather than ‘high’ quality.  Of course, what tends to happen with these collections is that all the best stamps are sold, leaving only the less attractive ones to gather dust as happened here.  Despite the cherry picking, the missing pictorial stamps that are printed on the bolt cloth samples pale in comparison to those made by their Manchester counterparts. That makes sense because the American fabric trade was not as competitive and  just focused more on cheaper fabrics (such as the aforementioned sheeting, drills and shirtings) for the domestic and nearby South American markets. As competition was less fierce, high quality distinctive branding between merchants was therefore not as important as in the Manchester trade.

As much as I am spoiled by already having such a huge collection, these hand-made possibly 100 year old American objects are still an incredible and beautiful find.

I feel so lucky to be in a position where people offer me things like this after seeing my enthusiasm for collecting and preserving on this website. Who knows what else is out there….? I am happy to hear from anyone with anything from objects to memories regarding this fascinating subject.

While you are here, please remember to be respectful and not copy any of the text or images on this site without my permission. I am always happy to share information but just consider how much time and money goes into bringing this information for you to enjoy before copying and pasting anything. Thanks!

{ 1 comment }

One of the readers of this website recently contacted me regarding a stamp she owned and needed information on. After looking at images of the stamp and the name of the merchant E. PAVENSTADT & Co that she noticed on the side of the stamp once I asked her to look, I concluded that it was a typical, though impressively large, trademark stamp.

20141216_142521-1

20141216_142552-1

Looking up the E. PAVENSTEDT & Co online, it turns out they were a very interesting old merchant firm, listed as being at 52 Exchange place, Downtown NYC in 1872 but going back at least  a few decades before then.

The earliest record found in the US was in 1837, when a 27 year old German by the name of E Pavenstedt, arrived in NY on board a ship named “Vester”.

The company is mentioned in government papers importing ” A number of cases of colored prints” in 1848. The prints were shipped to New Orleans and a bond was given to the US government that $1,150 would be released once the cloth arrived in New Orleans. Unfortunately the vessel carrying the prints was lost at sea and the House of Representatives had issued an order to cancel the bond. This suggests that the firm were a very powerful and influential company to both absorb the losses and have the Senate settle their grievances.

E. PAVENSTEDT & Co evidently didn’t just import cotton, with a listing in 1864 New York Times marine diary listing “Brig Maracaibo, (Br.,) Scandella, Maracaibo April 21, and the bar 27th, with coffee, hides, etc., to E. Pavenstadt & Co.” and in 1865 describing the arrival in NY of the “Brig Maracaibo, (of Nassau,) Scandella, Maracaibo June 27, and the Bar July, with coffee, fustic, etc., to E. Pavenstadt & Co” and the “Bark Brazileira, (Russ.,) Wessels, Rio Janeiro 48 ds., with coffee to E. Pavenstadt & Co.”

In 1863, during the blockade of imports to the South, E Paventedt had to plea to receive assurances that it could land 178 tons of Hong Kong tea in the United States

https://books.google.com/books?id=-TAWAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA407&ots=R43CNgd6hd&dq=%22E.%20PAVENSTEDT%20%26%20Co%22&pg=PA411#v=onepage&q=%22E.%20PAVENSTEDT%20&%20Co%22&f=false

So coffee and tea was maybe even a larger part of the company trade than fabric.

A Frederic Charles Jennings emigrated from England “to the United States in 1871 to be tea valuer and general manager of E. Pavenstadt & Co while the owner was away in the East. But Pavenstadt died, and Frederick established his own business as a tea importer in New York”. Pavenstedt are also mentioned in Abram Wakeman’s 1914 history of New York’s coffee and tea trading area around Lower Wall Street, still at 52 Exchange Place.

So was this maybe a coffee sack printing stamp, or was it made and used to stamp fabric for E Pavenstedt in Manchester? It is certainly way oversized for a fabric piece, though sometimes pieces were stamped horizontally rather than vertically. and it did have the tell tale traces of the water soluble indigo stamping paste used in Manchester, which presumably would never be used on a coffee sack as they would be marked with permanent inks. The style and design is of a later simplistic stamp, but the construction using felt is typical of pre 1900 stamps in my collection.

