Click on the title below to see the powerpoint slides. Narrated version to follow
Click on the title below to see the powerpoint slides. Narrated version to follow
Designing and producing an advertising seal seems a natural for stamp dealer marketing, particularly in the heyday of poster stamps. You don’t see very many new ones being issued but there were lots in the past. Like many seals and Cinderellas they are scarce but not very valuable.
The stampcommunity.org forum has a great posting of very early stamp dealer labels. All of these are of the style that interests me the most, Stamp-Like labels:
Identification of these examples can be found at the at the forum link above. They’re older than any I’ve found for my own collection.
Types of Stamp Dealer Advertising
I’ve got my collection divided into 4 major types of labels:
Postage Stamp Like
My collection also includes advertising seals for stamp albums, accessories and philatelic publications.
These range from simple typeset return address labels identifiable as coming from a stamp dealer because of the inclusion of a company name or because of the fame of a particular dealer. The simplest of these are rarely seen off cover. I do collect them but as part of a dealer cover collection. When found on cover these are most oftern in the return address position but they also show up sometimes in the addressee position.
Scalloped-edge, circular, embossed seals would seem an obvious imitation of wax seals. In Germany there were many used by government agencies, military units and the like. Since they were available from many printers for all kinds of uses they naturally got adopted by stamp dealers.
The two above are a good indication of the range from the simple circle on the right to the elaborate nouveau border on the left. Note that both include a stamp illustration but neither is designed to be a return address label
The first four of this group all show a femail figure with a stamp album which might make for an interesting sub-speciality
A final group including a couple tha more obviously imitate their wax forbearer. When embossed labels appear on cover they are usually appried to the back as one would expect with a seal
When poster stamps were popular they also got adapted by dealers
Some of these indlude a stamp illustration but note are just a stamp illustration. When these are found on cover it’s most often in the position of a cachet on the front
Ad I’ve said I’m most partial to these where the entire label constitutes a stamp like design
Eugene Klein of Philadelphia is the only dealer I know of who issued whole sets of such labels
Stamp Related But Not Dealers
Finally there are the mostly poster stamp types for albums, hinges and publications. Note the similarity between the Klein stamps above and the Mekeels below.
My April 2012 WESTPEX talk for the Peninsula Stamp Society – total length is about 45 minutes
Ivan A Kuskov served in the Russian American Company for 31 years. Before serving at Fort Ross he led 5 exploratory expeditions to to California with the mission of founding an agricultural settlement to supply the large Russian outpost at Sitka, Alaska.
Kuskov arrived to build Fort Ross in March of 1812 with 25 Russians and 80 Aleuts. Many of the Russians were craftsman and the Aleuts brought hunting kayaks. He was an old hand at this sort of thing having previously build Alaskan settlements including the main one at Sitka. The team built built using Alaskan and Siberian models and we ready to dedicate the settlement in September of the same year.
The Fort Ross that Kuskov ultimately administered was a cluster of settlements administered out of the current fort but extending from Point Arena to Tomales Bay and including a port Bodega Bay and a seal hunting station on the Farrallon Islands.
The colony included Russian and other Europeans, indians local to the fort as well as large nmbers of native Alaska people. The Russians brought glass window, stoves, wood housing, windmills and ship building technology. As with the other European settlers they also brought previously unknown diseases and, to be fair, vaccinations for those diseases.
Kuskov retired in 1821 to his home town of Totama and dies in 1823. His house there is preserved as a museum
While Rezanov was building his relationship with the Spaniards at Yerba Buena, his captain, Lt. Khvostov, charted the California Coast north of San Francisco and found it uninhabited by other Europeans. When Rezanov returned to Sitka, he recommended to Alexander Andreyevich Baranov, then manager of the Russian American Company, that a colony be established in Northern California. Besides territorial expansion the Russians were interested in fur hunting (otters, seals) and an agricultural source for its base in Sitka where the growing season is short.
Baranov owed his job to Rezanov’s influence but likely would have been supportive of the idea in any case. With the formal approval of Tsar Aleksander I, in 1808 Baranov sent two ships, the Kodiak and the St. Nikolai, south to establish settlements by secretly buying possession plaques. Ivan Kuskov, RACs Commerce Counselor headed the mission and buried plaques at Trinidad, Bodega Bay with appropriate ceremony. He returned to Novo Arkangelsk (Sitka) with beaver skins and over 1000 otter pelts.
Ordered to return south and establish an agricultural settlement, it took a couple of attempts to finally accomplish the goal in March 1812. In a harbinger of things to come, Kuskov noted that in his absence many Amercan ships had arrived and largely fished out the otters in Bodega Bay. He decided on a Pomo indian settlement with a good anchorage and lots of resources about 15 miles north. He named his settlement Rumyantez after the then Russian Minister of Commerce. The current name for the fort is derived from RAC’s Krepost Ross a term they used for the collection of surrounding settlements.
