Chambers Stamp Factory key part of postmark history
As a local post enthusiast and a holder of a mailer’s postmark permit #1 in Floresville, Texas, I’ve often wished I could acquire a steel postmarking device like the ones used by postmasters during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Modern rubber stamps function adequately, and they’re inexpensive, but the impressions they stamp lack the clean lines of those produced with steel handstamps.
What I didn’t realize until recently was that from the late 1860s until the early 1930s, a single company was responsible for producing steel postmarks for the United States Post Office: the Chambers Stamp Factory, which was based near Callao, Virginia. An article in The House & Home Magazine provides background information about the company’s founder and operations.
The Chambers Stamp Factory closed in 1932 after another company that you’re more likely to have heard of won the Post Office’s contract for producing handstamps. The Pitney-Bowes Company produced rubber stamps, and could do so at a much lower price than what Chambers had charged for its employees to chisel steel postmarks by hand.
It’s kind of sad in a way that a company that had been in operation for decades could be run out of business so quickly, but such is progress, and the Post Office’s migration from steel handstamps to rubber is just another part of the story of our stamp collecting hobby.