J.C. Ayer & Company

James Cook Ayer was another of those people who became active in many areas including railroad building, invention, and patent medicine. He began to manufacture his own medicines while running an apothecary shop in the 1840's. When the Revenue Act of 1862 was passed he viewed it as an opportunity to advertise and differentiate his products through private die stamps.

Ayer had trouble deciding what color he wanted his stamps to be. The one-cent stamp was issued in seven colors. 5,336 each of red, carmine, purple, orange and green stamps were delivered in May of 1863, along with 18,584 in blue and some number in black. The color chosen for future issues was black, and 12,113,122 were issued on old paper, 6,411,995 on silk paper and 6,348,393 on pink and watermarked papers, until January 24, 1883.

Two types are recognized for the one-cent stamp, depending on the shape and length of the bottom loop of the "y" in the "Ayer" signature. The top stamp, printed on silk paper, is Type 1, with a long, full pointed "y." The bottom stamp, on watermarked paper, is Type 2, with the "y" truncated at bottom.

The four-cent stamps were also issued in small quantities in black, red, vermilion, green and purple, 4,560 of each in April, 1863. Blue was also issued then and until April of 1883: 9,143,374 on old paper, 6,712,339 on silk paper and 5,384,582 on watermarked paper. Most were die cut into star shapes, but some were left imperforate.

This strange variety looks like it was created with a scissors to make a fairly rare imperforate stamp into a common die cut one.

An Ayer cover dating from December, 1862. Here is a look at other Ayer's covers used through the nineteenth century.

The cover of Ayer's American Almanac, 1872.

After the taxes on proprietary medicines were repealed in 1883 Ayer and Company used facsimile stamps on their products.

An advertising card circa 1886 showing various Ayer and Company products. Note the revenue stamps shown on several tins and bottles. These would be facsimile labels at this time.

Other Ayer's trade cards can be found here.