20141216_142437-1-2

Then came this discovery. Sometimes, by wetting the wood grain, faded embossed lettering starts to stand out more.

There it was “F Brockman, Maker N.Y.C.” punched into the wood with a metal punch exactly as was done by every other stamp maker who wanted to advertise his wares.

The only other curious thing about the stamp is the brass code number on one end. As stamps were stored in making up departments on narrow flat shelves, they often had a number marked on the end so the person that used it could know the design that was on it without having to pull it out. This code seems to bear no relation to the merchant or makers name however. Maybe it was the acronym of the name of the making up or bleaching/printing company where the stamp was used. 2054 seems a high number if that is how many stamps were stored on the shelves.

20141216_142610-1

I am really struggling to find any record of F Brockman online . The only “F Brockman” listed on genealogy sites is an F W Brockman who was also German, born in 1856 and arrived in NY in 1886. Either way, it was definitely made in NYC and it definitely has the typical indigo water soluble ink, so the next task is to date it by finding the stamp maker’s name in a NYC directory. I will update this post when I find it but please let me know if you have any information or theories that may help this mystery.

If nothing else, it is amazing to find a stamp made in the city where my collection now resides and although had a big garment manufacturing base, was not as well known for making up cloth pieces as Lancashire or the Massachusetts region were.

 

Here is the stamp after I repaired bent strips of copper, cleaned it and added a protective and restorative oil, as stamp makers of the past did

20141216_165014-1-1

 

 

UPDATE!

20170113_101016

Going through my new Conestee Stamp collection, which has stamps that bear the same “D.M” badge as this one, I came across this “El Condor” stamp which goes with the condor image perfectly. Although this stamp was also made by F. Brockman, it is marked with the different merchant name “De Sola & Henriquez, San Salvador”. It may be that the merchant firms were linked or this may be just a coincidence and condors were as popular an icon in South America as eagles are in North America.  Either way, I am convinced that both stamps originated from the same region of textile mills and it is serendipitous that they are back together again.

 

 

 

 

{ 0 comments }

I was recently contacted through this site by a couple who’s grandfather, Thomas Winterbottom, worked at the River Etherow Bleaching Company, Hollingworth, Hyde near Manchester.

Ash-tray

Apparently when the bleachworks closed down, employees could pick stamps to keep as a momento, so he chose the following stamps, which have now been passed on and are part of my collection, along with the ashtray.

Thanks so much. They are in good hands

 

eagle-stamp

race-stamp

 

 

I decided it would be nice to print the stamps again and by adding some of my own, came up with these designs

20140605_094027-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

20140604_094317

{ 1 comment }

American stamp found

by admin on 20/04/2014

After a 10 year search I finally own a trademark stamp made in America. The stamp is the exact standard depth of Manchester stamps and the 8 inch wide design depicts the Mexican national emblem of an eagle stood on a cactus holding a snake. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coat_of_arms_of_Mexico Mexico Coat of Arms stamp

The coat of arms changed over the years and this design, by José Mariano Torreblanca, was used from 1823-64 and then from 1867-93, so the stamp was made during one of these two periods. stamp-3

The stamp was made by J Cosgrove, Providence, R.I. and a Census lists a John Cosgrove working as a stencil cutter (The American term for a stamp maker) in Providence in 1880.

This is where things get interesting. The census lists John Cosgrove as being English, born in 1833 with an English father and an Irish mother.

His wife Sarah is listed as Irish and his 4 children were born in various places:

Matilda COSGROVE, 18, birthplace, Ireland

Albert E. COSGROVE, 17 birthplace, Ireland, Occupation: Stencil Cutter

Alice J. COSGROVE , 12, birthplace, Massachusetts

John COSGROVE, 8 birthplace, Rhode Island John Cosgrove

Searching for a John Cosgrove who was born in England in 1833…….

