Imperial Crown Perfumery Co., Manufacturer
Division of Meyer Brothers Drug Co.
IMPERIAL CROWN PERFUMERY CO. PRINTED CANCEL
Patent medicine and pharmaceutical companies whose names begin with “I” are somewhat scarce, so, in order to continue its review of these companies in an alphabetical order, this survey of battleship cancels now attempts to chronicle insights concerning the history of the Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. of St. Louis, MO. Sure enough, the oddest fact about this company in the Spanish-American War period is that it actually was not a separate entity at all, but rather operated as a division of the Meyer Brothers Drug Co., a large and extremely influential drug company that was most active as a wholesaler, but, obviously, had some manufacturing capacity as well. Delving into the history of Meyer Brothers, in turn, leads to several other branches of inquiry, and future articles will explore them all.
IMPERIAL CROWN PERFUMERY CO. PERFUME CASE AND BOTTLE
While it is unusual to find separate revenue issues for different divisions of the same company, Meyer Brothers might have chosen a to generate a separate printed cancel for Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. to distinguish its more upscale perfume and cosmetics trade from its larger, but more mundane drug business. However, that the printed cancel displayed above was still extant came as a complete shock to the company itself. According to the revenue stamp website rdhindstl.com, the cancel only came to light some years after the Spanish-American War, when a philatelist persuaded the Company to allow him to search its records, and he found a few printed cancel remainders in an archived file.
HANDSTAMPED “I.C.P. CO” CANCELS
A much larger number of handstamped “ICP Co.” cancels also do exist, and these are also usually attributed to Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. The reasoning that supports this attribution is that when both handstamped and printed cancels exist with the same company initials, it is presumed that a company with a large volume of business used handstamped cancels to signify tax payment during periods either before the printed cancels were prepared or when the printed supply was unavailable. No printed cancels were supplied by the government. In the earlier era of revenue stamps, between 1862 and 1883, when the government had lacked any printing capacity, it relied on private printers to produce not only revenue stamps, but also all U.S. paper currency and postage stamps as well. Therefore, when revenue stamps were required in 1862, it was natural to allow private designs approved by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to be printed and distributed directly to the companies by the same printers who were otherwise busy printing both the government’s money, postage and revenue stamps. While general government revenue issues for stamps used to pay the tax on patent medicines during this period bear either the Scott Stamp Catalogue designation R or RB, such privately generated medicine tax and perfume tax stamps bear the designation RS and RT. By 1898, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had come into existence with enough capacity to print standardized designs for both postage and revenue stamps, so it was able to supply the basic battleship design for all values of revenue stamps needed. These stamps now bear the Scott designations R for those used on documents and RB designations for those used for payment of tax on proprietary items such as medicine and perfume, although the option to generate an individual private die proprietary (RS) stamp remained (and a very few of the biggest company’s did issue such stamps). The specific company cancels required by the 1898 revenue law were generated by passing government printed stamps, catalogued now as RB stamps, through a private press to be overprinted with the company’s initials. Large companies had the printing capacity to do the overprinting themselves because printing for advertising purposes was an integral part of the business, and most of these companies had a separate functioning printing division incorporated within their operation. Depending on the size of the company and the volume of product that required stamping, stamp press runs could be done as often as monthly, bi-monthly or even daily by the biggest companies. If a company underestimated its need for printed cancels for a particular period, it could have a few sheets of stamps overprinted by hand to bridge the gap until a new overprinting run could be arranged. However, some philatelists (particularly those who seem to assume that the existence of even a single copy of a printed cancel issued by a given company excludes the possibility of handstamped cancels issued by that same company) attribute these handstamped cancels to the Inn City Pharmacal Co. of Alleghany, PA. Regrettably that company has left no records or traces of its presence extant and exists now only as entry on a 1902 list of patent medicine manufacturers. That listing itself may be a misprint! A company known as the Iron City Pharmacal Co. listed at the same Alleghany, PA address exists on the exact counterpart of that 1902 list published a year earlier in 1901. In that year alone – and in no other ever – that company ran a solicitation in a few publications seeking agents to sell Wilbert’s Non-Alcoholic Flavoring Powders and “five other popular specialties.”
