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Antique Mail Room Equipment

Antique Mail Room Machines 

"Heap of Papers," Denver, CO, photograph by Harry M. Rhoads (1880/81-1975)
Denver Public Library, Western History Collection (00186429)

This exhibit traces the mechanization of the office mailroom, which occurred largely between the late1890s and World War I.  The key developments involved machines that addressed items to be mailed and that sealed, affixed postage to, and opened envelopes..

Click to enlarge
Addressing Machines

Addressing machines are used to print names and addresses on newspapers, mailing labels, envelopes, form letters, and other items.  The earliest addressing machines appear to have been used by publishers of periodicals, among others.  These machines eventually led to a considerable savings in clerical labor for other companies with large mailing lists, such as insurance companies and companies that used direct mail advertising. 

The earliest known patent for an addressing machine was awarded to a Canadian, Robert Dick, in 1859. An illustration from the 1859 patent is reproduced top right. Patents for improvements on Dick's machine were awarded to William H. Clague and Robert B. Randall in 1871, Elias Longley in 1875, and Dick in 1875, 1884, and 1889.  1894, 1899, and 1908 patent dates also appear on this type of machine. This patent history indicates that this type of machine was marketed for at least 50 years.  The second photo to the right shows a machine based on the 1875 Longley patent that was made by the Mather M'F'G. Co., Philadelphia.

According to the 1859 Dick patent, a user of his addressing machine was expected to use a printing press to print columns of names and addresses on sheets of paper.  In 1861, the Michigan Farmer reported that "We have procured one of the celebrated Dick's Addressing Machines in order to facilitate mailing the Farmer.  By it, accuracy, as well as dispatch, is secured. Putting in type over two thousand names to be used in this machine has delayed the issue of the Farmer, but we feel confident that our readers will bear with us a little, while making these important improvements."  (Michigan Farmer, Oct. 5, 1861)   The individual columns of names and addresses were then cut apart and glued together end to end to form a roll.  The roll was put on a spool in the back end of the addressing machine (the end to the left in the first image in the column to the right).  The paper was fed through a number of rollers, which moved the paper through a tank containing liquid adhesive, and then to a cutter at the front of the machine.  The machine was placed on a stack of envelops, newspapers, or other items to be addressed.  When the first name and address came out of the machine, it was cut off the roll and at the same time pressed onto the top envelope.  That envelope was removed, and the process continued.  The patent claimed that two people with one machine could address 4,000 items per hour.  Dick proposed that the same technology could be used to produce account statements that could be attached to cards and mailed.  

An article in the Circular in 1867 describes an addressing machine used by the Circular.  The machine was manufactured by C. M. and S. Peck, New Haven, CT, under patents issued to Wright and Peck and H. Moeser. According to the article, "The writing involved in mailing of even less than 2000 papers sent weekly from the office of the Circular was, a few months since, no easy task.  Now a person sits down to a machine and, in a small proportion of the time it formerly took to write the names and post-office directions, makes sport of printing them   It may interest some who have never seen the operation to learn more particularly how it is performed. The machine is furnished with a small case of steel matrices or dies, resembling common type, excepting that the letter on the die is sunk into the metal.  The name of each subscriber is 'set up' with the matrices in a composing-stick, and is transferred to a wooden block by means of a small lever-press, which with a single stroke leaves all the letters of the same standing in relief upon the end of the block.  The address blocks are placed upon galleys.  The galleys when filled and locked up are ready to be inked and passed through the gallery-race of the addressing machine.  A galley is pushed forward in the race until the first name is seen through the aperture in the shield plates, where it is firmly held by a friction-brake.  The newspaper to be directed is laid over the opening between the shields, when the operator, by pressing with his foot on the treadle, brings a small platen down upon the paper, [and] forces it upon the inked block below.  The return movement of the treadle brings forward another name. Of course, after all the address-blocks are once made, they may be used for a long period.  Other addressing-machines have been invented which involve no transfer of the names to wooden blocks, but depend upon standing type." (Circular, June 17, 1867)

