I, M

Imperial Crown Perfumery Co.

Imperial Crown Perfumery Co., Manufacturer

Division of Meyer Brothers Drug Co.



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.

     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-10-1eRV     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-10-1bRV     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-10-1cRV


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.


   ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-2-RB21-t1-1899(BranchOfMeyerBrosDrugCo)     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-2-RB21-t1-1900-2

ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-2-RB25-t1-1898-1     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-2-RB27-t1-1898-1(ex-Orton)

ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-2-RB28-t1-1898-2(ex-Orton)     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-2-RB30-t1-1898-1(ex-Orton)



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.”



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.

ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-4a     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-4b     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-5a


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.

ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-10-1dRV2(CoSeal)     ImperialCrownPerfumeryCo-1(CompanyPosterStamp)


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.

ICP-2(1898-MBDCat-v19-suppP1)-1RV    ICP-3(1898-MBDCat-v19-suppP2)-1RV     ICP-4(1898-MBDCat-v19-suppP3)-1RV     ICP-5(1898-MBDCat-v19-suppP4)-1RV


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.

ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-3a     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-3b     ICP-9(MiamiULibraryTradeCard)-1RV



ICP-8(1913-SoulKiss-NorthwesternDruggistr-v14-8-13p56)-1RV     ICP-6(1920-MBDCat-v41-p29)-1RV



MeyerBrosDrugCo-50-7(MeyerOtto-1908)     MeyerBrosDrugCo-50-7b(MeyerOtto-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.”



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.

ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-2a     ImperialCrownPerfumeCo-5-2b


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.



©  Malcolm A. Goldstein 2015


International (Stock) Food Co.

The International Food Co, a manufacturer of animal feed whose name was changed to International Stock Food Co about 1902, is known in philatelic circles both for its elaborate cancels on several values of the battleship revenue issue and its intricate and multicolored envelopes, now prized as advertising covers. The fronts of these envelopes sported the company logo, essentially variations on a picture of a merry pig, watched by a smiling horse and a cow, about to dig into a box or bucket of the company’s three-in-one feed. The backs of the envelopes showed the manufacturing plant in Minneapolis, MN, sometimes pitched at an angle highlighting the spires (calling to mind the English Parliament buildings), and sometimes focused on the massive building itself towering over a busy street. The accompanying legend boasted that the plant was the largest of its kind in the world and contained eighteen acres of floor space, sustained by a company capitalized successively at $1,000,000, $2,000,000 or, even later, $5,000,000. An ad mailed in one of the company’s fancy envelopes around 1902 explained why the company chose to use revenue stamps on its products during the Spanish-American War, thus subjecting itself to the tax assessed on proprietary medicines:

“At the time of our last war nearly every ‘Stock Food manufacturer’ made a sworn statement to the government that they did not use any medicinal ingredients in their ‘Stock Foods’ and did not claim any medicinal results. The government then allowed them to sell their ‘Stock Foods’ without paying the war tax and on the same basis as ‘common foods’ like corn and oats. A preparation of this kind that does not contain medicinal ingredients is of no more value to you than common ‘mill feeds’… These people either fooled the government or are trying to fool you by asking a ‘medicinal price’ for something that does not contain medicinal ingredients. Are such business methods honest? …. We paid $40,000 War Tax because ‘International Stock Food’ was a High-Class Medicinal preparation…”

Chappell/Joyce International Food Co. Type 1 cancel, 1898; Type 2s follow with full dates:

However, the real color in the International Food Company was its dynamic sole proprietor, Marion Willis Savage. Born in 1859 in Ohio, he grew up in West Liberty, Iowa, the son of a country doctor. Savage began his career as a farmer, but was flooded out. He then took a position as a clerk in a local drug store. From observing the local farmers, he concluded that there was a fortune to be made by manufacturing a cheap, reliable livestock feed. After an early manufacturing venture with a so-called friend who absconded leaving him broke, he moved to Minneapolis and started over in 1886. Finding the right advertising pitch in thriftiness, he always stressed that his feed was really “3 feeds for 1 cent.” By 1895, utilizing the know-how of experts working at the state agricultural school, Savage had constructed a large enough business to support his purchase of the grand Exhibition Building in Minneapolis, which he thereafter pictured on his advertising, and had affiliated plants not only in Toronto and Memphis, but also in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany and Russia. Because of his great showmanship and energetic promotion efforts, Savage was identified by his contemporaries as “the second P.T. Barnum.”

