Notes from the Past

Steam Press Printing Banned

In earlier days all recess plate printing of postage stamps was done on hand presses, until in the early 1880s steam power presses were introduced at the American Bank Note Co.  Their work in the production of postage stamps was so efficient and satisfactory that the contract, when renewed with the American Bank Note Co., in 1885, expressly provided that all ordinary postage stamps be printed on steam presses.

Lately in going through a file of the Metropolitan Philatelist, in an issue for 1899, I found an odd and surprising report by J. M. Bartels, in which it was stated that all further printings of postage stamps at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would be produced by electricity, "since Congress has passed an act prohibiting the steam process."  It was surprising because I had always believed that electricity in stamp printing had just supplanted steam in the natural course of events, and in time it would have, anyway, so I cannot understand why any legislation achieving the same effect was necessary.  

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
Stamps
October 5, 1945

Posted August 13, 1999

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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