Samuel Allan Taylor

Publisher of the first philatelic magazines in Canada and the United States of America

After reading an article about the first magazine devoted solely to philately, my thoughts turned to the Canadian scene. I wondered who had published our first philatelic magazine. My findings yielded a fascinating story about the individual involved!

Fig. 1: First issue of the Stamp Collector’s Record. Click to enlarge

Samuel Allan Taylor (also known as S. Allan Taylor) was born in Scotland in February 1838. Orphaned at an early age he was sent to live with an uncle in the United States of America (USA). Running away from home he was found and subsequently raised by a doctor. In 1853 he began working for the New York Telegraph Company. It was here that he acquired his lifelong interest in stamps. It was also here that he began to both collect, and systematically study, local stamps and labels.

In 1861, seeking to escape the draft during the American Civil War, he moved to Montreal, in the then United Province of Canada. It was here he met and married his wife, Frances Mathieson with whom he had three children, only one, a daughter, surviving to adulthood. In February 1864 he published the first Canadian Stamp Magazine, The Stamp Collector’s Record (Fig 1). Only two issues were printed (the second in March 1864) before he moved back to Albany, New York.

In December of 1864 he printed the first stamp magazine to be published in the USA, also called The Stamp Collector’s Record. The family subsequently moved to Boston where he worked as a dispensing clerk at the Boston Hospital. Although he ceased publication of his magazine in October 1876 he continued as a stamp dealer. Of interest is that the 1880 US Census lists his occupation as stamp maker.

1862-DecEnglandThe Monthly Advertiser
1863-FebBelgiumLe Timbre-Poste
1863-MayGermanyMagazin für BriefmarkenSammler
1864-FebCanadaThe Stamp Collector’s Record
1864-JulFranceLe Collectionneur de Timbres-Poste
1864-DecUSAThe Stamp Collector’s Record
1865-JunNew BrunswickThe Stamp Collector’s Monthly Gazette
1866-JunAustria-HungaryDer Briefmarken-Anzeiger
1867-AugDenmarkNordisk Frimaerketidende
1869-FebNetherlandsThe Continental Philatelic Magazine
This table provides a listing of the year the first stamp magazines were published in various countries.

The story of S. Allan Taylor does not end here. His subsequent life was summed up by the following editorial note appearing in the 10 July 1891 issue of The American Philatelist. “Mr. Taylor was one of the pioneers of stamp collecting in this country and was the publisher of the first American stamp paper……. Had Mr. Taylor not fallen into bad practices his name would today be ranked with those of the leading lights of philately for his knowledge of stamps is very great.”

Fig. 2 & 3 Stamp Collector Magazine February 1864. Click to enlarge.

It appears that Mr. Taylor’s descent into the ‘bad practices’ of counterfeiting as well as producing bogus stamps and labels began whilst he was in Montreal. One his earliest attempts at this practice related to the production of the so-called Mormon stamp which he claimed had been produced by Brigham Young for the purposes of prepaying postage between towns in Utah in 1852. After having this repudiated by Young himself, Taylor stated that they were merely ‘facsimiles’ and continued to advertise them as such (Figures 2 and 3).

Taylor produced a number of counterfeit stamps of different countries including a stamp from Paraguay in 1868, two years before the country officially produced its first stamp!! He also produced some forgeries of the 1872 Prince Edward Island issue, two of which were non-existent values (Figures 4-9). These were sent to dealers in Europe for sale and distribution. There was also apparently a New Brunswick forgery but I have been unable to find any examples.

Fig. 4 – 9. Click to enlarge.

While Taylor may have produced a number of forged or counterfeit stamps he is probably better known for his large number of bogus local stamps and labels, many of them listing fictitious companies. Attempts have been made to catalogue his prolific production of these which are said to be excess of 700, the overwhelming majority of them being American. Taylor’s interest in local adhesive stamps was apparently piqued after viewing the collection of John Nutter from Montreal. A particular advantage of these, from Taylor’s perspective, was that they could be issued by private carriers and freight companies.

In 1865 Nutter designed a local stamp Fig. 10 & 11 enlarge for a Montreal company, The Bancroft City Express (Fig 10). However, it was never apparently used. Taylor decided to forge the Nutter essay thus beginning his career in bogus locals (Fig 11). A number of other locals “from” Montreal including Bells Dispatch and Ker’s City Post were also produced (Fig 12-14).

Taylor catered to a large group of collectors who could purchase his “stamps” at affordable prices. Often he would add a “postmark” for authenticity. He is famously quoted as saying “My stamps are better than the originals.” Contemporary reports state that he had a keen sense of humour. It appears that he stopped working as a stamp dealer in about 1905. Samuel Allan Taylor, the producer of bogus stamps and known in his heyday as the “Master Grafter” and leader of the “Boston Gang” died in Waltham, Massachusetts in 1913. Figure 15 is a envelope from Taylor’s shop, whilst Figure 16 is a label he produced with his image.

Taylor and his bogus locals have generated a lot of interest amongst collectors. A philatelic society, the S. Allan Taylor Society, dedicated to studying the productions of Taylor was in existence between 1971 and 1980. A scan of the essay from the Society’s label is shown (Figure 17).

For those interested in reading more about Samuel Taylor, I would recommend ‘Caveat Emptor’: The Life and Works of S. Allan Taylor, Vol 15, No 2, Second Quarter 1966, Philatelic Literature Review, No. 51 Second Series by Jan Kindler.

from The Guideline – Vol. LXXXVI, No. 06. June 2016

Scroll to Top