Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III

"The Prince of Forgers", "The Price of Rogues," : The Bizarre Life of Either a Snake Oil Salesman or a Sociopath.

Fig. 1. Photograph of Samuel Allan Taylor circa 1881 at age 43 at Boston, Massachusetts, published in Stamps, July 4, 1942, page 17, originally published in Charles MeKeel's "Pioneer Stamp Dealers" as figure No. 7, in Philatelic Journal of America (1905)


Samuel Allan Taylor (1838-1913), was born on February 22, 1838, at Irvine, Ayrshire, Scotland, son of Duncan Taylor and Agnes Douglas Taylor

Preliminary Remarks

Citing Jamieson's opening commentary to his seminal article on Taylor sets a good tone for any writer or reader interested in this colorful character of philatelic history.

It's easy to write a success story. All you have to do is set down the facts and lead up to the climax, where your subject becomes famous. Then you enlarge a bit, leaving your hero there on the pinnacle of fame. My story is not that kind. It is a recital of events concerning a man of much interest to stamp collectors everywhere. But Samuel Allan Taylor's story is about a man who has been variously described -- perhaps as the "the prince of forgers" is as good as any.

R. A. Jamieson, "Samuel Allan Taylor," Stamps, July 4, 1942, page 17-20.

Samuel Allan Taylor was forced into a hard upbringing as a tough street kid who had to learn the ropes to fend for himself and survive. Learning the wiles of being streetwise he grew into one of the most fascinating snake oil salesmen selling stamps, real and not with long yarns to fetch a price sufficient enough to purchase his next meal. He was sort of a Del Griffith (John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles), a traveling salesman peddling shower curtain hooks at an airport to raise funds to get home. He did this with a certain sense of humor, not to be malicious but prankish hustling a living in a self created, self made career as an authority on stamps especially those of his own making. His younger imitator Henry Chapman Needham (q.v.), did so from another motive, perhaps malicious where Taylor clearly was not.

We cite R. J. Sutton, The Stamp Collector's Encyclopaedia, 6th edition revised by K. W. Anthony (1966) :

A notorious producer of bogus stamps, known as 'the Master Grafter' and leader of the 'Boston Gang'. He was at the height of his fraudulent career in the period 1863-70, and for one of his productions, a fictitious U. S. local,

used his own portrait in the design! Among his more audacious frauds was to add his own 10¢. value to the then current issue of Prince Edward Island, and to produce a stamp for Paraguay at a time when stamps had not been

introduced into that country. He was also responsible for the Stamp Collector's Record, the first philatelic publication in North America, which appeared for the first time in February 1864 and ran for more than forty numbers.

1. His Early Life 1838-1860 : Scotland to New York

He was a displaced seven year old child in 1845, when an unwitting step-father made him sleep in the barn where he was kicked in the chin by a horse scarring him for life. To conceal the ugly scar he grew a goatee. Two years later his stepfather sent him to live with an uncle. The boy ran away and became a street urchin. In time a medical doctor took him in as a son giving him a home and education. In 1853 age fifteen he worked as a messenger boy for New York telegraph companies. Over the course of the next six years his knowledge and experience as a messenger boy together with learning the history of local posts and carriers from the other messengers who worked that trade began to cook up an idea in his mind that became the "Hourly Express Post". Jamieson tells us Taylor began collecting local posts in 1857. He probably did so as a messenger of that industry himself asking for the otherwise discarded franked envelope or simply retrieving them from the ground or waste bin.

Fig. Eleven days before his twenty-first birthday Taylor was arrested for postal scamming the public with his bogus "Hourly Express Post". New York Times, Friday, February 11, 1859, page 5.

If we are to believe Taylor invented this idea of delivering his own circular door to door peddling them as special messages sent by Windrow & Day collecting a cent each time then he was a petty thief and criminal genius of the amusing and almost Vaudevillian sort of confidence man reminiscent of Robert Redford in his 1973 role as Johnny Hooker in The Sting. Associating Taylor with another popular icon from American cinema history we note he posses qualities like those of the renown character William Claude Dunkenfield, whose stage name W. C. Fields evokes images of the classic icon of used car salesmen.