A number of other addressing machines were patented during the 1870s and 1880s, including ones by McFatrich (1870), Darling (1873), Edison (1877), Belknap (1877), and Dennis and York. Leffingwell (1926) reports that "a patent was issued to James McFatrich, of Lena, Illinois, on October 4, 1870, for a machine called the 'McFatrich Mailer' which was, so far as is known, the first addressing machine. [Evidently, Leffingwell was not aware of the Dick machines.] Securing a license from the inventor, the Shniedewend & Lee Company, of Chicago, manufactured the mailer during the full term of the patent, beginning in 1880. This company was succeeded by the Challenge Machinery Company, in 1893.  The name was changed to the Mercantile Addressing Machine Company.  McFatrich was not alone in this pioneering, for in 1877 Frank D. Belknap, of Wooster, Ohio, made an attempt to get away from hand addressing. He wrote the names and addresses on a sheet of parchment paper with an electrically operated pen and obtained additional addresses by passing an inked roller over several sheets of parchment containing the master addresses, the envelope or matter to be addressed being placed under the sheet. When the typewriter came into commercial use, parchment paper, instead of being used in long strips as in the earlier models, was cut into individual pieces and pasted to a cardboard frame, thus making the first addressing machine stencil.  These stencils were inserted into the typewriter, one at a time, and the name and address cut into the paper by the needle-point type with which the early stencil-cutting typewriters were equipped.  The stencils were then fed through the addressing machine and the envelope addressed, the outline of the letters being dotted." (W. H. Leffingwell, The Office Appliance Manual, 1926, pp. 406-07) According to a 1924 account, "The original addressing machine invented in 1878 by Frank Belknap, now the Rapid Addressing Machine Company [which was founded by Belknap in 1885], was designed as an aid in addressing envelopes. The characters were cut on a strip of paper. Perforations on the side, similar to the perforations on the film for moving pictures, afforded a means of drawing the strip through the machine. Later, separate cards made up of a piece of parchment paper pasted to a cardboard frame were used." (The American Digest of Business Machines, 1924.)

In 1889, small manual printing presses, such as the Patent Lever Self-Inker Press No. 2 pictured to the right, were promoted as envelope addressing machines. According to Scientific American (May 4, 1889), Smith's Patent Lever Self-Inker No. 3, made by the R. H. Smith Mfg. Co., Springfield, MA, is "especially designed for printing the addresses on envelopes, postal cards, and shipping tags, which it does rapidly and in a most perfect manner, using metal-bodied rubber-faced type, and the office boy can in his leisure moments set up the addresses and print a complement of envelopes for each of the firm's regular correspondents."

1890_Couch_Automatic_Addresser_OM.jpg (294025 bytes)The Couch Automatic Addresser was marketed in 1890.  According to a product review, "It is almost the size of a type-writer.  By inserting the postal card or envelope immediately under the stamp above the cylinder, as shown in the cut [see image to right], and giving the stamp a light blow, the name and address is plainly and nearly printed, and at the same time the cylinder is revolved automatically to the next [name and address]. The name and address of each correspondent are stereotyped and then cut into slugs, each being made to fit into the dove-tailed grooves in the cylinder." 

"In 1890, another inventor, Walter E. Crane, brought out a keyboard machine which embossed names and addresses on paper and metal. Thin brass was used. The thin brass was in continuous long strips. To print the addresses, the continuous strips of brass were run over a drum on high-speed addressing machines." (Leffingwell, pp. 407-09.)

1896_Addressograph_OM.jpg (17086 bytes)1896_Addressograph_detail_OM.jpg (60705 bytes)"In 1892, Joseph S. Duncan, now President of the Addressograph Company, invented a machine that imprinted names and addresses from rubber type glued on a block of wood. He later designed a metal frame in which might be set individual pieces of rubber type. Later came the Graphotype, a machine for embossing type on metal plates." The earliest advertisement that we have found for an Addressograph machine dates from 1896. The ad states that the machine could address 2,000 envelopes per hour. The ad shows the machine (left, with enlarged detail to right), which bears an 1896 patent date. The address plates, which were connected to form endless chains, appear to use rubber type.

The use of rubber type in 1896 is consistent with the fact that the earliest patent date on the Graphotype, the machine that was used to emboss letters on metal address plates, was 1899. On a standard Graphotype, a letter was dialed and then a handle was pulled to emboss that letter on a metal plate. 

In 1899, Addressograph advertised the foot-powered No. 2 addressing machine, which was similar in appearance to the 1896 machine pictured to the left, for use with metal plates connected to form continuous chains. The price was $40. The No. 2, or a machine very much like it, was still advertised during 1902 and 1903.  In 1903, an ad claimed that the machine could print 3,000 envelopes, tags, checks, etc., per hour.  The same ad claimed that 11,000 merchants were using Addressographs.

In 1906, attachments were available so that the Addressograph could print addresses on various types of form.

We have seen an 1893 advertisement by Blackner Bros. & Co., Chicago, IL, for the Perfect Envelope Addresser, with a claim that it would print 1,500 names per hour on envelopes, postal cards, etc.  This ad does not include an illustration.

1907_Card_Index_Addressograph.jpg (44751 bytes)In 1907, Addressograph offered 1907_Addressograph_Metal_Plate.jpg (29497 bytes)Card Index Addressographs that printed addresses using separate plates that were loaded in a vertical hopper. These machines, one of which is pictured to the left, were $73 including an oak cabinet.  Immediately to the right is a picture of one of the metal plates. 

In 1907, the Addressograph Co. advertised "30,000 Addressographs in Use." In 1913, it claimed that 40,000 entities used its machines. (System, Oct. 1913).
Until at least 1910, Addressograph offered two types of address printing machines, ones that used plates with sliding rubber type and others that used embossed metal plates.

