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Rubber Stamp Facts

Page 8: Early Days in the Rubber Stamp Industry - part 2

Early stamp makers tend to be colorful, and many frontierlike exploits dot the landscape. Louis K Scotford and his companion Will Day set off across Indian Territory to the settlements in Texas carrying their stamp-making equipment in an old lumber wagon. The country was wild and rugged in 1876, frequented by bandits and Indians. L.K. and Will solicited orders during the day, made the stamps at night, and delivered the following day in time for the intrepid pair to harness up and head out once again. It was a romantic adventure and not unprofitable. At the end of their three-thousand mile trek, the two returned to St. Louis with two twenty-five pound shot bags filled with silver dollars.

Charles Klinkner, who established his West Coast stamp house in 1873, would have been the pride of any modern day publicity agent. Klinkner was prone to calling attention to his wares in startling, unorthodox ways. He rode around San Francisco and oakland in a little red cart drawn by a donkey rakishly dyed a a rainbow of colours. To make his stamps sound like sometihng extra special, he advertised them as "red rubber stamps", and people were convinced that it meant something. At the time, almost all stamps were made from red coloured rubber. Ah, the power of suggestion.

After years of talk and numerous attempts to organize, the industry formed a national trade organization in 1911. M.L. Willard and Charles F Statford, who had worked long and hard toward organizing the stamp men, saw their work bear fruit when the first marking-device trade convention took place at the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago June 20th 1911. It was the beginning of a new era and even pioneer stamp personage. B.B. Hill, the father of the "mechanical hand stamp", then eighty years old with fifty years in the business behind him, was on hand to hear the International Stamp Trade Manufacturers Association voted into existence. Today the organization is known as the Marking Device Association and is headquartered in Evanston, Illinois.

A number of trade journals served the industry: Stamp Manufacturer's journal, Stamp Trade News, Marking Devices Journal, and now Marking industry magazine. Since 1907, the publications have reflected serious industry discussions about trade ethics, price controls, planning by scientific management, and marketing, mixed with folksy anecdotes about who was playing which sport for charity and tidbits about a 175-pound swordfish off the Californian coast. Pricing information was colourful on occasion as witnessed by this quote from the February 1909 Stamp Trade News: "No blood flows from a turnip nor does wealth flow from rubber made into rubber stamps at ten cents per line." The same issue proffered a real gem from a column called "Pen Points" - "Rubber stamps made while you wait is not a good sign to hang out. It makes it look too easy."

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