Cameo Stamps
by Thomas Beckman

Cameo stamps are an early form of trademarks or logotypes, produced between 1850 and 1880 for use by merchants, manufacturers, service providers, and institutions. Called "stamps" originally, these corporate identity emblems were nicknamed "cameos" by modern collectors due to the embossing present on many examples. Simultaneously embossed and color printed from brass dies, cameo stamps are most often found on envelopes, billheads, business cards, and as advertisements in city directories and related publications.

Blue is six or seven times more popular than green or red, the next most frequent colors. Imagery usually features a manufacturer's or merchant's products, machinery, or building, but text-only examples are also common. All cameo stamps are tightly bordered, often with cartouche-like frames. About forty percent of cameo stamps are signed by their diesinkers, the most prolific being William Eaves of New York and the McClement Brothers and Thomas B. Calvert of Philadelphia. They, and dozens of others, made cameo stamps for customers in all parts of the country, as well as Canada, which had several cameo stamp diesinkers of its own.

Illustrations in this article are from the extensive cameo collection of Jose L. Rodriguez, who can be reached at cartophilians@home.com.

   © 2011 The Ephemera Society of America