While the first Graphotype patent dates from 1899, initially customers using metal address plates may have been required to have the addresses embossed on the plates by the Addressograph Co.  However, by 1910, Addressograph was selling its Office Graphotype. According to a 1910 ad, "The Office Graphotype is an electric motor driven machine for stamping addresses on metal plates. It was designed especially for users of the Metal Card Index System." The machine was $350. An illustration is provided below. An Addressograph machine is pictured in the 1911 catalog of Hesser Business College, Manchester, NH.

Eventually, Addressograph offered hand and electric-powered addressing machines to print addresses, as well as foot-powered models. In 1924, Addressograph printing machines ranged from $37.50 for a hand-operated model that could print about 1,000 addresses per hour, and $190 for a foot-operated machine, to $1,500 for a large automatic-feed electric machine that could print 9,600 addresses per hour. Hand operated Graphotypes were $145 to $260, electric models were $395 to $460, and the keyboard model was $850. 

Graphotype and Addressograph Machines, c. 1910-1924

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Hand Graphotype

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Office Graphotype, 1910

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Model B Card Index Addressograph

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Operation Step 1

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Operation Step 2

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Operation Step 3

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MBHT_Addressograph_Automatic_Addressing_Machine_p._5.jpg (81125 bytes)
Automatic Number Three, 1923

Source of preceding row of images:  Museum of Business History and Technology

A number of companies in addition to Addressograph produced hand-operated, foot-powered, and electric addressing machines in the early 20th century. Additional brands marketed during 1902-25 were the Addressall, Belknap/Rapid, Elliott, Meacham, Montague/Direx-All, Rogers, Standard, and Velox. Some of these machines used metal plates like those used with the Addressograph, while others used fiber stencil address cards. In 1915, the Montague Mailing Machinery Co, Chattanooga, TN, offered 20 types of addressing machines for $15 and up. A very simple stamper, which had an output of 300-500/hr, was $15. The desktop Type C, output of 1500/hr, was $37.50. Type N, output 2000-3000/hr, $150. Type F, output 3000-4000/hr, $250-$360. (System, Jan. & Mar. 1915.)

Belknap Addressing Machines, 1902, 1915

MBHT_Belknap_Addressing_Machine.jpg (77583 bytes) 1902_Rapid_Addressing_Machine_adx.jpg (181737 bytes)
Belknap Rotary Rapid Addressing Machine, 1902 ad

Source of left and right images:  
Museum of Business History and Technology
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Belknap Rotary Rapid Addressing Machine

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Belknap Rotary Addressing Machine
Rapid Addressing Machine Co.
This machine used stencils.
1915 Price $57.50. Ten other models priced up to $1500. (System, Mar. 1915.)


"In 1897 Sterling Elliott devised an addressing system.  His machine embodied principles of construction and operation not found in the others.  It was designed primarily for his private use and was not marketed until 1900."  (Leffingwell, p. 410.) The Elliott Addressing Machine Co. introduced fiber address stencil cards during the first decade of the 20th century. Addresses were cut on the fiber cards using a standard typewriter or a stenciling machine. To print addresses, ink was forced through the stencil cards. (The American Digest of Business Machines, 1924)  

Elliott Stenciling and Addressing Machines, 1905 and 1920s

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Elliott Stencil Cutting Machine, 1905.  1906 Price $150.
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Left:  Elliott Addressing Machine, 1905. 1906 Price $65.
Right: Cabinet for Stencils for Elliott Addressing Machines, 1906 ad
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Elliott Hand Stenciling Machine, 1920s
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Elliott Electric Stenciling Machines, 1920s
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Elliott Hand Cranked Addressing Machine, 1920s
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Elliott Foot-Lever Addresser, 1920s

In 1913, Hillard Mfg Co., NYC, advertised its Meacham Addressing Machine, which appeared comparable to the 1902 Belknap machine above left and which used silk stencils that were cut on a regular typewriter. This could be used to fill addresses that matched typewriting into form letters.(System, Sept. 1913.)

In 1914-15, Elliott advertised its hand, foot,and electric powered addressing machines, which had output rates of 1500, 3000, and 4000 addresses/hr, for $35, $90, and $185, respectively. (System, Jan. 1915) In 1917, the price range was $50 to $200. In 1924, the price range was $35 for a hand model to $500 for an automatic feed model. 

1907_Dupligraph_Addressograph_Co..JPG (43455 bytes)
In 1907, Addressograph was marketing its Dupligraph machine (pictured right), "the highest development of the process of producing imitation typewritten letters." The machine simultaneously printed the text of a letter (prepared using sliding type), a name and address (using an Addressograph plate), a choice of salutation (Dear Sir or Gentlemen), and a signature (in a different color ink), all at the rate of 800 to 1,200 per hour.  In 1927, American Multigraph introduced the Addressing Multigraph, which used metal plates to print addresses and form letters simultaneously.

In 1930, the Addressograph International Corp. acquired the American Multigraph Co.  In 1931 the name of the merged firm was changed to the Addressograph-Multigraph Corp.  In 1979, the company name was changed to AM International Inc.  AM International was still operating in 1985.