A John Cosgrove, born in Lancashire in 1833, was listed as living in Manchester’s Ancoats textile district  in 1841  and 1861 censuses.
In 1880 the USA census states that his son and daughter was Irish and the youngest was 17, which means they must have moved to Ireland at some point.
They must have left for America before 1868 because his daughter Alice was born in Massachusetts.
There is a Thomas John Cosgrove who married a Sarah Mcmullon in 1859 (When John was 26) in Carnmoney, 7 miles from Belfast – the only ‘Sarah’ to marry a Cosgrove in that 20 year period. He is half Irish so he could have gone to Ireland to get married and  moved there just after the 1861 Manchester census, having babies Matilda and Albert (in 1862 and 1863) in Ireland.
He probably learned his stampmaking trade in Manchester and then moved to Belfast. Between 1861-65 there was the “cotton famine” because of over production and a restriction where they couldn’t get cotton from America because of the civil war so many Manchester factories shut down, so it would make sense to move to Belfast where the Irish linen trade was based and much less affected. There were linen trademark labels so I am presuming there were Irish trademark stamps being made in Belfast too.
The alternative is that he married Sarah when she already had children born in Ireland and went straight from Manchester to America, though that seems unlikely as his children are all listed as having an Irish mother and English father.
They emigrated at some point after 1863 and had their daughter Alice in Massachusetts in 1868. The family then made their way to Providence, which was the centre of “Stencil cutting” in the Northeast.
It is interesting that Albert was following his father into the stampmaking trade.
So what this single stamp has showed is that there was a direct link between Manchester stampmakers and American Stencil cutters. The stamps are identical in dimension and construction techniques.
The reasons why John Cosgrove moved from Manchester to Providence via Ireland will probably never be known but putting his name on the side of this stamp for the Mexican market has revealed a wealth of information about the trade and the Cosgrove family history.
The stamp itself would have been made no later than 1893 because the Mexico coat of arms changed in that year but cannot have been made before 1868 because John Cosgrove lived in Ireland at that point.
If anyone wants to add any more information, such as finding information on John Cosgrove’s father, the date when the Cosgrove family emigrated to America, or what happened to the Cosgrove children, I would love to hear from you.

{ 0 comments }

I have tried hard to find any trace of stampmakers who worked in America. The mills of New England folded, stamped and labelled their goods exactly as it was done in Manchester.

Here is an example of an American trademark stamped faceplate from the Lonsdale Co. Providence RI from my collection

However, despite several museum enquiries and lots of research I couldn’t find out if the stamps that were used were made in America or imported from England.

The trade was so huge in Manchester and the stampmakers so skilled and probably cheaper, I thought it was probable that they had a trade exporting the stamps. I was wrong and the following article, copied from the July 1963issue of the Maine Antique Digest. If anyone has an original copy of this, I would love to see the illustrations that accompany the text.

“American hand-printing blocks used on yard goods are rare indeed, though recently several English blocks were noted in the gift department of a Baltimore department store. In some the design was hand-carved; in others the design was set in copper pins; all were simple geometric patterns. The blocks themselves had hollowed out hand-grips on the back. The price was $25 each. Quite possibly other department stores across the nation will come forth with more such imports.

An American type that is occasionally found, usually in the old mill towns of New England, are the later hand blocks, used not to stamp designs on yard goods, but as trademark identification. The illustrations here are of this type. David C. Hardman, who was associated with the Providence Dyeing, Bleaching & Calendering Company, rescued two large packing cases of these blocks when the company liquidated, and presented them to various museums. He explains their use thus: “When cloth was sent to commission bleacheries for scouring, bleaching, and finishing, the owner of the cloth would supply these identifying trademarks to be hand-stamped on the finished bolts. Stamping this mark, usually in blue dye, on the outside of the bolt, was the last operation before packing for shipment. The mark was useful identification in dry goods stores and on dry goods counters in small country stores. Sometimes the stamp included the name of the manufacturer and such information as “Finished soft for the needle,” or “Full Bleach.” I do not know when this method of identification started, but we stamped bolts of cloth as late as 1912.”

The first printing blocks were made of hand-carved hard wood. Later the designs were made of copper strips fastened in the wood. Designs included elaborate patriotic, Oriental, and industrial subjects as well as fancy alphabets of capital and small letters. They were very delicate and intricate, particularly the alphabets.

On the back of the Franklin figure, pictured at extreme left above, and on the “Work and Be Happy-Industry is the Road to Wealth” block, inscriptions indicate the blocks were supplied by Parsons & Girby, Copper Stamp, Stencil and Block Cutters, 111 Thorndike St., Point of Gorham, Lowell, Mass. Worn stencil lettering on the back of the X shows Wm. Parsons Co., Copper Stamp and Stencil Cutter, Lowell, Mass., as the maker. The address is illegible, but seems not to be Thorndike Street.”

