Perkins Bacon
Messrs. Perkins, Bacon & Co was a printer
Printer (publisher)
In publishing, printers are both companies providing printing services and individuals who directly operate printing presses. With the invention of the moveable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around 1450, printing—and printers—proliferated throughout Europe.Today, printers are found...

 of books, bank notes and postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

s, most notable for printing the Penny Black
Penny Black
The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in Britain on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year....

, the world's first adhesive postage stamps, in 1840.


Jacob Perkins
Jacob Perkins
Jacob Perkins was an Anglo-American inventor, mechanical engineer and physicist. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Perkins was apprenticed to a goldsmith...

 was a successful inventor who additionally invented and sold "soft steel" plates for engraving that were hardened after being engraved. The plates were between one and three inches thick, and some weighed fifty pounds. He produced some currency in the USA, and with engraver Gideon Fairman produced the first books to be engraved on steel in the USA. Several eight-page books Perkin's and Fairmans' Running Hand. They produced currency for Massachusetts, and had won the contract for the new USA's National Bank's currency. They were from Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...


Jacob Perkins was enticed to come to England by Charles Heath
Charles Heath
Charles Theodosius Heath was an English engraver, currency and stamp printer, book publisher and illustrator.-Life and work:...

, because of all the world's currency, Perkins's notes were considered the best. He arrived with Gideon Fairman and Asa Spencer and set up shop as Perkins and Fairman in London, and worked exclusively for several months on the attempt to win the Bank of England project. After a few months, Perkins was indebted to the Heaths for a small sum. Perkins and Fairman added Charles Heath as a partner, and moved their shop to 69 Fleet Street. Charles Heath at times owned half the company.

Jacob Perkins, Gideon Fairman, George Heath (financial contribution only), and Charles Heath formed "Perkins, Fairman, and Heath". They produced some books, stamps, one-pound notes for English banks, and currency. The stamps were the first stamps in the world to have adhesive. Jacob Perkins and Charles Heath also had other successful businesses going at the same time.

Perkins and Charles Heath were not as successful with their finances. They did have good accounting of any debts to the company, and shares sold between themselves, and percentage ownership of every project.

Brief Timeline

  • 1808-1810 Jacob Perkins and Gideon Fairman produce the first known books in the USA to use steel plates.
  • ~1816 Jacob Perkins has "soft steel" plates to engrave on, and a method to harden the plates, and a process.
  • 1818 (April 15), Heath discussed the American bank notes printed by Perkins at the Society of Arts Committee on Forgery.
  • Bank of England was offering a £20,000 prize for unforgeable notes.
  • 1819 (May 31) Perkins sets sail for England after communicating with Charles Heath.
  • 1819 (June 29) Perkins arrives in Liverpool, England.
  • 1819 (July) Sir Joseph Banks met with Perkins.
  • 1819 (December 20) The Heath's join Perkins and Fairman forming Perkins, Fairman and Heath.
  • 1819 George Heath provides some financial backing only.
  • 1820 (Feb) Bank of England chooses another solution, but other business follows, including £1 notes and stamps.
  • 1820 (Feb) Perkins among other ventures, goes into the book publishing business with the Heaths and Fairman.
  • 1820 (summer) Perkins Fairman and Heath move to 69 Fleet Street, London.
  • 1820 (September) Perkins had sold 1,000 plates he had intended to use on the Bank of England project.
  • 1822 Perkins and Heath
  • 1829 Perkins and Bacon. Joshua Butters Bacon ( Perkin's son in law), buys Heaths interest.
  • 1834-1852 Perkins, Bacon & Petch (Henry Petch was an engraver, who was also made a partner).
  • 1839 Perkins Bacon and Co is asked to make plates and dies for stamps. (Penny Black was their first stamp).