The following two photographs were taken at an Addressograph sales outlet in 1929.  The first shows a room with ten Addressograph machines of various types, including three Graphotype machines.  The second shows a shop with men working on two Addressograph machines.  In the latter photo, the machine on the left is a desktop manual Addressograph attached to a work stand.  The machine on the left is labeled Automatic Envelope Feed Addressograph.

1929_Room_with_10_Addressograph_Machines.jpg (119247 bytes)  1929_Workshop_with_2_Addressograph_Machines.jpg (105925 bytes) 
Addressograph Machines, 1929

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Dick addressing machine, 1859.  This illustration shows the machine atop a stack of papers.  "A" identifies the paper column of addresses as it emerges from the tank of liquid adhesive inside the machine. "D" identifies the cutter that is pivoted down to cut off one address at a time and press it onto the top paper.

1875_Elias_Longley_Addressing_Machine_Mather_Mfg_Co_Phila_2.JPG (28680 bytes)
Longley addressing machine, 1875, serial no. 918. The vertical bar in the middle of the photo is the cutter. The item to the right is the tank for liquid adhesive.  This tank, which appears to be handmade, fits into the machine.

1889_Robert_Dick_Buffalo_NY_Addressing_Machine_Pat_Model_416582.jpg (51763 bytes)
Dick addressing machine, 1889 patent model.
Courtesy of  Barry Baldwin.  
For sale on his website, 
Patent Models from the 1800s 

1883 Mustang Mailer OM.jpg (76053 bytes)
Mustang Mailer, 1883 ad

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Patent Lever Self-Inker Press No. 2, 1889 ad

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Graphotype Model 6142, patented 1917

Woman_with_Graphotype_at_24th_National_Business_Show_prob_1927.jpg (65404 bytes)
Woman with Keyboard Electric Graphotype at 24th National Business Show, 1927

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Hand-Operated Addressograph Model H3, Patented 1904-12

LOC_Office_with_Addressograph_and_Graphotype_machines_Wash_DC_c._1922_LC-USZ62-111333.jpg (27125 bytes)
Office with Electric Addressograph (left) and Graphotype, Washington, DC, c. 1922, detail.
Lib. of Cong., Prints and Photographs Div., LC-USZ62-111333

























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Elliott Addressing Machine
Courtesy of Martin Howard Collection

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Elliott Hand Crank Rotary Addresser, 1920s-1930s

Envelope Sealers

Beginning around 1900, a large variety of small devices and larger machines were marketed for use in sealing envelopes.  A number of images of Standard Envelope Sealers are presented immediately below, and images of a number of other envelope sealers are presented to the right.

Sealograph and Standard Envelope Sealers, 1912-1930

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Sealograph Model A 
Hand Power, c. 1912
MBHT_Sealograph_envelope_sealer_hand_fed_electric_c._1912.jpg (198908 bytes)
Sealograph Model B
Electric Hand Feed, c. 1912
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Electric Sealograph. Image appears in System, Oct. 1913.
Image coming H
Standard Envelope Sealer Model C
c. 1916-27.

Image coming
Standard Envelope Sealer Model F $25 1915
The ad claimed that Model F had an output of 6000-9000/hr.
(System, Mar. 1915)
Standard_Envelope_Sealer_Model_F_Martin_Howard.jpg (27837 bytes)
Standard Envelope Sealer
Model F., advertised 1930
Courtesy of Martin Howard Collection

1914_1918_Standard_Envelope_Sealer_Model_H_Standard_Envelope_Sealer_Mfg_Co_Everett_MA.jpg (45218 bytes)
Standard Envelope Sealer Model H, patented 1914-18, advertised 1930

Source of three images above left:  Museum of Business History and Technology

Standard Envelope Sealers were put on the market in 1914. In March 1915, an ad stated "More than 6,000 Standard Sealers sold in the first eight months after being put on the market."

Advertisements for Envelope Sealers 

Year Advertised Machine Name Manufacturer Source and information about machine.
1899 Pletcher Envelope Moistener and Sealer Benj. F. Pletcher, Lock Haven, PA   BK97 (small $1)
1902-03 Thexton Electric Envelope Sealer
Thexton Electric Envelope Sealer Co., Chicago, IL. BK43, BK0603p.145 ($50)
Add image.
1904 Thexton Junior Envelope Sealer Thexton Electric Envelope Sealer Co., Chicago, IL BK04 ($15, non-electric)
1904-05 Thexton Envelope Sealing Machines Acorn Brass Mfg. Co., Chicago, IL BK04.929 ($15-$50), Beach 1905
1903-04 Eureka Envelope Moistener and Sealer Eureka Novelty Co, Boston, MA BK03&04 (small, $0.50). Beach 1905
1905 Shermac Universal Envelope Sealer Hall Office Specialty Co., Chicago, IL BK05.1078 ($5), Beach 1905
1905 Cleveland Envelope Sealer and Stamper Cleveland Envelope Sealer Co, Chicago, IL Beach 1905


Addressograph Envelope Sealer

Addressograph "Junior" and "Senior Electric" Envelope Sealing Machines

Addressograph Co., Chicago, IL Beach 1905, sealed 3000 to 7000 envelopes per hour

Junior $20, Senior Electric $60.

