Matthew Brady Studio Cancel


by Randall Chet

The US Civil War was responsible not only for the Federal Govt’s first adhesive revenues, but for some of the more interesting cancels stamped or printed upon them. One of the items taxed to help pay for the Civil War, were novel and popular photocards, quaintly referred to as “sun pictures”. From August 1864 to August 1866, photo studios were required to pay tax on all photographs, verified by cancelled revenue stamps applied to the back of them (usually using Proprietary or Playing Cards first issue revenue stamps).

Mathew B. Brady (May 18, 1822 – January 15, 1896) was one of the first American photographers, best known for his scenes of the Civil War. Brady also photographed 18 of the 19 American Presidents from John Quincy Adams to William McKinley. His Abraham Lincoln photographs have been used for the $5 bill and the Lincoln penny. Brady’s studio was located in Washington DC. I have been on the lookout for a Brady script cancel ever since seeing Bruce Baryla’s excellent “The Civil War Sun Picture Tax” exhibit 

Brady’s studio used two known script cancels, both made with with the same metal type slugs used to imprint photograph mounts. One, the most common, was the name “Brady” set in a formal cursive font. The other, much more difficult to find, was “Washington” set in the same font.

I was fortunate to find my Brady cancellation while going through a dealer’s revenue stock at the Columbia show January 21. While not a perfect strike, the prescence of this cancel changes a run-of-the-mill $40 R28c into a $250 – $300 retail item. Keep your eye out for those interesting cancels and other philatelic phinds!

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