DCSIMG

Commerce: The Chinese Bureau of Engraving and Printing

经贸—度支部印刷局

Dr. Chen Jintao
Dr. Chen Jintao
Courtesy Library of Congress
Dr. Chen Jintao
Courtesy Library of Congress

In the early 1900s, the Qing government decided to print its currency and postage stamps in China. Dr. Chen Jintao, the Yale-educated vice president of the Board of Finance, recommended building a security printing plant on the American model, using U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing methods to thwart counterfeiters.

Chen hired Washington architects Milburn, Heister & Company to design the eleven-building plant in Beijing. The cost, over $5 million, included shipping expenses for U.S. construction supplies, machinery, and equipment. The Chinese Bureau of Engraving and Printing first printed currency at the complex in 1913 and still does so today.

Specifications for a Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the Chinese Government to be Erected in Peking, China can be read online.

Design for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the Chinese Government
Design for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the Chinese Government
Design for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for the Chinese
Government
Main building of the former Chinese Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Beijing
Today the main building of the former Chinese Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Beijing is part of China Banknote Printing and Minting Corporation.
Today the main building of the former Chinese Bureau of Engraving and
Printing in Beijing is part of China Banknote Printing and Minting
Corporation.

The Qing government also hired two American engravers to establish a Chinese Bureau of Engraving and Printing so that China could produce its own stamps and currency. Lorenzo J. Hatch and William A. Grant moved to Beijing with their families in 1908. Working through plague and revolution, they started the bureau, trained Chinese staff, and designed early Republic of China stamps.

Materials from Grant's personal collection illustrate this Chinese and American exchange of ideas, images, and technology. Highlights include artwork; stamp designs or "essays"; and "die proofs"—proofs of the metal dies on which stamp designs are engraved. His son-in-law donated the collection to the Smithsonian Institution. The National Postal Museum has a online finding guide for the entire collection.

Lorenzo J. Hatch
Lorenzo J. Hatch
Lorenzo J. Hatch

Lorenzo J. Hatch (1856-1914) had worked at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the International Bank Note Company. William A. Grant (1868-1954) had been head of the engraving room at American Bank Note Company. They traveled to China with siderographer Evan S. Stokes, engraver John J. Gilfoil, and lathe expert W.E. Dickinson. According to philatelist and piano maker Theodore Steinway in a letter dated December 3, 1945, to the Grant family, there are about 250 stamps of China from the Grant and Hatch designs, including all of the overprints (George W. Brett Papers and Documents at the National Postal Museum).

The Lorenzo James Hatch and Hatch family papers, 1902-1937 are available for viewing on the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution website.

On November 22, 1911, Lorenzo J. Hatch wrote, "We are witnessing one of the most remarkable events in the history of the world—almost a bloodless revolution of three hundred million people.”

The Hatch and Grant families at dinner
The Hatch and Grant families at dinner
Courtesy Bureau of Engraving and Printing
The Hatch and Grant families at dinner
Courtesy Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Working in China, Hatch and Grant designed, engraved, and supervised production of currency and revenue and postage stamps for the Qing and Republic governments. Hatch died in China in 1914; Grant returned home in 1928. Here, Hatch and his wife Grace are seated at left; at right, from the back forward, are Grace's sister Effie and the Hatches' son Harrizson, the Grants’ daughter Delnoce, and Grant and his wife.

William A. Grant took photographs during his tenure in China and a couple of these provided source information for stamp designs. The Grant Stereoscopic Slides of China, 1908-1915, are at the University of New Hampshire Library with an online finding guide.

Officials rejected the first Republic of China stamp design for several reasons, including map and text errors. The printed stamps were burned, but a few were salvaged from the fire.