1905 Elliott Envelope Sealer Elliott Addressing Machine Co., Boston, MA Beach 1905
1905 Hunt Stamp and Envelope Moistener F. P. Hunt Co., New York, NY Beach 1905 {Small device. Good illustration]
1906 American Envelope Sealer American Sales & Mfg Co, Kansas City (small hand gadget)
1906 Perfect Envelope Sealer A.T. Kline Mercantile Co., Somerville, NJ See image to right
1907 Hasty Envelope Sealer A.T. Kline Mercantile Co., Somerville, NJ .
1908 Richissin Envelope Sealer, patented 1907 . Tower p. 37 (small)
1908-10 Simplex Automatic Envelope Sealing Machine Simplex Mfg. Co., New York, NY S1008, S1208 (large electric), A. Pomerantz & Co cat. 1910 ($165).  See image to right.
1908 Automatic Envelope Sealing & Stamping Machine Automatic Envelope Sealing & Stamping Machine Co, Providence RI (large machine, seals, stamps and counts letters) S1208.
1909 Packer Envelope Sealer B. E. Del Camp, Chicago, IL. ($2)
1910 Saunders Envelope Sealer Saunders Sealer Co., Cleveland, OH ($2)
1912-22 Reynolds Envelope Sealer, patented 1910 .  Horder's Catalog (1922) p. 184.  See photo to right.
1912 Sanitary Envelope Moistener & Sealer . Binney & Smith Co NY p. 11
1913 Roco Envelope Sealer G. E. Stimpson Co, gen agents, Worcester, MA $10. S1013
1913 Novelty Envelope Sealer Office Appliance Mfg. & Novelty Co., NY, NY & Pittsburgh, PA $10. S0913
1913 Office Boy Envelope Sealer Borger Mfg. Co., Cleveland, OH $15. S1113
Saunders & Co., Kansas City, MO Model A (hand power) and Model C (electric power) S0314
1914 Pence Mailing Machine Pence Mailing Machine Co., Minneapolis, MN Large machine. Seals and affixes stamps on 6,000 envelopes per hour. Literary Digest 091414.
1914-24 Acorn-Thexton Envelope Sealer  Acorn Brass Mfg. Co., Chicago, IL "O.K'd by 10,000...businesses." S0315. $27.50-$80 S0315, S0917-S1217.
1915 Red Square Envelope Sealer  Red Square Co., NY, NY Hand crank, $25 S0315.
1916-30 Standard Envelope Sealer, patented 1914-18 Standard Envelope Sealer Mfg. Co., Somerville, MA Model C $15-$25 S0917-1217.
1917-18 Kendall Envelope Sealer, Kendall Mfg. Co., Boston, MA  . (small hand gadget)
1922 Graywood Envelope Sealer Graywood Mfg Co., Lynn, MA (similar to 1924 Elliott)
1924-39 Elliott Envelope Sealer . $45 in 1924. See photo to right
. Standard Postal Permit Printer and Sealer Standard Mailing Machines Co., Everett, MA Affixed and postmarked stamps to envelopes and counted and sealed the envelopes.

1906_Perfect_Envelope_Sealer_A.T._Kline_Mercantile_Co_Somerville_NJ.jpg (26614 bytes)
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Cachet_Crampon_Blanzy_Poure__Cie_Boulogne_sur_Mer.JPG (51008 bytes)

Perfect Envelope Sealer ( a.k.a. Eagle Safety Envelope Fastening and Sealing Press, Cachet Crampon)  Advertised in U.S. 1906 (Perfect), France in 1913, and U.K. 1920s (Eagle). Sold by Blanzy Poure & Cie Boulogne sur Mer, France (Cachet Crampon)

1903_Thexton_Electric_Envelope_Sealer_50.jpg (371940 bytes)
Thexton Electric Envelope Sealer, 
1903 ad

1908_Simplex_Sealer_Simplex_Mfg_Co_NY_NY.jpg (30362 bytes)

Simplex Envelope Sealer, 1908 ad


1910_Reynolds_Envelop_Sealer_OMx.JPG (18945 bytes)
Reynolds Envelope Sealer, 
patented 1910


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Elliott Envelope Sealer,
c. 1924-39

Bruce_Env_Sealer_Co._Framingham_MA_Pat_1837156.jpg (46124 bytes)
Bruce Envelope Sealer, Framingham, MA, Patent Number 1,837,156, Dec. 15, 1931.

Stamp Machines

Stamp Affixers

1899_Klein_Stamp_Sticker_Klein_Mfg_Co_1900_ad.jpg (9963 bytes)1890_Postage_Stamp_Affixer_Wm_H_King_OM.jpg (211915 bytes)Stamp affixers served two purposes. First, they mechanized the process of affixing stamps to letters. Second, they made it more difficult for employees to steal stamps. The image to the left shows the Postage Stamp Affixer marketed by Wm. H. King in 1890.  A 1900 ad claimed that the Klein Stamp Sticker, which was patented in 1899, had a capacity of 300 stamps and moisture for 2,000 stamps. The illustration [coming] shows that the stamps were stacked vertically inside the machine. The Alert Post Stamp Machine was advertised in 1905.