While Resanov’s trade mission was initially rejected by the Commandant of Yerba Buena (now San Francisco), Resanov was attracted to the Commandant’s 15 year old daughter (different times) Concepcion Arguello. Contemporary journals describe her as vivacious and cheerful with a pleasing appearance and an artless demeanor. Resanov was so smitten he asked for Concepcion’s hand in marriage. Initial family resistance over language and religious differences were overcome and it was agreed that Resanov would seek permission for a combined Russian Orthodox/Roman Catholic service on his return to Russia.
A little more than a month after he arrived, Resanov departed for Sitka, in May 1806. He rode across Siberia to St. Petersburg catching pneumonia along the way. He stopped in his journey and spent the next year recouperating and relapsing. He died in May of 1807 near Krasnoyarsk.
Concepcion, meanwhile was waiting patiently for her lover’s return. Finally in 1811 word reached her of his death and that “his final words” were of her.
Concepcion had many suitors but she devoted herself to caring for her parents and charity work. She ultimately joined the Dominican religous order in Benicia where she remained until her death in 1857.
In 1799, Tsar Paul I chartered the Russian-American Company (Под высочайшим Его Императорского Величества покровительством Российская-Американская Компания) Chartered companies generally were private/government partnerships given monopoly rights to pursue trade, development and settlement of a colony and colonies. In form chartered companies we’re the successors to the trade companies of the 16th and 17th century (think Dutch East India company and the like).
The twenty-year renewable charter governed all trade in what they called Russian America including the Aleutians, Alaska and all territory down to 55° N latitude. They were also chartered to operate south of Alaska in otherwise unoccupied territory. Under the charter the government got 1/3 of the profits. In turn, the the Minister of Commerce Nikolai Petrovich Rumyantsev funded Russia’s first naval circumnavigation under the joint command of Adam Johann von Krusenstern and Nikolai Rezanov in 1803-1806. Some sources credit Rezanov, a Baron, with getting the charter signed.
Rezanov, a founder of the Russian-Siberian fur trade began his voyages as ambassador to Japan. Months of negotiating with the Shogun were no more successful than many prior attempts by other nations had been. He sailed on to Kamchatka where he found orders to remain in the colonies as Imperial inspector to correct abuses that were ruining the fur trade. He went on to New Archangel (Sitka) establishing measures protecting fur-bearing animals for uncontolled slaughter and introducing schools, libraries and cooking schools in the Aleutians.
After Sitka he procured another ship and sailed to San Francisco. Storms along the wway prevented him from laying claim to the Columbia river in the name of Russia. He arrived in San Francisco harbor in April 1806. with goods to trade with the Spanish colonial government. White he was received with courtesy and elaborate entertain-ments, he was informed that Spanish law didn’t permit trading with a foreign power. The only thing that prevented another failure like the one he had encountered in Japan was an unlikely love affair with the daughter of the Spanish Commandant. More in my next episode.
Fort Ross is a state historic park roughly 80 miles north of San Francisco. In 1812 it was established as the heart of a group of Russian outposts that included a seal hunting base in the Farallons, a port in Bodega Bay and a number of farms. Fort Ross was the site of California’s first windmills and ship building. It also was the source of deadly viruses like small pox that decimated the native population. By the late 1830s its purposes of fur hunting and agricultural supply to the more northern Russian colony at Sitka were no longer viable. It was sold to John Sutter (yes, that John Sutter). In the early 1900s the primary fort site passed from private hands to state ownership where it remains today.
In the next few months I’ll tell you the history of Fort Ross and Russia in North America. We’ll meet some of the key figures involved including the four men who appear on the WESTPEX 2012 souvenir sheet and two interesting women they encountered.
Sophie Tucker’s first tour of theaters in the far west comes at an interesting point in her career. By 1910 she’s a sensation in New York, her home town, and very big in Chicago. She’s really just become a headliner. She’s also just recorded her first cylinders for Edison and in 1911 is to record Some of These Days, her greatest hit and lifetime theme song. The Sophie Tucker of 1910 is big and loud but typical of many physically large, anti-victorian and funny female entertainers of the day like May Irwin, Stella Mayhew, and Trixie Friganza. She’s far from a polished performer. A review in 1912 says “If someone could lasso Sophie Tucker and tame her enough to smooth the haremscarem edges flying about her performance, there would be an immense comedienne revealed for Miss Tucker has splendid talents entirely undeveloped”
Sophie was fortunate to have William Morris, one of the best agents of the day, guiding her career. Morris eventually represented Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, Mae West and Charlie Chaplin founding the William Morris Endeavor, now the world’s largest talent agency. Morris was concerned about Sophie becoming over exposed in the two big cities so he negotiated a five month rail tour of the west at $250 a week plus rail fares. The tour would take her to theaters of the Pantages circuit in Seattle, Vancouver, B.C., Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Denver plus smaller towns along the way.