There is an overlap of Perkins, Bacon & Petch and Perkins, Bacon and Co, not all business ventures included all partners and percent ownership is detailed as changing as shares were bought and sold between partners, and money was loaned to partners from the company. Additionally, Charles Heath had many other individual business ventures, as did Perkins. Heath and Perkins had numerous talents, and successes, however, they routinely had financial problems. Fortunately, the accounting was very good. Charles Heath had professional relationships with several people that spanned decades.


England was offering a prize of £20,000 for a note which was impossible to forge. Heath contacted Perkins and convinced him to come to England and Perkins arrived in Liverpool in 1819. They produced samples to Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Commission on Forgery, and it appeared that they would win. They did not. Perkins started showing signs of financial distress and was in a minor debt to the Heaths. They did manage to secure smaller contracts for smaller L 1 notes, and later get more government contracts, but in the meantime they started publishing.
George Heath, Charles Heath, Jacob Perkins, and Gideon Fairman had multiple parterships, and individual projects going on at the same time. George Heath was a financial backer only. Charles Heath was an engraver, a book publisher. Jacob Perkins was an inventor who made steel book plates practical (but not cheaper). Fairman had produced a book with Perkins in the USA.
Financial difficulties of one or the other partners had at least one of them in debt to the company at any moment in time, and the accounting records from these guys is confusing, but very business like. Their percentage of profits of any venture, changed often.

By 1822 it was known as "Perkins & Heath", then in 1829, after a complicated transaction in which Heath gave up his shares and Joshua Butters Bacon (Perkin's son in law) bought in, as "Perkins & Bacon". Henry Petch joined in 1835, and thus the firm printing the first stamps was actually known as "Perkins, Bacon & Petch". The Penny Black printing plates
Penny black printing plates
The printing plates for the Penny Black, two pence blue and the VR official were all constructed by Perkins Bacon, the printers of the first postage stamps issued in Great Britain....

 are currently on display at the British Library
British Library
The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom, and is the world's largest library in terms of total number of items. The library is a major research library, holding over 150 million items from every country in the world, in virtually all known languages and in many formats,...

. When Petch died in 1852, the firm became just "Perkins, Bacon".

In 1861 they (temporarily) lost the contract to print stamps as a punishment for giving copies of new issues away to friends of the management without permission from the governments involved. Although, Heath had won another court battle which gave engravers the right to retain 8 impressions of any engraving, this right did not extend to currency or stamps.
They completed their printing contract for the line-engraved stamps on 31 December 1879, losing subsequent business to competitor De La Rue
De La Rue
De La Rue plc is a British security printing, papermaking and cash handling systems company headquartered in Basingstoke, Hampshire. It also has a factory on the Team Valley Trading Estate, Gateshead, and other facilities at Loughton, Essex and Bathford, Somerset...


In addition to British stamps, Perkins, Bacon printed for a number of the colonies, including the first stamps of the Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa.There is a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa, because it was once believed to be the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the...

, which were printed in 1853.

In 1935 the firm went out of business and its records were acquired by Charles and Harry Nissen
Charles Nissen
Charles Nissen was a philatelist, and stamp dealer who discovered the famous stock exchange forgery and wrote, with Bertram McGowan, the definitive book on the plating of the Penny Black.-The Royal Philatelic Collection:...

 and Thomas Allen. The records were subsequently transferred to the Royal Philatelic Society London where Percy de Worms
Percy de Worms
Percy George de Worms was an eminent British philatelist who was admitted to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 1928.- Philatelic life :...

 organised them for publication.

Further reading

  • de Worms, Percy. Perkins Bacon Records, Royal Philatelic Society London, 1953. (Two volumes published posthumously. Ed. John Easton
    John Easton
    John Easton was a political leader in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, devoting decades to public service before eventually becoming Governor of the colony. Born in Hampshire, England, he sailed to New England with his widowed father and older brother, settling in Ipswich...

    and Arnold Strange).
  • Hunnisett, Basil. Engraved on Steel, Ashgate, 1998.

External links

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