Stamp vending machines were introduced shortly after 1900. Initially, private companies made coils of stamps from sheets issued by the government. The US Post Office began to issue coils in 1908, and shortly after that a number of companies began to market stamp affixing machines that used coil stamps. 

The White Stamp Affixer, which was advertised during 1910-16, was a desk-top machine. The National Stamp Affixer (pictured to the right) was another desk-top machine. The Automatic Envelope Sealing and Stamping Machine, which was advertised in 1911, sealed and stamped 5,000 to 8,000 envelopes per hour, using coils of stamps purchased from the post office.

The Multipost Stamp Affixer & Recorder, a smaller handheld device made by Multipost Co., Rochester, NY, was patented in 1911 and advertised from 1910 to 1940. There were two models at $15 & $25. A 1915 ad stated that there were 20,000 users. (System, Mar. 1915.)

The Kendall, Postamper, Simplex, Standard, and Wizard stamp affixers, which were advertised during 1912-27, were similar to the Multipost. In 1915, the Postamper was $25 and the wizard was $12.50. (System, Mar. 1915) One difference between the lower and higher priced models seems to have been the amount of data recorded. According to a Postamper ad, "One stroke of the plunger affixes the stamp and also counts it. A measured drop of water moistens the envelope and a rubber cushion presses the stamp to the moistened surface. Double lock safeguards your stamps. One for the cashier who puts in the stamps--the other for the operator, so that no stamps can be taken without his knowledge."

Stamp Perforators

"The Cummins Stamp Perforator prevents all thefts of postage stamps.  This method was authorized by Postmaster General Meyer's ruling of May 4th, 1908, as follows: 'It shall be permissible to puncture or perforate letters, numerals or other marks or devices in the Unites States postage stamps.  The punctures or perforations shall not exceed one thirty-second of an inch in diameter.'" (System, Oct. 1908) 

Metered Mailing Machines

In 1920, several years after Pitney invented a postage meter, Congress approved metered mail. Pitney-Bowes introduced the first postage meter and permit printing machine in 1921. The machines not only printed pertinent postal information on envelopes but also sealed the envelopes. "Metered permit mail is imprinted with the mailer's license and meter number, together with the postmark. This operation is performed simultaneously with the sealing by a permit printing machine. The meter is a detachable portion of such machines and it is taken to the post-office where it is set by the postmaster for the amount of postage desired, which is paid for at that time. It locks when this amount has been used." (Office Equipment Catalogue, 1927, pp. 71-72)

The first Pitney-Bowes machine, the Model A, sold for $1,350 and leased for $10 a month. The second, introduced in 1924, sold for $735. Because the equipment was expensive, in the 1920s use of Pitney-Bowes machines was limited to companies and other organizations that sent a large number of letters. During 1921-27, 2,849 Pitney-Bowes machines were installed. (W. Cahn, The Story of Pitney-Bowes, 1961, pp. 66-67, 81.) By 1927, the International Postal Supply Co. was marketing Sealometer postage metering and sealing machines in competition with Pitney-Bowes.

In 1930, Pitney-Bowes introduced its Model H, a desktop postal meter and printing machine that did not seal letters. The Model H was $75.

Non-Metered Permit Mailing Machines

In the 1920s, there was also "non-metered permit mail" in the US.  A company printed its permit number and a postmark on letters using a machine that did not have a meter. Payment for postage was made when the mail was delivered to the post office. Pitney-Bowes mailing machines could be used for metered permit mail or, without a meter, for non-metered permit mail.

In 1924-27, the Standard Envelope Sealer Mfg. Co. advertised the Standard Postal Permit Printer and Sealer. The machine, which did not have a meter, automatically fed and sealed envelopes and printed the permit information. In 1924, this machine was $675. 

1905_Alert_Postal_Stamp_Affixer_OM.jpg (20527 bytes)
Alert Post Stamp Machine, 1905 ad

National_Stamp_Affixer_National_Envelope_Sealing__Stamping_Machine_Co_Boston.jpg (35364 bytes)
National Stamp Affixer

1911_MultiPost_No._T_OMx.JPG (26262 bytes)
Multipost Stamp Affixer & Recorder, Patented 1911, Advertised 1910-40

1908_Cummins_Stamp_Perforator_B_F_Cummins_Chicago_IL.jpg (35158 bytes)
Cummins Stamp Perforator,
B. F. Cummins, Chicago, IL, 1908 ad

Pitney-Bowes_postage_meter_machine.jpg (37501 bytes)
Pitney-Bowes Model A Permit Printing Machine.
The Model A was the first Pitney-Bowes machine. It was still marketed in 1927.