Alexander Pantages & Klondike Kate
Alexander Pantages, the builder and owner of the biggest western theater circuit was another interesting character of the vaudevile era. Born in Greece in 1875 he ran way and went to sea at the age of nine! After two years at sea, he disembarked in Panama and worked on the French canal attempt. He moved to San Francisco after contracting malaria and worked as a waiter and boxer. In 1897, he drifted to Dawson in the Yukon gold territories where he ultimately gave up mining to become the partner/lover of “Klondike Kate” Rockwell, in a small but profitable vaudeville theater called the Orpheum. When their affair ended he went to Seattle and she unsuccessfully sued him for stealing the money he used to open a theater there. From this humble start he built a circuit of 30 theaters he owned and another 42 he booked for. He was ruined by two 1929 rape trials. While ultimately acquitted, he never recovered in spirit and sold his theaters for much less than construction cost to RKO.
In the second big city stop of the tour, Portland, Sophie did a number called the Angleworm Wiggle during which she shimmied (as one might guess) and was arrested. She was bailed out and repeated the performance in the next show resulting in her re-arrest. According to Tucker, the woman who complained to the police about her was a Mrs. Baldwin, head of the Portland Department of Safety for Women, who was having a political fight with the chief of police and was looking for a way to embarrass him. Baldwin complained to the chief that Tucker’s performance was “immoral and indecent.” The chief saw the show and refused to arrest Tucker; he didn’t find the song immoral. So Baldwin went to the mayor, swearing out another complaint, adding that Tucker had ridiculed her from the stage by ad-libbing, as she wiggled her fingers up and down her torso, “very immoral.” Local friends helped her find a good local attorney who got the DA to drop the charges. The net result was a mountain of publicity and booming ticket sales. (The only versions of the song online are hammer dulcimer!)
If you’re Taylor Swift or Li’l Wayne, your audience finds out about you and your new songs on the internet. Radio and even television still have some role to play but even they are moving to internet delivery. CD sales are dropping rapidly and those CDs that are purchased are purchased online. Physical CD Stores are rarer than movie rental stores, another dying category.The biggest stars still do live performance tours but even that is a declining market.
Vaudeville was the end of a long run of live variety entertainments in America. The term first appears in 1871 as part of the name of a variety company, Sargent’s Great Vaudeville Company. While Sargent’s adopted this novel name there was nothing else novel about the company. Before 1880, American variety entertainment was a lower class affair often with suggestive and racial humor and scantily clad ladies. It wasn’t that theater owners and entertainers were ignoring the middle class, it was that the industrial revolution hadn’t yet had time to create a middle class.
The early genius of Vaudeville as a kind of entertainment was Tony Pastor, a theater owner and a former circus ringmaster who began in the 1880s featuring “polite” variety programs at several of his New York theaters. Pastor barred the sale of liquor, eliminated questionable material, and gave away gifts of coal and hams. This approach quickly took off. Theaters filled with women and children as well as whole families.
As is often the case, the originator isn’t the one who carries an innovation to its peak. In the case of Vaudeville that position belonged to Benjamin Franklin Keith who made the rules stricter and more consistent and ultimately applied them to thousands of theaters. Every act was reviewed and material that was unsuitable was cut. Performers who broke the rules were dismissed.
Like the variety shows before them, Vaudeville consisted of a dozen or more acts many involving multiple performers. Keith also originated the idea of the continuous performance where one show began right after the previous one ended. Reportedly his belief was that this approach could get around people’s unwillingness to enter a lightly-filled theater. More obviously, it helped keep the expensive asset in continuous use.
In fact, Keith was a major proponent of making theaters more expensive to erect. It was during this era that theaters got grander and more baroque in their decoration. That helped increase their appeal to all classes of society
When Sophie Tucker was a child she attended vaudeville performances and met the entertainers at her parents’ restaurant. By the the time she was old enough and famous enough to perform in vaudeville, it was a huge business with thousands of venues organized into circuits managed by bookers like Keith and his manager Albee. Over time Keith bought most of the other big circuits, notably the Orpheum circuit that Sophie often performed on ultimately controlling all of big time Vaudeville.
Ultimately sound movies which began in the late 20s slowly killed off vaudeville since they made the most desirable performers available to many venues at the same time. Keith Albee Orpheum ultimately merged with Joesph P. Kennedy’s film booking company under the RCA and became RKO (Radio Keith Orpheum). Sophie had long since moved back to clubs and cabarets.