Perkins Bacon

From Stamps of the World

This was printed from an original plate in 1936

Jacob Perkins (1766-1849) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts and was apprenticed to a goldsmith. In 1790 he developed the Stereotype process for transferring an image from one copper (master) plate to another and by 1799 had mastered the process on steel by using case hardening. In 1809 he won the contract to produce banknotes for Massachusetts. In 1815 he joined the firm of Murray, Fairman and Draper. During this time he bought the patents for various engraving machines and developed his own patents for the case hardening of steel and the transfer process for copying images.
He also was a successful inventor, inventing a nail making machine and a High Pressure fire pump.
In 1819 he moved to London at the suggestion of Sir Charles Bagot, the British Ambassador to America, to pitch for the printing of banknotes for the Bank of England. This was a major undertaking as he brought with him a substantial amount of his equipment and his team of Engravers (Gidion Fairman and Charles Toppan), Engineer (Asa Spencer) and Printers. Charles Heath (who was British) joined them soon after and the business was initially called Perkins, Fairman and Heath with premises at 69 Fleet St.
The various engraving machines worked like a spirograph. Once the engraving machine settings were altered it was almost impossible to replicate the engraving. The resulting engravings were case hardened and put onto transfer rollers which were also hardened and then used under great pressure to build up the final plate.

a transfer roller
showing how the impression was laid down

Images with permission of the Spear Museum of Philatelic History at the Royal Philatelic Society London

The competition entry to provide banknotes was unsuccessful despite steel plate printing being cheaper as the plate lasted longer.

Engravings used in the failed bid for banknotes
for further examples of engine turning see the end of the page.

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From the report to the Bank of England
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In 1821 Joshua Bacon (who was Perkins Son in Law) joined and in 1822 Fairman left, making the company Perkins and Heath, but in 1829 Bacon bought out Heath's share and it became Perkins and Bacon. Although unsuccessful in printing banknotes for the Bank of England PB became the 1830's largest printer of labels, banknotes, cheques, playing cards and share certificates ( for images see below).Jacob Perkins became less interested in printing and used money for the development of steam engines, bakery ovens, refrigeration and even a steam powered machine gun! This led to cash-flow problems and in 1834 Petch joined making the firm Perkins Bacon and Petch and JED Bethune became a shareholder. (Bethune introduced Hill to Bacon in 1839). The firm became Perkins Bacon and Co in 1839.
Rowland Hill understood the intricacies of printing having himself invented and patented a printing machine that took advantage of paper produced in rolls, a method pioneered in Britain by Dickinson.
Hill, after the competition of 1839 (which PB had not entered), asked Perkins Bacon and Petch to design the "Postal adhesive label"
The detail from the top image was selected as the background for the Penny Black and Two Penny Blue.

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GB 1841 2d Blue Plate 3 Dp43.jpg

An area was cleared to allow Charles Heath and his son Frederick to engrave the Queens head from a drawing by Henry Carbould of the William Wyon head see William Wyon.

Numerous engraving masters (see below) were produced and later some were selected for stamp design.

Stated to be Natal on sample sheet

1851 Bacon had a stroke and Bethune died.
1852 Petch died and the company became Perkins Bacon and co.
1862 PB lost the contract with the Colonial office after Ormond Hill managed to persuade Josua Bacon to give him un-issued colonial stamps which were cancelled by PB and found their way into the fledgling stamp collecting market.
Bacon died in 1863. In 1880 it was decided to print all GB stamps using Surface Printing and De La Rue printed all GB stamps.
In 1904 moved to Southwark bridge.
The firm became bankrupt in 1935 and a substantial amount of archives and printing plates were acquired by Charles Nissen. They were later donated to the Royal Philatelic Society London [1]

Examples of engraving

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1: Historical overview written by James Heath in 1913
2: Sir E D Bacon. The Line Engraved Postage stamps of Great Britain Printed by Perkins Bacon & Co. 1920
3: G Granzow FPSL Line Engraved Security Printing: the Methods of Perkins Bacon 1790-1935 Banknotes and Stamps.ISBN-978-0-900631-61-0