Resource of the Month – American Bank Note Company Archive Files

ABNC Files in Archival Document Boxes

At the American Philatelic Research Library (APRL) we are truly fortunate in not only the number but also the type of philatelic literature donations that are received for inclusion into the research collection. One of the truly remarkable donations to the APRL special collections was given by donor Arthur Morowitz in the form of several hundred archival, mostly correspondence, files. Housed on the second floor of the library, partly in the public space in a series of two three-drawer lateral file cabinets and also in the non-public archives area in over eighty archival document boxes resides a significant collection of donated files from the American Bank Note Company Archives.

Second floor public space lateral file cabinets with ABNC files

Founded in 1858 and establishing printing operations in 1861, the American Bank Note Company (ABNC) was known for the engraving and printing of many U.S. bank notes as well as U.S. stamps. Later the ABNC did the same for many other countries that contracted their services in the printing of their nation’s postal issues. When in 1879 the ABNC merged with two other bank note printing companies (the National Bank Note Company and the Continental Bank Note Company) the newly formed company kept the name of American Bank Note Company.

As part of this merger, the contract for the printing of U.S. postage, which had been held by the National Bank Note Company, was transferred to the ABNC. When in 1894 the U.S. Post Office Department began using the Bureau of Printing and Engraving instead of the ABNC, a number of other countries were by then using the ABNC for their bank note and postage printing, among them Canada, China, and numerous Latin American countries.

Cover Page for ABNC files for 1936 correspondence between ABNC and the Republic of Nicaragua

Organized by country and covering the period of 1870 to 1980 the ABNC files at the APRL include a wide variety of correspondence to and from the ABNC regarding the engraving, designing and ultimately printing of postage stamps. Although the United States section of the ABNC Archive files was not part of the original APRL donation, the files do include correspondence and materials for Bulgaria, Canada, China, Holland, Latin America, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and Yugoslavia (Serbia) among others as well as files concerning specific ABNC engravers, printers and production methods and company history. For a complete list of the countries, subject areas and time periods covered in the APRL’s collection an inventory spreadsheet of the APRL ABNC files can be found here.

Sample page involving negotiations between ABNC and the Kingdom of Spain, August 31, 1915

Due to its rarity as a unique research collection, the ABNC files at the APRL may not be borrowed. However, they can be viewed in person by researchers visiting the APRL or researchers can request copies or scans of pages from the library with the restriction that certain communications contained in the correspondence may be subject to copyright. Interested researchers can contact the library at library@stamps.org to either view the files or obtain copies.

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