Stamp Cutters are listed in the local trade directories around the 1850’s but the term is a broad one which could also mean manufacture of textile pattern printing blocks. This article provides direct proof that stamps were not imported but were made by local craftsmen. It is interesting that this article makes a special note of the ornate typography used on the stamps and it is serendipity that the example I have shows a “finished soft for the needle” stamp as described by the writer.

————————————————————————————————————–

UPDATE
I recently had the pleasure of spending a day in the curatorial department of  the American Textile History Museum www.athm.org in Lowell Massachusetts and I want to thank the welcoming and helpful staff.

They have an excellent collection of shipper’s tickets and I was delighted to be shown some obscure textile trademark books.  “A Directory of Textile Merchandise including textile brands and trademarks“, first edition, 1918 opens with the proclamation that

” Trademarks to a manufacturer or merchant represent something akin to that which the flag of a country represents to a loyal citizen. They are badges of honor, distinguishing marks, emblems to be proud of, to be kept above reproach and with a spotless reputation.”

The second edition of 1921 has an excellent 12 page guide to creating and registering trademarks. The article ends with the phrase “Trade-Marks innocently stolen are tribulations woven“.

The museum has maybe a dozen stamps, all text based. The names of the makers are stencilled in black ink on the back and also appear to be varnished, which is unlike the British unvarnished stamps that have the maker’s names die-pressed into the side. The height of the stamps was uniform and seemed a similar one to the British stamps.

These are the maker’s names as could be read on the stamps together with additional info I found about them online:

Wm Parsons Co. 3 Fletcher St, Lowell

There is no mention of this person online but it is likely he is related to

 

Parsons & Mealey, Lowell, Mass

PARSONS & MEALEY (from Inland Massachussets Illustraded, 1891)

Manufacturers of Copper Stamps and Stencils for Cotton and Woolen Mills Bleacheries Hosieries etc Block Cutters and Dealers in Inks Presses Boxes and Stamping Supplies No 9 Fletcher Street. It is pretty safe to conclude that a concern established for forty five years and doing a more prosperous business at last than ever before in its career is worthy of confidence and has won its position upon merit alone. Such an one is the noted stamp and stencil house of Parsons & Mealey, originally founded in 1845 by RJ Dewhurst, the style subsequently changing to Dewhurst & Parsons to whom Parsons & Mealey succeeded in 1880. Mr Parsons died in 1881, since which time Mr John J Mealey has continued in sole control under the former name Parsons & Mealey. The works occupy two floors 30×40 feet up stairs at No 9 Fletcher street, one of which is divided by partitions into four rooms used for office designers room storage etc, while that above is utilized for factory purposes exclusively giving employment to four experts and fitted up and provided with the best improved tools and appliances. Here are made to order every description of copper stamps and stencils required by manufacturers of cotton and woolen fabrics and hosiery bleachers and others. Block cutting from original designs is also made a leading specialty and inks presses, boxes and stamping supplies of all kinds are furnished as required. First class materials and workmanship promptitude in the execution and delivery of work and goods courtesy liberality and moderate prices combined constitute the secret of long continued and growing prosperity. Orders are received almost daily by mail from all parts of the United States and the house controls a large Canadian trade. Correspondence is solicited and no pains are spared to render satisfaction

Samuel G Cooper, Lowell, Mass and Corner & Copper, 120 Central St, Lowell

Address listed as 206 Central St, Lowell in the 1913 Mass. Directory (copy below is also from Inland Massachussets Illustraded, 1891)

Manufacturer of Copper Stamps and Stencils Dealer in Stamping Inks and Supplies No 120 Central Street Mr Cooper has been in the same business in this city since 1872 up to 1885 as junior partner in the firm of Corner and Cooper Mr Corner retiring at that time The establishment occupies the entire second floor 60×80 feet of the brick building No 120 Central street and is one of the best appointed and most thoroughly equipped of the kind in the country giving employment to five or six skillful stamp and stencil designers and cutters Mr Cooper is a noted expert and his work tasty and perfect in execution is found all over the United States and Canada wherever a cotton or woolen mill is running in addition to which he is beginning to fill orders for shipment beyond seas having recently made a heavy consignment to China His annual sales range from $5,000 to $7,000 Mr Cooper’s specialties embrace every description of copper stamps and stencils for cotton and woolen mills bleacheries and hosieries head stamps for broadcloths cassimeres and flannels He also carries large stocks of and will promptly fill orders for black blue and red stamping inks stamping presses stamping boxes and stamping supplies generally

