Historic US Stamp Printers
Ever wondered who used to print stamps for the United States Postal Service? See below for information on a handful of past stamp printers.
Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson (1847-1851)
Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson (RWH&E) was the first firm to receive a government contract for designing and printing US postage stamps. RWH&E were responsible for only two stamps, US #1, the 5¢ Franklin, and US #2, the 10¢ Washington. The company was likely chosen because of its success in producing the well liked New York Postmasters’ Provisionals two years before. In 1958, RWH&E would become part of the American Bank Note Company.
Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co. (1851-1861)
In 1851, Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co. bid on the new US Postage stamp contract. They were awarded a six-year contract, which was later extended to 1861. After Casilear left the firm in the mid-1850s, the name was changed to Toppan, Carpenter & Co. In 1858, they merged with several other firms (including Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson) and formed the American Bank Note Company. Stamps printed under this first extended contract continued to carry the Toppan, Carpenter & Co. name.
National Bank Note Company (1861-1872)
When the American Bank Note Company (ABNCo) formed in 1858, it threatened to create a monopoly in the engraving and printing industry. One of the seven firms forming ABNCo (Danforth, Perkins & Co.) had a disagreement with the others over the terms of the merger. Four of the leading members, along with two of their previous employees and three bankers created a new company, the National Bank Note Company (NBNCo), in 1859. Having attracted a team of respected and well-known engravers, NBNCo began printing engraved banknotes for banks. In 1861, the company won the contract for all US postage stamps. It held this contract until 1872, and in 1879, after years of intense competition, it consolidated with the Continental and American Bank Note Companies.
Continental Bank Note Company (1873-1878)
Continental Bank Note Company (CBNCo) was founded in 1863. By promising lower printing costs, it was able to win the contract for printing all currency for the US Treasury Department. Then in 1873, the company secured the contract to print all US postage stamps for the next four years. However, in 1876, the federal government assumed responsibility for printing all US currency. CBNCo was able to secure another four year contract for US postage stamps in 1877, but merged with American Bank Note Company (ABNCo) in 1879, with the contract transferring to ABNCo.
American Bank Note Company (1879-1893)
The American Bank Note Company (ABNCo) officially formed in 1858 with the merger of seven printing firms, including Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson and Toppan, Carpenter & Co. Toppan, Carpenter & Co. held the contract to print US postage stamps, and as part of the merger agreement was allowed to bid independently on the new contract in 1861. However, National Bank Note Company won the contract. In 1879, the National and Continental Bank Note Companies consolidated with ABNCo, transferring their printing contracts and adopting the ABNCo name. One of the last series of stamps printed by ABNCo before US postage stamp production was transferred to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) was the popular Columbians Series of commemorative stamps. The BEP printed nearly all US postage stamps for the next several decades, with the notable exception of the Overrun Countries stamps produced by ABNCo in 1943-44.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing (1894-2005)
In 1861, Congress authorized the creation of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) as a part of the US Treasury Department. Additionally, the US government was permitted to fund the Civil War by printing its own paper money rather than relying on banknotes from private banks. By 1877, the Bureau produced all paper currency for the US. In 1894, the BEP won the contract for the production of US postage stamps, previously held by the American Bank Note Company. For the next several decades, the BEP printed nearly all US postage stamps. However, during the late 1960s, contracts began to be awarded to private companies again. By 1997, the BEP was producing less than half of all US postage stamps, and in 2005, the Bureau printed its last stamp.
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