From the category archives:

Typography

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

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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.

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

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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…

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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!

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New collection of letters acquired

by admin on 18/10/2013

Thanks to this site, a reader from Yorkshire, England contacted me to sell his collection of letter and number stamps, which doubles the size of my single character collection.They were in trays and random but have been since sorted and I share them here with you.

Copyright Adrian WIlson Copyright Adrian Wilson

 

Below is my existing collection of numbers and letters, with several complete alphabets. I hope some of the random spare letters match some of the fonts from the new collection.

I also wonder if missing letters could be made using a 3D printer?

copyright Adrian Wilson

 

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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”.

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One off T-Shirt design for TypeCon

by Adrian on 18/08/2010

Very happy that the artist has created a shirt for me to wear at TypeCon.

At least you will know who I am if you see it!

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Typography

by Adrian on 11/08/2010

I didn’t realize the significance of either the way the trademark stamps were made, or the typefaces that were used, until I gave a lecture at the Type Directors Club of New York in January 2010.

The lecture was a sell out, with standing room only of  type afficionados and experts who were astounded at the collection. It seems that the way the stamps are made, by hammering strips of copper into a wooden base block is pretty much unique to the fabric trade. That way of construction came about because the stamps needed to be both detailed and durable so could not be carved wood. Artists who hade made blocks for fabric printing had used small metal pins and metal strips, so it was an obvious progression to use that technique to create a whole stamp design such as in the small one below.

Merchants could commission their own word stamps in many languages, or use individual letters to create whatever they needed. Either way, the stamp making trade was huge and developed its own typefaces. 

The last stampmaker told me that it was routine to make stamps of common words such as “cotton”, “yards” or “bleached” in many different languages such as Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Hindu, etc

Foreign merchants working in Manchester must have introduced a typographic variety to the design process, and customers from around the world wanted to see fonts that were either recognizable to them, or unique to the merchant. Those are good reasons why unusual typefaces may have been developed solely for use as textile trademarks and have never been seen together unless by those involved in the merchant trade.

I have picked out just a small sample of typography from the collection, some with the dates they were made, which I hope you enjoy. It would be great to see these fonts be somehow used again.

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Adrian Wilson to talk at TypeCon 2010

by Adrian on 10/08/2010

I am very priveleged to represent the NY chapter of the Type Directors Club and be invited to give an illustrated lecture on the unique typography of my collection at TypeCon in LA this August.

I will be speaking in the afternoon of Saturday 21st August at this global convention of all things typographic.

Here is a link to the talk. Drop by and say hello if you can.

http://www.typecon.com/talk.php?id=350

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I was delighted to be asked to write about my collection in issue 5 of Canadian typography magazine, Uppercase

http://www.uppercasegallery.ca/uppercasemagazine/

I also have a 5 page spread in the current issue of London based textile magazine, Selvedge.

http://www.selvedge.org/default.aspx

Both of the editors learned about my collection from a lecture I gave in January at the Tye Directors’ Club in NYC

http://tdc.org/tdc/archives/1810

I am always happy to share my images and research with those who want to help publicize this previously ignored area of design and brand history. I have appeared as a special guest on the Antiques Roadshow and have lectured to design students, using the story of Victorian merchant branding to better understand the importance of good design.

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