 

John Preston, Lowell

from a 199 auction catalog…

J. Preston Maker 193 Gorham St. Lowell Mass.,” depicting an eagle and shield, copper strips set into wooden block to form the pattern of a feathered eagle with a central shield, (one strip missing, minor age splits), lg. 7.5in. N.B. For additional and related information see The Magazine Antiques, August 1972, p. 251, Philena Moxley’s Embroidery Stamps. John Preston was listed in the Lowell Directories as a stamp maker, 1859-74.

 

{ 0 comments }

Original Stampmaker’s Tools Found

by admin on 26/08/2011

A few weeks ago I posted some original stampmaker’s pen and ink drawings, with the comment that the only remaining mystery of the whole stampmaking process, was the type of tools.

 

Thanks to the power of the internet and the foresight of the daughter of someone who served as a stampmaking apprentice in the 1920’s, I can now show you the tools used. Janet Smith, granddaughter of John Harris found this website while researching her family history because I had mentioned Smith & Howarth, the company where he learned his craft. John Harris had a difficult childhood. His father was killed in WW1 and so John had to take the role of head of the family at just 8 years old. At 14 he was allowed to leave school early to start work because he had no father. He decided to become a stampmaking apprentice at an early age even though none of his relatives had any connection with the business. 5 years later, by the time his apprenticeship was complete, the trade was in a recession and he never worked again as a full time stampmaker. According to his family, he was always a hard worker and had around 40 different manual labour jobs but had made stamps in his spare time from home, which his sister used to take to companies including JU Hallam and Shaw & Latham.

John Harris rightly complained that the skill and time it took to make a stamp was never properly appreciated and one of the purposes of this post is to redress that. His son told of his father complaining that there was such disregard for the value of redundant stamps that they were even used upside down to create parking garage floors! Even in his 70’s, John Harris would never forget how to make the stamps, creating them in his spare time until the end of the 1960’s, forty years after he first learned the craft.

 

So here are some of his tools. The collection seems to be a  bit of a mixed bag with duplicates, a mixture of toolmaker’s names and unusually, none of the tools are marked with any JH  initials. Maybe some of the tools were bought or given to Mr Harris by other stampmakers as they retired. There are also a couple tools such as the drill and junior hacksaw which seem out of place and may have just ended up here by being put  back in the wrong toolbox.

Stampmaker’s Chisels

The photo above shows the Chisels used in the stampmaking process. To create a stamp, the maker would take an exact drawing of how the stamp would look and transfer the drawing onto a block of sycamore or pear wood. Each strip of copper would need to be inserted into the hard wood block, so an incision or slot was created by hammering a chisel of a corresponding shape into the wood. The top of the chisel would be struck by a flattened metal baton as shown in the photo below and on a return stroke, the baton would strike the bottom of the mushroom shaped handle, knocking the chisel back out of the wood block. John Harris’ children said they could hear a rapid bang, bang, bang, bang thousands of times as  the chisel built up the guide for the copper strips to be inserted.

Stampmaker’s Pliers

Once the strips of copper and brass pins had been inserted, pliers of varied shape would twist, pinch and crimp the copper into the exact shape required to complete the stamp design. This part of the stampmaking process was very labour intensive and there was no room for errors. A stampmaker would also have a reasonable amount of work repairing damaged strips of copper on stamps. Once the copper work was complete, chisels were used to taper the wood back around the edges to help keep the wood away from the fabric and reduce their weight. Finally, the copper surface would be made perfectly level by rubbing the stamp on a large piece of flat pummice stone.

After interviewing the family last week, I wanted to post these photos and do a quick outline of how they were used. I will update this post with a more comprehensive description at a later date.