2. His Canadian Period 1861-1864

In 1861, he lived in Montreal, Canada. He worked as a clerk in a drug store, probably as a delivery boy at age 23.

He was engaged to be married to Rachel McMillan.

On August 2, 1862, Rachel died of tuberculosis. Taylor becomes attached to Rachel's girlfriend Frances "Fannie" Mathieson.

Taylor had a redeeming side to his character that studied and kept focused especially in his philatelic collecting and dealing activities. He had a genuine interest in stamp collecting and its study. He struggled as a dealer not being able to support himself in that trade. He found another way to increase his living in that line of work by creating forgeries of every kind and selling them as authentic antiques to collectors who could not possibly have known, in many cases, that they were fakes or fictitious fabrications.

About 1862, he traded stamps with John Appleton Nutter at Montreal, who owned the first stamp collection Taylor had ever seen. The event kindled within him the passion to collect, trade, and sell. It was afterwards learning of the rise in interest and collecting of obsolete messenger or dispatch post stamps that Taylor together with Nutter began their first venture into fabricating a fictions local carrier stamp known as the Bancroft's City Express, Montreal Canada, printed largely on wove paper. The stamp bears his self portrait in a central oval posed as Mr. Bancroft.

The 1864 version, formerly thought to be the original design by Nutter of Bancroft, appears to bear the side profile portrait of Old Honest Abe Lincoln. These were certainly designed and printed for amusement. Do we really believe a contemporary collector could not recognize Taylor's self portrait as Bancroft with him selling you one face to face? The Lincoln portrait might be another matter, which is when cooking up a cock and bull story certainly fits the facts more conveniently. Regardless, Taylor and Nutter advertised selling these in April 1, "April Fool's" 1865 in the Stamp Collector's Monthly Gazette. Also, in the April 3, 1865 edition of the Stamp Collector's Record. This obvious April Fool's Day joke was taken seriously. The following year the Bancroft's City Express was included as a legitimate local carrier stamp in Dr. Gray's Catalogue of Postage Stamps (1866) edition. (see Larry Lyons, The Identifier For Carriers, Locals, Fakes, Forgeries and Bogus Posts of the United States, Vol. 1. pages 50-51.)

Fig. The Stamp Collector's Record, Vol. 1, No. 1, February 15, 1864, Montreal, Canada.

3. His Second New York Era 1864-1865

During the Summer 1864 he arrived in New York and met the young stamp dealer Joseph Casey.

At least by November/December 1864, he lived at 118 Bearer Street, Albany, New York.

His first Albany issue of The Stamp Collector's Record, is dated December15, 1864.

Kers City Post, Bogus 7 in blue. See Larry Lyons, The Identifier For Carriers, Locals, Fakes, Forgeries and Bogus Posts of the United States, Vol. 2. pages 726-732.

Taylor created his fictitious fabrication of Kers City Post probably a double entendre jest on either New Yorkers City Post or Yonkers City Post, and the Scottish surname of the Clan Kerr with the Tartan plaid corners. Self-portrait at age 26.

He married Frances "Fannie" Mathieson (1848-1892), a native of Scotland whom Taylor knew in Montreal. They eloped to Albany where they married. They had three children Fannie (1867-), and Robert (1877-)

The 1872 Cambridge City Directory list him as a postage Stamp Dealer.


4. First Boston Period - September 1865 - September 1872

In 1865 he published The Stamp Collector's Record, and also The Excelsior Album, a scrapbook for collecting stamps, at a new address in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1866, he began to form a circle of early stamp dealers and forgers at Boston including Ferdinand Marie Trifet, J. M. Chute, Fred A. Washburne, Charles A. Lyford, C. M. Seltz, Frederick H. King, Frost, Philip Spiro, and George Stewart, known infamously as the so-called "Boston Gang".

In 1866 (3rd edition) and again in 1868 (4th edition) he revised The Boston Album, compiled by M. Bennett, Jr.

