Dr. Kilmer & Company Provisionals

In his article on Antikamnia Chemical Company, Henry Holcombe wrote the following: "The sinking of the United States battleship "Maine" in Havana harbor on the night of February 15, 1898 precipitated the Spanish-American War, declared by Spain on April 24th and by this country the next day.

"It took Congress about six weeks to pass the bill known as the 'U.S. Revenue War Bill of 1898' which was entitled 'An Act to Provide Ways and Means to Meet War Expenditures and for Other Purposes,' effective July 1, 1898. One provision of the new law required that all proprietary medicines be taxed and a stamp affixed to each box or bottle as evidence the tax had been paid.

"Meanwhile the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington had anticipated the emergency and begun work on the dies, rolls, plates, etc., from which were to come the "Battleship" Documentary and Proprietary revenue stamps. However, it was very soon evident the stamps could not be printed and distributed by the effective date. Even provisional overprints of the postage stamps then current would not suffice to bridge the gap."

One of the companies that was concerned about having stamps to put on its products was Doctor Kilmer & Company, purveyors of Swamp Root Tonic and other similar nostrums. Postage stamps were being overprinted with I.R. to serve as documentary stamps, but nothing similar was being done for proprietary items. The company decided to buy postage stamps, overpaying the amount of tax in each instance, and have them overprinted for their use. They did so, and gave the government a strict accounting of the taxes covered.

The government was not amused, as the payment went into the postage account rather than the tax coffers. They told the Kilmer Company to get the stamps off the bottles or face prosecution. The stamps were soaked off with some trouble, so as not to also remove the labels on the bottles.

One, two and three cent definitive stamps were used. There are three basic types of Kilmer overprints as well.

The first type has a tall "I.R." and larger text in general.

The second type has smaller type, and serifs on the text. A good place to see this is on the "K" in "Kilmer."

The third type uses sans-serif letters.

Varieties are known, such as this inverted imprint.

A Kilmer advertising card showing a bedside medical consultation and a view of the factory in Binghamton, New York. The back tells the benefits of Prompt Parilla Liver Pills - "As a Cathartic these Pills, in doses of 2 to 4 operate thoroughly."

Samples of the battleship revenues that Kilmer used. There are font varieties on these as well.

A 1901 cover showing views of the lavish sanatarium that the Kilmers built near Binghamton, New York. It also bears a picture of Dr. S. Andral Kilmer, founder of the company.