Envelope Openers

1884 A. B. See Letter Opener, R. R. Watson, New York, NY, $2.50 ("This delicate instrument cuts the end off the envelope in an instant, thus exposing the contents." $2.50)
1912 Simplex Letter Opener, Binney & Smith Co NY
1914-28 Ries O. K. Letter Opener, O.K. Mfg. Co., Syracuse, NY (1914). 1915 Prices $12, $15, $18 for 3 sizes. Oswego NY (1928)
1914-20 Lightning Letter Opener, Lightning Letter Opener Co., Rochester, NY (1914), The Bircher Co., Inc., Rochester NY (1920)
1922-25 Mihill Envelope Opener, Horder's (1922), Grammes (1925)

1884 A B See Letter Opener OM.jpg (22605 bytes)
A. B. See Letter Opener, 1884 ad

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Ries O.K. Letter Opener, Patented Oct. 17, 1911, also 1919.
1912_1918_Lightning_Letter_Opener_Bircher_Co_Inc_Rochester_NY_OM.JPG (31924 bytes)
Lightning Letter Opener, Patented 1912-18

Folding Machines

Machines that folded letters came into use around 1907.

1907 Adams Folding Machine, Adams Folding Machine Co., Minneapolis, MN (folds letters)
1908 Universal Folding Machine, Universal Folding Machine Co, Chicago, IL. S1008, S1208
1908 National Folding Machine, National Folding Machine Co., Sidney, OH S1208
1910 Van Etten Circular Folder, Van Etten Machine Co, Sidney, OH.
1921 Gammeter Multigraph Folder, Gammeter Multigraph Co., Desborough.
1923-25 Multigraph Folder Junior, American Multigraph

Multigraph_Folder_No._58_American_Multigraph_Co_Cleveland.jpg (61405 bytes) Multigraph Folder No. 58, American Multigraph Corp., Cleveland, OH
1907_Adams_Folding_Machine_Co_Minneapolis_MN.jpg (26257 bytes)
Adams Folding Machine, Adams Folding Machine Co., Minneapolis, MN, 1907 ad.
1908_Universal_Folding_Machine_Co_Chicago_IL.jpg (50025 bytes)
Universal Folding Machine, Universal Folding Machine Co., Chicago, IL, 1908 ad.
1921_Gammeter_Multigraph_Folder.jpg (109854 bytes)  
Gammeter Multigraph Folder, 1921 ad; same a s the Universal Folding Machine above

Parcel Labeling Equipment

Stencils were used to label shipping crates by 1860.  The images to the right show: (1) An example of a custom made stencil that could be ordered by mail by 1860. (2) A general purpose stencil that could be used to label a box with letters and numbers or letters only.  (3) A hand stencil cutting outfit. 

The last image to the right shows a Holt's Patent Marking Wheel, a self-inking rotary rubber stamp that was used to print the sender's name and address on parcels.

In 1868, Dennison & Co. received a patent for and was selling cardboard shipping labels,, including ones with attached strings.  Buyers had the option of having Dennison & Co. print them to order. 

The images below show two rotary stencil cutting machines and a linear stencil cutting machine.  Stencil cutting outfits and machines were used to cut paper stencils used to label boxes.

 DIAGRAPH_STENCIL_MACHINE.jpg (78143 bytes)  MBHT_1913_Diagraph_Stencil-Cutting_Machine.jpg (353994 bytes)  

Diagraph Improved Stencil Cutting Machine, American Diagraph Co., St. Louis, MO.
A similar model was offered in 1905.
(Add 1908-13 advertising image.)

1893_1898_Bradley_Stencil_Machine_Co._St_Louis.jpg (44819 bytes)

Office_with_Bradley_Stencil_Cutting_Machine_OM.jpg (78836 bytes)
Above Top:  Bradley Stencil Machine, Bradley Stencil Machine Co., St. Louis, MO, patented 1893-98
Above Bottom: Office with Bradley Stencil Machine (center right)

1915_Bradley_Stencil_Machine_NYC.jpg (70291 bytes)
Bradley_Stencil_Machine_credit_Jim_Brown.JPG (86801 bytes)
Top: Bradley Stencil Machine, Bradley Stencil Machine Co., St. Louis, MO, patented 1893-99, introduced 1898, 
A. J. Bradley, NY, NY, 1915 ad
Bottom: Photo right courtesy of Jim Brown

The Marsh Stencil Cutting Machine was advertised by Horder's Inc. in 1928.

Brass_Stencil_New_York_Stencil_Works_NYC.jpg (99265 bytes)
Custom-made stencils of this type could be ordered by mail by 1860

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Revolving Stencil Letters & Figures, patented 1868-71, still advertised 1928

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Stencil Cutting Outfit, New York Stencil Works

1866_Holts_Patent_Marking_Wheel_Secombe_Mfg_Co_NY_NY_OM.jpg (91934 bytes)
Holt's Patent Marking Wheel, Secombe Manufacturing Co., New York, NY, patented 1866, advertised 1870.  This roller, which had rubber type, was used to print manufacturers' and distributors' names and addresses on packages.