Savage had now amassed enough of a personal fortune to begin building his dream estate. He chose a location eighteen miles south and west of Minneapolis on the Minnesota River at a town called Hamilton, renamed Savage in 1904 in his honor. Here he began to nurture his true love which was horse racing and horse breeding. On one side of the river, he built an enormous and elaborate horse farm, known locally as the Taj Mahal, consisting of a barn with an octagonal rotunda 90 feet high and 100 feet long, from which protruded huge wings of stalls housing a capacity of 130 horses, together with a mile race track and a half mile race track, which was entirely enclosed and lit by 1400 windows. On the bluff on the other side of the river, he built his country house situated so that he could stand on his front porch and time the horses as they went around the track.

The horses with which Savage populated the farm assured that the crowds would come, for he purchased, as its centerpiece, Dan Patch. In an age when proper jockeys still rode in sulkies behind the horses, Dan Patch, at age 4, stood 16 hands tall (5’4’’) and weighed 1,165 pounds. He was a pacer (as opposed to a trotter which had a different style of gait) who had never lost a race and had already garnered over $13,000 in winnings for his prior owners. In fact, by 1902, no other owner would even race horses against him. Yet, Savage paid the princely sum of $60,000 for Dan Patch in 1902, and later bragged that the price was the cheapest he ever paid for one of his champions, since Dan Patch is thought to have earned well over $250,000 for Savage in many, many different ways. For example, the farm itself became a tourist attraction, accessible by a river boat plying the river, or, after 1907, on Savage’s railroad, the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Rochester and Dubuque Electric Traction Company. That railroad quickly took on another name, the Dan Patch line.

Through canny and lavish promotion, including Dan Patch’s own private railroad car painted white and decorated on either side with his framed portrait, Savage built Dan Patch into the preeminent pacer and harness racing champion of the first decade of the Twentieth Century, as famous in his time as Sea Biscuit or Secretariat. One writer has since described Dan Patch as: “the epitome of excellence, the superlative of greatness and the zenith of equine superiority.” First and foremost, Savage used Dan Patch to endorse International Stock Food’s products, credited with saving the horse’s life during grave illness in 1904, but also lent his name to endorse everything from automobiles to tobacco. Crowds of 40,000 and 50,000 regularly attended his appearances at state fairs and exhibition horse races, done only against the clock. Savage even re-named the farm the International 1:55 Stock Food Farm in 1906 after the racing association would not accept Dan Patch’s latest pacing mile time as the official world record (breaking his own record set the year before) because of a rule change .

Whole articles could be devoted to Dan Patch. In the Internet era, entire web pages are dedicated to him, following in the path of books previously written about him. In 1949 a fictionalized movie, The Great Dan Patch, ostensibly recounted his story. After suffering from lameness, Dan Patch retired from racing in 1909. Put out to stud, he did not prove to be a great sire and his heirs never shone as brightly as he did. Even as Savage fielded champion after champion attempting to supercede Dan Patch’s records in racing circles, he never lost his attachment to Dan Patch, who continued to live on Savage’s farm. Both fell ill on July 4, 1916. Dan Patch died of an enlarged heart on July 11. Savage, hospitalized for minor surgery, was deeply upset to hear of Dan Patch’s death, but quickly recovered enough to order Dan Patch stuffed. However, before his order could be executed, Savage himself suddenly died. Most attributed Savage’s death to a broken heart. Possibly giving credence to these stories, his widow, Marietta, quickly countermanded the order and had Dan Patch buried quietly and privately somewhere unknown to this day on the farm grounds. Savage’s son Harold took control of the International Stock Food Company, and it continued to exist into the 1930s. Fisher’s Manual of Valuable and Worthless Securities lists the company as dissolved in 1935. Although the farmland has been in continuous cultivation since Savage’s death, the farm buildings fell into disrepair just after Savage’s death, and have all disappeared. The country house on the other side of the river passed to the Minnesota Masonic Home, which used the building as its headquarters for a number of years, but ultimately demolished the structure in 1950. Nothing remains of either Savage’s original farm or country home. Only the memory of Dan Patch lingers.

© Malcolm A. Goldstein