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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ticknor and Company postal cover

Here is a postal cover with an embossed one-cent Franklin in blue oval that Ticknor and Company put their logo on and used for correspondence.


What I find notable about this cover, other than Ticknor's logo design, is the way it is addressed with as few words as possible--company, city, state. Keystone Phila Pa. And they probably could have gotten away with excluding the state abbreviation. In my collection of postal covers, they take top prize for brevity.

There even seems to be some intentional formatting of the address, descending in a stair-step pattern away from the company logo, reminiscent of an e.e. cummings poem (my favorite here).

If the Wikipedia page on Ticknor is correct, and other sources seem to confirm it is, then Ticknor and Company's roots go back to 1832 when William Davis Ticknor and partner John Allen started a publishing business out of the Old Corner Bookstore in Boston. Through a series of partnerships and buyouts and new start-ups over the next fifty years, descendant Benjamin Holt Ticknor took over J.R. Osgood and Co. in 1885 under the name Ticknor and Company. Ticknor and Company operated for only four years as a separate entity. They became part of Houghton Mifflin, and Co. in 1889, but continued under the Ticknor name until 1908.


So the Ticknor and Company logo on this postal cover helps date the piece, as the postmark date is absent. It could be from the short period from 1885-1889 preceding the Houghton Mifflin purchase. As they continued operating under the Ticknor name, they could have carried the same logo until 1908 when their name went away and there was just Houghton Mifflin.

The other clue in dating this cover and company logo is in the embossed one-cent Franklin in the blue oval. If I could trace this embossed postage to a particular date range, I could determine Ticknor and Company's appropriate historical slot in their company chronology. I found my answer at an interesting Web site, whose equally interesting creator has some fascinating tales to tell.

Bob Ingraham, of British Columbia, has a Web site, Ephemeral Treasures, which philatelists and ephemera collectors will have fun perusing. Some of his life story is here, too, including surviving a plane crash in New Mexico as a teen-age reporter covering a forest fire and as a Marine in the Vietnam War, badly wounded and surviving yet again. A fascinating individual with an interesting collection of covers, stamps, and postcards. Serendipity strikes once more.

It was Mr. Ingraham's meticulous research on an old cover bearing the one-cent Franklin that provided me with the information I needed to date my Ticknor and Company cover. He reports in his article, An old cover takes me home (Part 2): "The Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps lists two varieties of this cover, which was issued in 1887-94: Scott U294 is printed on white paper, and U296 on amber paper."

You may not be able to tell from my photos at the beginning of this post, but my Franklin-stamped cover is amber in color, which makes it the U296 in the date range 1887-1894. But Ticknor and Company became part of Houghton Mifflin in 1889, so I still don't know if their logo on this cover represented pre-1889, post-1889, or both. One day, hopefully, I'll have other examples from their business correspondence and be able to nail it down.

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