Postal Scales

The UK introduced both postal rates based on weight and adhesive postage stamps in 1840. Other countries soon followed, and as a result there was a market for letter scales. The photographs in the column to the right show two styles of letter scales that were introduced around 1840. The top one is a candlestick spring scale of a type that was marketed until the 1870s. Below that is an English Roberval balance scale of a type that was marketed until around 1940. 

1892_Perfection_Postal_Scale_American_Machine_Co_Phila_PA_Pat_09.01.1868_side_OM.jpg (222704 bytes)1892_Perfection_Postal_Scale_American_Machine_Co_Phila_PA_Pat_09.01.1868_front_OM.jpg (230264 bytes)The images to the left and right show two Perfection Postal Scales,  While these scales were reportedly manufactured by the Perfection Scale Co., Cortland, NY, the one to the left has the following on its front: "Automatic Perfection Postal Scale, American Machine Co., Philada."  It also has an 1868 patent date. An 1892 product review stated that "The Perfection Postal Scales have been adopted for use in the postal service of the United States.  They are becoming quite generally used in banks, insurance and railroad office and in the better class of manufacturing and mercantile houses throughout the country."

1883_Fairbanks_Postal_Office_Scale_adx.jpg (117067 bytes)1876_Fairbanks_scale_OMx.jpg (132114 bytes) To the left is a Fairbanks letter balance scale of a type that was patented in 1876 and advertised by 1878.  To the right is an 1883 ad for a Fairbanks post office package scale.  The same image appeared in a 1910 office supply catalog offers this machine. Fairbanks began to manufacture scales (not postal scales) in 1830.

1884 New Postal Balance R R Watson NY NY OM.jpg (132114 bytes)To the left is an 1884 ad for an R. R. Watson Postal Balance.

Montgomery Ward's 1894-95 mail order catalog advertised a Victor letter balance with the same design as the Roberval scale in the photo to the right.  Scales of this type were advertised in Germany in 1910 and France in 1913.

1898_Tiffany_Studios_NY_Zodiac_Postal_Scale_OM.JPG (33883 bytes)Spring balance scales were advertised by the Gilfillan Scale & Hardware 1895_Gilfillan_postal_scales.jpg (79702 bytes) Co. in 1895 (see ad to right) and marketed in 1897 and for decades after that by the Pelouze Scale and Mfg. Co. The model in the Zodiac pattern to the left was marketed by Tiffany Studios of New York in the late 1890s and early 1900s.


Columbus_Bilateral_German_Scale_OM.JPG (27816 bytes)To the left is a bilateral pendulum scale of a type that was patented in Germany in 1904 and advertised in Germany in 1908-10, the US in 1910, and France in 1913. 

For photographs of a number of additional styles of early postal scales, click on the following links to visit the exhibits at the Canadian Postal Museum and Scales & Weights.

Candlestick_scale_Jos.__Edm._RATCLIFF_UK.jpg (23842 bytes)
Candlestick spring scale, Jos. Edm. Ratcliff, UK. The candlestick scale was introduced in 1840.  A similar Spring Pillar Balance was advertised in 1855.

Postal_Scale_UK_OM.jpg (26753 bytes)
Roberval balance scale, England, style introduced 1840. Similar scales advertised 1855 & 1878, and in France in 1913.

1883_Letter_Balance_adx.jpg (37377 bytes)
Letter Balance, 1883 ad

1883_Peerless_Letter_Scale_Marshall_Son__Co_Boston_adx.jpg (60548 bytes)
Peerless Letter Scale, Marshall Son & co., Boston, MA, 1883 ad.  A similar scale was advertised in France in 1913.

Tape and Label Moisteners & Dispensers

Mail rooms in the late 1800s and early 1900s were equipped with a variety of stamp, envelope, label, and tape moisteners as well as pasting machines.

1907 Universal Pasting Machine, Chas. Beck Paper Co., Philadelphia, PA.
1912 Universal Pasting Machine, Binney & Smith Co NY p. 22
1912 Jiffy Gummed Tape Machine, Binney & Smith Co NY p. 43
1922 Liberty Tape Moistener, Horder's p. 184

1918_Star_No._6_tape_dispenser_OMx.jpg (45770 bytes) 1918 Star No. 6 tape dispenser. Also advertised by Horder's Inc. in 1928.
1881_Glass_Dampener.jpg (60588 bytes)
Glass Dampener, 1881 ad. The same image was used in a 1910 office supply catalog that offered this item, and a similar if not identical item was offered in the 1928 Holder's Inc. catalog.

Tape_Dispenser_OM.jpg (49343 bytes)

Labelor_Model_101_Label_Moistener_Better_Packages_Inc_Shelton_CT.jpg (18935 bytes)
Labelor Model 101, Better Packages, Inc., Shelton, CT  
1907_Universal_Pasting_Machine_Chas._Beck_Paper_Co_Ltd_Phila_PA..jpg (30681 bytes)
Universal Pasting Machine, Chas. Back Paper Co., Philadelphia, PA, 1907 ad.


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