Thursday, July 29, 2010

Livestock Billheads

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gast & Co. Billheads

August and Leopold Gast came to St Louis in 1852 from the principality of Lippe Detmold and had trained to become lithographers. In 1848 they emigrated to America to New York and eventually to Pittsburgh then on to St Louis. Leopold brought a lithography press with him and the brothers opened a small business on Fourth Street. In 1866, Leopold sold his share of the business to August and the firm became August Gast & Co. In 1876, EF Wittler and LJW Wall became partners in the firm and increased the firm’s customer base. In 1878, Gast bought up the lithographic equipment of the John McKittrick & Co. In 1880, fire destroyed the whole firm. In 1885 August withdrew from the business selling his share to Wittler and Wall. In 1886, Wittler also withdrew selling his share. Wittler moved to Seattle and became a street railway magnate. (From the German Element in St Louis - translation.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

John McKittrick & Co.

John McKittrick started in the printing business in 1858 working in St. Louis in conjunction with Hart & Mapother out Louisville Kentucky. By 1860, McKittrick started is own firm J. McKittrick & Company. McKittrick printed city views and sheet music covers. He also printed billheads and medical literature. He also printed lithographed letterheads for Nebraska's senate and house representatives in 1877 for which he was paid $15.00. I only have two examples to show of McKittrick's work. You will notice they are similar in that they both have decoratively printed headers. Very pretty to look at. McKittrick ceased printing in 1880 with the increased competition from the Gast brothers. More the Gasts in another post.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Billhead of the Month - Dietz Lanterns

Robert Edwin Dietz was born in 1818 at New York. His grandfather kept a tannery in the city and also was the first manufacturer of glue in the city. At age 15 he was apprenticed to learn the carpenter trade with Cornelius McLean. Dietz did not like the work and after a few months left Dietz to work for Cr Taylor a fishing tackle and sporting goods dealer. He remained employed with Taylor until the business failed. He then found a position with the hardware firm Cornell, Althause & Co. In 1834 he became acquainted with Mr. Jennings who had discovered a process of mixing equal parts spirits of turpentine and pure alcohol to produce a bright light called spirit gas. Dietz became very interested this new artificial light. In 1836, Dietz purchased a German lamp and began experimenting with artificial light. In 1837, Dietz soon entered employment with the Adam W. Spies & Co. and became volunteer fireman in the city. In 1839, Dietz booked passage to Mobile Alabama where he secured a position in William Chamberlain’s hardware store were he remained until the spring of 1840 when he resigned and returned to New York.

In 1840, at the age of 22, Dietz purchased a lamp and oil business in Brooklyn. Due to the success of his business, he was able to take his brother William into the firm and it became Dietz, Brother & Co. The brothers opened a lamp store in New York City and were the inventors and sole manufacturers of the Doric lamp. After 1855, the firm name changed to Dietz & Co. when three more brothers were admitted to the firm. At that point, Dietz had built a large factory for the manufacturer of lamps, burners, and gas fixtures. Dietz’ first manufactured lamps were for burning sperm oil, he soon made lamps to burn camphene, coal oil, rock oil and kerosene.

In 1860, Dietz & Co. opened a store in London which was run by brother, Michael Dietz. That same year the firm issued its first catalog which consisted of 40 pages illustrated with wood cuts and printed in colors. Michael eventually became the sole owner of the London business until his death in 1883 when the firm name changed to Dietz, David & Co.

In 1868 the firm of Dietz & Smith was formed. The new firm became turning out tubular lanterns. That same year the bicycle craze hit the city and bicycles were sold at a profit of $20 each. Smith wanted to cash in on the craze and purchased $6,000 worth of bicycles on firm credit. Dietz disagreed with this decision and offered to buy out Smith’s interest in the firm. Smith wanted $25,000 in cash which Dietz could not provide so Dietz sought an injunction on the business. In 1869, Smith and Dietz compromised and Dietz paid him $17,500 for his interest. Dietz then continued the business under the name R.E. Dietz.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Proprietary Medicine Stamps

I recently became interested in private die proprietary medicine stamps as I have handled a lot of ephemera (billheads and letterheads) related to companies that issued these stamps. The stamps are colorful and the pull to start collecting the stamps is pulling at me hard. We'll see where it leads ;)

The U.S. imposed a medicine tax stamp on October 1, 1862 to raise revenue to meet the expenses of the Civil War. The U.S. government granted the privilege of preparing the private die stamps to firms who were willing to pay for the die charges. Approximately 277 companies issued their own private stamps prior to the repeal of the stamp tax on March 3, 1883. Here are some examples with accompanying


G.G. Green

Reuben P. Hall

Dr. Harter

Dr. D. Jayne & Son

J.C. Ayer & Co.

John F. Henry & Co.

Rumford Chemical Works

A.B. Sands

Seabury & Johnson

S.R. Van Duzer

Weeks & Potter