1901 IRON CITY PHARMACAL AD IN “GOOD HOUSEKEEPING” MAGAZINE
On balance, given the enormous volume of Meyer Brothers’ business and the fleeting existence of Iron City Pharmacal Co., it seems more likely that the handstamped “ICP Co” cancels were used by Imperial Crown Perfumery Co.
IMPERIAL CROWN PERFUMERY CO. TRADE CARDS
As an odd philatelic aside, many manufacturers found that the 1898 revenue tax stamps were misinterpreted by customers as some kind of an unofficial government guarantee of quality when affixed to their products. To reinforce and continue this misimpression, when the need for the tax ended, they generated their own private seals, which are classified by philatelists as “poster stamps” or “cinderellas” to distinguish them from official government issues. Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. was one of those companies that chose to utilize this practice.
IMPERIAL CROWN PERFUMERY POSTER STAMPS
As indicated by the extensive number of battleship revenues values overprinted, Imperial Crown Perfumery had an extensive product list. The Perfume Encyclopedia lists over seventy-five different fragrances manufactured by it, ranging from Assyrian Lotus to Ylang-Ylang. These fragrances could be obtained in a variety of assortments packaged in various different containers.
FOUR PAGE IMPERIAL CROWN PERFUMERY TRADE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE 1898 HOLIDAY PERFUME SEASON
The fifty or so perfumes whose launch dates are recorded all lie between 1905 and 1924, but the perfume operation arose within Meyer Brothers as an integral part of its business, and existed well before 1905 (as evidenced by the use of battleship revenues in 1898). Two of the perfume brands it advertised most ardently were its Purple Azalea and its Soul Kiss.
PURPLE AZALEA TRADE CARDS
SOUL KISS AD AND EXHIBITION DISPLAY BOTH CIRCA 1920
OTTO PAUL MEYER – 1908 AND 1921
For almost the entire first third of the Twentieth Century, Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. was headed by Otto Paul Meyer, one of the sons of the founder of Meyer Brothers. He was born in St. Louis in 1870 and received his primary education there. He matriculated at the University of Michigan, receiving his degree in pharmacy in 1890, and immediately entered the family business of Meyer Brothers. He became a member of that firm in 1895, and as Vice-President of Meyer Brothers after 1905, he oversaw its manufacturing and laboratory divisions, which included Imperial Crown Perfumery. He also served as President of the Mutual Aid Association of Meyer Brothers, an employee benefit organization, and the business topics editor for Meyer Bros Druggist magazine, the industry trade publication that the company generated. As a member of the Meyer Brothers clan and an officer of the largest drug wholesaler west of the Mississippi, he also naturally became an officer of the National Wholesale Drug Association, the industry trade association. Married in 1894, he fathered two daughters, lived his life as an exemplary company man and died in 1934.
E. J. HELBIG – 1908
Another major figure in Imperial Crown Perfumery’s history was E. J. Helbig, the company’s buyer. He traveled extensively on behalf of the company, and, as reported by another industry trade publication in 1916, he took a ribbing from the company’s internal magazine as being the typical archetypical “traveling salesman.”
1916 TRADE MAGAZINE COLUMN RE E. J. HELBIG
According to the Missouri Corporate Registry, Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. was finally formally registered as a Missouri corporation in 1919. Today, while it is still listed in the Registry, its “name” is listed as “fictitious” and its “status” is listed as both “fictitious” and “expired.” The reason for these listings, as will be recounted in another article, is that Meyer Brothers Drug Co. itself was eventually absorbed by another company, Fox-Vliet Co., which itself grew out of companies existing in this era, and which, in due course, also will be profiled in this series.
IMPERIAL CROWN PERFUMERY CO. TRADE CARD
Note also that for its entire existence Imperial Crown Perfumery Co. competed with a rival company called The Crown Perfumery Co., which although founded by an American, was based in London and Paris. That company’s history also will be recounted in the future. Because it still exists today, the far more abundant images of its products now crowd out on the Internet those of the Imperial Crown Perfumery Co., and absent an article like this one, Imperial Crown Perfumery Co.’s history will ultimately blend into the other company.
AN AD FOR THE RIVAL CROWN PERFUMERY CO. CIRCA 1895
© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2015