In 1871, Taylor published A Price List of Postage Stamps, A Guide to Collectors of the Postage Stamps of the World, 81 Washington Street, Boston.


5. His Third New York Period 1872-1877

In 1875, he worked on Nassau Street, New York City, with a residence in Brooklyn.

In 1876, he had an exhibit of Jacob's Oil at the Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia.

In 1876, Taylor is said to have served as a witness in the trial of John A. Wilson, James Davidson, Giovanni Petroni and Carlo Covini of the Philadelphia-Camden Gang manufacturing fake foreign stamps, at Philadelphia. However, the name of the witness published in the newspapers is Samuel W. Hines.

6. His Second Boston Reign 1877-1910

In 1877, he removed to Boston, Massachusetts.

Fig. Taylor worked for the city of Boston as a nightwatchman on the wharf. On the early morning of September 2, 1878, Taylor was connected with the death of a nightwatchman said to have drowned. He was released since they accepted his story, but one wonders. This event cannot be disregarded too hastily and might reveal a nefarious side of a darker and more frightening nature than we at first suspect. There is no objective way of analyzing this matter any further. It is a piece of information to store away in the event more of this ilk surfaces. The Boston Globe, Monday, September 2, 1878, page 4.

From 1879-1880 he had an office at 209 Washington Street, Boston.

In 1880, he lived at 63 Warwick Street, Boston, Massachusetts.

Snake Oil à la Taylor Marketed As : St. Jacob's Oil

In November of 1880 he was the flimflam man behind St. Jacob's Oil, calling himself Colonel Samuel A. Taylor of Washington, Indiana, a lawyer. A lengthy advertisement was published in the Philadelphia newspaper The Times, on Monday November 22, 1880 on page 2 with a testimonial from a Rt. Reverend Bishop Gilmour of Cleveland, Ohio, and others, most probably all fictitious. Once again the flamboyant circus master surfaces with his new Vaudeville act hawking the miraculous St. Jacob's Oil.

In June 1887 he became a fugitive of justice having fled Boston under indictment and $300 bonds.

Beginning in 1881 Taylor kept a stamp shop at 24 Congress Street, Boston. This is the same address as T. R. Marvin.

Fig. 5. Photograph of Samuel Allan Taylor circa 1910 at Waltham, Massachusetts, published in Stamps, July 4, 1942, page 18.

From 1888 - 1897 the Boston City Directory lists him as a show card painter living at 107 Poplar Street.

Fig. November 1890, Taylor is arrested and charged with counterfeiting foreign postage stamps, a crime that could be punishable with 5 years imprisonment and $500 in fines. Boston Daily Advertiser, Friday, November 21, 1890, page 2.

Fannie Taylor leaves her husband and removes to Nova Scotia.

In September 1892, he filed a complaint against patrolman Berry for becoming too intimate with his daughter.

He worked as a theater attendant in the afternoon but earlier as a dispensing clerk at Boston Hospital.

In his final years he worked as a sign painter.

We read Taylor's reminiscences in The London Philatelist, May 1904 :

“I do not think that any German, Frenchman, Swede, Russian, Turk, or Southern European heathen of any kind is entitled to more than a smile of pity from Englishmen when he attempts to discover anything concerned with Philately or anything else in English printed literature. . . . The earliest notice in print on this side is, as far as I have ever seen, a paragraph in November, 1860, which states that youngsters were collecting the stamps of different nations. This appeared in a monthly periodical called Littell's Living Age, published here in Boston. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the Rebel States quickly issued stamps for themselves—special ones first like Mobile, New Orleans, Nashville, etc. These were counterfeited by a Philadelphia firm, and were reproduced in sheets of six (i.e. six of a kind) and sold by newsboys in the street and in stationers’ stores, not at all as philatelic treasures, but as curiosities of the Rebels. They sold some half dozen sheets for 10c. The words ‘Facsimile Rebel Postage Stamp, printed by S. C. Upham, Philadelphia,’ were printed in small type on each sheet. This thing was largely instrumental in bringing stamp-collecting into vogue.

