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Rubber Stamp Facts

Page 2: Prelude to the Invention of the Rubber Stamp

The word "stamp," as used in historical documents, is not particularly explanatory. Neither is its cousin phrase "hand stamp." Early historical references to either can easily be mistaken for references to rubber stamps and this is not always correct. A basic assumption must be made that if the word "stamp" is used to refer to a marking device prior to 1864, it does not refer to a rubber one.

Some background on this somewhat hair-splitting problem: Metal printing-stamps, also called hand stamps or mechanical hand stamps, preceded rubber ones by six to eight years. One of the first of these was the Chamberlain Brass Wheel Ribbon Dating Stamp, which came out in the early 1860s, and another was B.B. Hill's Brass Wheel Ribbon Ticket Dater. A prolific inventor, Hill is considered to be "the father of the mechanical hand stamp." Prior to 1860, hand stamps enjoyed limited use. Their heyday commences with the Civil War. The union financed the war by issuing revenue stamps which were required on virtually all business papers of any kind -- notes, drafts, bills, checks, etc. The government required that the revenue stamps be "canceled" with a notation of the date and the name of the person canceling them. Clearly this procedure was a real pain. It was tedious and slow and begged for some type of technology to come to the rescue. It isn't difficult to imagine the instant popularity with which the first mechanical hand stamps were met.

The early days of rubber stamps and their creation are inextricably entwined with those of early dentistry. Around the same time that Goodyear received his patent on vulcanizing, anesthesia was patented by a fellow named Wells. Relatively speaking, Wells's discovery made getting your teeth pulled a moderately painless experience, so teeth were being pulled left and right. This meant, of course, that the demand for false teeth was rising proportionately. Before vulcanization, denture bases had been made primarily of gold and were both costly and difficult to make. After vulcanization, denture bases could be made of vulcanized rubber set in plaster molds. This process did not demand a great deal of skill, and soon scores of dentists had small, round vulcanizers with which to ply their trade. These were called "dental pot" vulcanizers and would be used eventually to manufacture the first rubber stamps.

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