Eagle StampsJanuary 4, 2010
After seeing references to Eagle Stamps on ghost signs around town, I became curious as to what they were.
Yahoo Answers helped a little bit.
Trading stamps got their start in department stores at the end of the 19th century, which owned the stamp plans they used. Schuster’s Department Store in Milwaukee is usually credited with being the first. Other chains with stamps included May (May Co. in Cleveland and its Famous Barr chain in St. Louis–which used them for decades until the early/mid-80s; [...] May’s Eagle stamps were one of the few proprietary stamp plans to spread beyond a dept store—it was estimated that 90% of households in the Cleveland area saved them during the 60s & 70s–they also were given by Pick-n-Pay super markets, the Leader Drug coop and numerous gas stations and dry cleaners.
Unfortunately these references refer mostly to Cleveland’s Eagle Stamps like this wonderful story from a Woman remembering her childhood in Cleveland. Luckily, more wading through Google search results was fruitful. I found ads referencing Eagle Stamps from Salt Lake City in the Deseret News, to St. Louis circa 1904.
I finally found a good written account of Eagle Stamps in St. Louis in an interview of Sam Bellamy, a longtime resident of Dogtown.
Sam’s father first had a “filling station” at the wedge of Wise and Clayton, and he was one of the first merchants to give Eagle Stamps. For those of you too young to know, a buyer was given Eagle Stamps as a percentage of the purchase. For a $1.00 purchase you might get one eagle stamp, I can’t recall the rate, it might have been one for each dime spent. There were small books and you accumulated eagle stamps. Then there was a catalog and catalog store where you could redeem your stamps for goods. One of the things the nearly every kid did was to cadge eagle stamps from the adults, easier to get out of them than money. The Eagle Stamp Company knew this and had lots of kids good in their catalog.
Last night, I ate dinner with my parents and asked my Father about Eagle Stamps. He told me that he remembered Famous Barr giving them out and his mother saving them up in books. What an interesting piece of history!