The first person who sold stamps as a business was a man named James Brennan, who opened a small office (a very small place, not over 10 feet square) at 37 Nassau Street, New York, in 1863. He published a list, the type, style, size, etc., having been copied from one printed by James Robinson, of Liverpool. This was a foolscap size, 4 pp. thing, but the prices were filled in with the pen.

Before that one A.C. Kline, now dead, of Philadelphia, had issued a ‘Manual,’ a copy of Mount Brown’s first issue merely. Kline was a dealer in antiques, old coins, armour, firearms, etc., and stamps were only a small portion of his business. He kept a quite good-sized store on the ground floor.

Another person, Wm. P. Brown, 212, Broadway, New York, who is still in existence, and who then, as now, was more of a coin dealer and authority than a stamp man, sold stamps, but only through the medium of the mail, not having any office, he being a printer in a weekly newspaper office (of which his father, a distinguished clergyman, was editor). I believe that for some time he had a stand attached to the railing of the City Hall Park, as also had another man named John Bailey, but the business was largely coins and odd things, even military buttons. No one then knew what stamps existed, until the manuals of Mount Brown, Baillieu, Potiquet, and others appeared. This was all in New York, of course. J.W. Scott, who is a native of London, came to New York in 1863, he being then a lad of fifteen years. He came across Brown at his stand and made exchanges in stamps with him, but shortly after left New York and went to California.

I was in Montreal from 1860 to 1864. I had gathered some ten or a dozen foreign stamps as far back as 1857-8, France, England, and one 10 gr. Hanover; but I never saw or heard of any collectors until 1862, when I chanced to see the collection (probably forty or so) of a man named A. Nutter, and I made exchanges with him for local stamps, as I (having been brought up in New York) knew where the local stamps or posts were. I left Canada in 1864, and after a short time abandoned the druggist business and came to Boston, and have been here ever since. J.W. Scott I never heard of until 1867; the previous account of him I got from W.P. Brown. You can depend on it that no other dealer was earlier than James Brennan in 1863 . . . "

In 1906, he was a patient in the Holy Ghost Hospital, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

7. Final Period - Waltham, Massachusetts 1910-1913

In 1910, he is confined to the local sanitarium, Waltham, Massachusetts.

At Waltham, Massachusetts, his residence was 450 Moody Street.

He died of apoplexy on February 1, 1913, at the local sanitarium, Waltham, Massachusetts. He is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Everett, Massachusetts.

S. Allan Taylor Society 1971 - 1980

Cinderella printed by the Society.

Bibliography :

Albany City Directory, 1865

Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, October 21, 187, page 3

U. S. Census 1880

Philatelic Fortnightly, Vol. 1, No. 5 (June 7, 1887) : 3

Warren Hale, The Collector's Club Philatelist, Vol. 13, No. 3 (1934-1936)

Ralph Kimble, The American Philatelist (1936)

Alvin Fay Harlow, Paper Chase : The Amenities of Stamp Collecting (Henry Holt, 1940).

R. A. Jamieson, "Samuel Allan Taylor," Stamps, Vol. 41, July 4 (1942) : 17-20.

Sidvin F. Tucker, “Taylor's Shadow Takes Form," Stamps, Vol. 41, December 8 (1942) : 339-46

W. J. Eckhardt, "The Boston Forgeries," Stamps, February 21 (1948) : 319

R. J. Sutton, The Stamp Collector's Encyclopaedia, 6th edition revised by K. W. Anthony (1966)

Ian Kimberly, About Stamps, The Ottawa Citizen, Saturday, June 2, 1979, page 60

Ralph Mitchener, "Nutter of Montreal is Mentioned as an Early Canadian Philatelist, The Ottawa Citizen, Saturday, March 1, 1986, page 123

Varro A. Tyler, Philatelic Forgers : Their Lives and Works (1991)

Larry Lyons, The Identifier For Carriers, Locals, Fakes, Forgeries and Bogus Posts of the United States, 3 Volumes (1998)

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