Notes from the Past

The American Bank Note Co., -- Centenary

The American Bank Note Co., of New York, recently marked the centennial of its corporate formation.  It was on April 29, 1958, that the documents were executed and seven firms, whose twenty-six partners, included the world's leading engravers (one firm was established in 1795), were merged into an organization to be known thenceforward as the American Bank Note Co.

These firms were the following: Toppan, Carpenter &  Co.: Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson; Danforth, Perkins & Co.; Jocelyn, Draper, Welch & Co.; Wellstood, Hay & Whitney; Bald, Cousland & Co.; and John E. Gavit.  Several of these names are familiar to collectors, and aside from those who printed U. S. postage stamps, at least three of the firms printed some of the privately sponsored U. S. Local issues.  The inclusion of the firm of Toppan, Carpenter & Co., in this early merger is not readily explained.  They held the U. S. stamp printing contract from 1851 to 1861, but in the production of these stamps the names of the American Bank Note Co. never appears.

There were additional consolidations later when the National Bank Note Co., and the Continental Bank Note Co., were absorbed, and from 1879 and for fifteen years thereafter the American Bank Note Co., printed and furnished all of the U. S. postage stamps until, in 1894, the government took over the work at the Bureau of Engraving & Printing.  During this time the A.B.N.Co., produced the famed Columbian Exposition series and they were employed again in 1943-44 to furnish the multi-colored "Flag" stamps honoring the "Overrun Countries" in World War II.

Thousands of varieties of the world's postage stamps and bank notes have been printed by the American Bank Note Co.  Their specialty, of course, has always been steel intaglio engraving, but the are also expert in the art of lithography and their product has never been permitted to meet anything but the highest standards of quality.

In connection with their centennial a fine history of the firm and its operations over the past century appeared in The American Banker (April 29, 1958).  During its early years the company was located in the famed Merchant's Exchange, 55 Wall St. (once the U. S. post office, today the main office of the First National City Bank of New York).  In 1867 they moved to new quarters at 142 Broadway (at Liberty St.), and seventeen years later they were at 78-86 Trinity Place, west of Trinity Church, overlooking the old grave yard.  In 1911 the plant moved ot Hunt's Point, Bronx.  Executive offices have been located in their own building at 70 Broad St. since 1908.  Other plants are in Chicago and Boston with subsidiary plants and operations at New Malden, England, and Ottawa, Canada (Canadian Bank Note Co.).  The firm has a long and very illustrious history.

- George B. Sloane
Sloane's Column
May 17, 1958
Posted October 19, 1999

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