Sunday, September 9, 2012

Vintage poster stamps from Highland Linen Writing Paper

These poster stamps were pasted, decades ago, into a small notepad that I recently picked up at the great antiques store in York New Salem.1 The five colorful stamps measure 1½ inches wide by 1¾ inches.

A poster stamp is defined by Wikipedia as:
" advertising label, a little larger than most postage stamps, that originated in the mid-19th century and quickly became a collecting craze, growing in popularity up until World War One and then declining by World War Two."
Poster stamps are a subset in the larger category of Cinderella stamps, which encompass not just advertising, but anything resembling a postage stamp but not issued or intended for postal purposes.2

They are fondly referred to as "Cinderella stamps" because, just as Cinderella was not allowed to attend the ball, these non-postal stamps are usually not considered acceptable for inclusion in official stamp shows.

There is a lot of great information out there about poster stamps and Cinderella stamps. Here are a few links to get you rolling:

These Highland Linen Writing Paper stamps promote the fun and enjoyment of writing letters.3 There are quotations purportedly from Miguel de Cervantes ("Visit me with thy merrie words — they cheer my soul") and Benjamin Franklin ("Tis as much a pleasure to write thy friend as have they friend write thee").

Other stamps state "letters are the fuel in the fire of friendship" and "half a page rather than no letter."

Most of the references that I find for Highland Linen Writing Paper are from the time period of roughly 1900 to 1930. I don't know much about it, or Eaton's Highland Linen, beyond that.

I did find the following anecdote in a 1908 issue of Printer' Ink:
"When you go away on your vacation drop a box of Highland Linen paper in your trunk. When you write a letter never apologize for the paper you use! Have the kind of paper that requires no apology — rather that kind that will elicit comments on your good taste. Highland Linen is a refined paper for refined people, and it is usually found on every desk that sends out good letter writing — a paper that neither absorbs the ink nor trips the pen." From an advertisement of Dives, Pomeroy & Stewart, Harrisburg, Pa.

Some Highland Linen poster stamps, in much more pristine condition than the ones I have shown here, can still be purchased on eBay. You can find them by doing a search for "Highland Linen".

1. The owner of the York New Salem store, John Robinson, wrote a little about himself and his store in a 2007 letter to the York Sunday News. An excerpt:
"I now own a former general store and post office building (W.A.H. Schwartz's). I am also owner of a former soda fountain pump cabinet from the Haines shoe house, when Dave Keller owned it. I bought it from him, and now use it for my kitchen sink."
2. Other types of Cinderella stamps include "tax paid" stamps, license stamps, trading stamps (such as those needed to purchase items from the 1967 Top Value Stamps catalog), and Christmas and Easter seals.
3. In 2009, Psychology Today published an article titled "Does Anyone Write Letters Anymore?"


  1. One of my fondest memories of my Grandmother's house involves "Cinderella Stamps". She saved Christmas Seals -- and various other stickers that used to be common with junk mail marketing campaigns -- in a shoe box in her dining room closet. When we visited 3 or 4 times per year, she would give me the box and a stack of notebook paper and I was in sticker heaven :)

  2. these are really neat; thank you for the explanation of Cinderella stamps, and for showcasing these tiny pieces of art! My Grandma saved postage stamps, Easter seals, and Christmas seals (now I know what they're called- cool!) in small ring-bound leather notebooks. I have fond memories of when I got to help out by gluing her newest cache of stamps into the notebook. She passed away a number of years ago; I now possess those notebooks full of stamps, and I cherish them.