Many thanks to Erin Beeston, Collections Access Officer of Bolton Library & Museum Services for allowing me to use the photos she took of the John Harris tools

Here is a photograph of John Harris, Stampmaker, kindly provided by his son

{ 1 comment }

The Sun Bleach Stamp Book

by admin on 21/08/2011

There are several stamp books in my collection and I have created an ebook version of one here for you to enjoy.  Contact me directly if you would like a link to the ebook

 

Merchants all had printed copies of their trademark stamps and each stamp was individually numbered. The books were made to match the size of folded cotton fabric pieces, so measure about 30 inches by 12.  The stamps would be sent out to the packing houses to print onto the fabric pieces to identify and brand the cloth. A large part of the textile trade was the sale of plain white fabric and bleaching companies would take orders, bleach, pack, bale and ship the fabric off across the world on behalf of the merchant. The merchant would simply get a sample of the fabric sent and a copy of how the pieces were stamped.

The merchant would instruct the bleacher which stamps were to be applied to each order using the stamp numbers. A typical order would be that the bleacher had to use stamp numbers 134, 2044, 53 and 1738 on the piece. The person who stamped the fabric piece (he was called a “maker-up”) would then go to the stamp book, look at which numbers correlated to which stamp design and then select the correct stamps from the shelving. The stamps would also often have a number marked on the side which matched the number in the stamp book.

Each bleachworks would have thousands of stamps in stock. Many would be owned by merchants but the bleacher would also have their own generic stamps which merchants could use (such as “yard” stamps or common words such as “cotton” or “fine quality”) and that related to the bleacher. In the book are Sun related brands such as Sundial, Solar shirting and images such as a baby holding the fabric up to the sun and a diagram of the solar system. Bleacher’s stamps commonly had their company name or  acronym hidden within the design of their stamps, so that merchants could know who owned the trademark.

This stamp book was discarded by a merchant 20 years ago and is typical,  in that it shows the full range of stamps used by a bleacher. It begins with examples of the individual fonts which were used to make up any word required, such as a place or customer name. Then there are decorative “yard” stamps which had a space, into which could be inserted a number stamp corresponding to the length of fabric piece. There are some pages of the smaller “truth” or “bolt” stamps which were put on the very end of the fabric piece to show that it was of the length described by the yard stamp and hadn’t been shortened before sale. Later in the book there are frame stamps which would surround a shippers ticket so that the original ticket couldn’t be peeled off and another one of a different size attached. There are also pages showing how a complete fabric piece would be printed with a combination of several stamps.

 

The book is useful to show the variety of stamps used and the colours used other than the standard indigo, such as gold and red. The date of the book is probably around 1920 but stamps often lasted years and some designs in it date back to the late 1800’s. The other stamp books I have are earlier than this one but the Sun Bleaching has all the elements and is the best laid out example. The trademarks designs themselves cover African,  Far Eastern, the Home Trade and Asian cultures, reflecting the four corners of the world where Manchester fabric was sold.

 

The Sun Bleach Company was based in the Horwich and Bolton area near Manchester, an area which had specialised in bleaching fabric from the earliest times when cloth was bleached with natural substances such as lime and urine then left out to dry in fields known as “crofts”.

{ 2 comments }

I am really happy to have come across 17 original pen and ink artwork that the stampmaker John Wild drew for merchants to approve before starting work making the stamps. Shame I don’t have the actual stamps but maybe they were never made or more likely, were discarded along with all the other thousands. Thanks to Myra for selling them and trying to keep them as a whole collection.

I now have invoices, artwork, stamps, old signs/adverts and naming punches from the stampmakers. It’s a shame not to have any tools. When I went into the last stampmakers old shop (Shaw & Latham) at 91 Princess Street in Manchester there was a small forge presumable for melting lead and working the copper but no tools. I interviewed a worker and he said the apprenticeship lasted 5 years and all the tools were made by the apprentices because they were so unique in their design. Maybe some descendant has a bag of them in a shed somewhere and has no idea why there are so many strange looking pliers.

{ 0 comments }

Conde Nast Traveler feature

by Adrian on 10/08/2010

I appeared as one of the “Obsessed” collectors in the February 2010 issue of Conde Nast Traveller, stumbling over piles of the stamps. I can assure you that the stamps are not normaly treated that way but it did make a splendid image!

{ 0 comments }