Map of China unissued small die proofs on card, China, 1912
Map of China unissued small die proofs on card, China, 1912
Map of China unissued small die proofs on card, China, 1912
Map of China unissued small die proofs on card, China, 1912
Map of China unissued small die proofs on card, China, 1912
Map of China unissued small die proofs on card, China, 1912
Yuan Shikai photograph, 1912
Yuan Shikai photograph, 1912
Yuan Shikai photograph, 1912

The first locally produced Chinese stamps featured Sun Yat-sen, the republic's founding father, and Yuan Shikai, its first president. Hatch wrote that the "postal department seems delighted.” In 1915, Yuan tried to overthrow the republic in favor of a monarchy. He failed before new "monarchy" stamps could be issued.

Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai die proofs on card, China, 1912
Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai die proofs on card, China, 1912
Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai die proofs on card, China, 1912
Grant took this Tianning Temple stereoscopic slide between 1910 and 1915.
Grant took this Tianning Temple stereoscopic slide between 1910 and 1915.
Courtesy University of New Hampshire Library Special Collections
Grant took this Tianning Temple stereoscopic slide
between 1910 and 1915.
Courtesy University of New Hampshire Library
Special Collections
3c Yuan Shikai with Tianning Temple commemorating the monarchy unissued model, China, 1915
3c Yuan Shikai with Tianning Temple commemorating the "monarchy" unissued model, China, 1915
3c Yuan Shikai with Tianning Temple commemorating
the "monarchy" unissued model, China, 1915
Yuan Shikai unissued vignette proof, China, 1915
Yuan Shikai unissued vignette proof, China, 1915
Yuan Shikai unissued vignette
proof, China, 1915
3c Yuan Shikai unissued trial color proof, China, 1915
3c Yuan Shikai unissued trial color proof, China, 1915
3c Yuan Shikai unissued trial
color proof, China, 1915

Following Yuan’s failed attempt at a constitutional monarchy—with himself as emperor—Chinese postal officials canceled the commemorative issue of these planned stamps, shown here as essays with hand-drawn perforations.

5c Qing Center Gate unissued essay, China, 1915
5c Qing Center Gate unissued essay, China, 1915
5c Qing Center Gate unissued essay,
China, 1915
10c Tiananmen Gate unissued essay, China, 1915
10c Tiananmen Gate unissued essay, China, 1915
10c Tiananmen Gate unissued essay,
China, 1915
50c Forbidden City Palace unissued essay, China, 1915
50c Forbidden City Palace unissued essay, China, 1915
50c Forbidden City Palace unissued essay,
China, 1915

This set of three stamp designs by Hatch and Grant had three printings, the first of which was re-engraved in London. Grant copied the London engraving for the first Beijing (Peking) printing. The second Beijing printing used the original dies. Philatelists study the engraving details to identify the different printings.

4c Junk unissued model, China, c. 1912–22
4c Junk unissued model, China, c. 1912–22
4c Junk unissued model, China,
c. 1912–22
7c Junk on the Yellow River with train approved die proof, China, 1922
7c Junk on the Yellow River with train approved die proof, China, 1922
7c Junk on the Yellow River with train
approved die proof, China, 1922
15c Reaper with 5¢ + 10¢ pencil notation in Chinese characters on trial color proof, China, 1915
15c Reaper with 5¢ + 10¢ pencil notation in Chinese characters on trial color proof, China, 1915
15c Reaper with 5¢ + 10¢ pencil notation
in Chinese characters on trial
color proof, China, 1915
$10 Hall of Classics glazed marble arch vignette proof, China, 1923
$10 Hall of Classics glazed marble arch vignette proof, China, 1923
$10 Hall of Classics glazed marble
arch vignette proof, China, 1923
$1 Hall of Classics frame die proof, China, 1923
$1 Hall of Classics frame die proof, China, 1923
$1 Hall of Classics frame die proof,
China, 1923
$1 Hall of Classics at Confucian Temple die proof, China, 1923
$1 Hall of Classics at Confucian Temple die proof, China, 1923
$1 Hall of Classics at Confucian Temple
die proof, China, 1923
1c, 6c, 10c 25th Anniversary of Post Office die proofs, China, 1921
1c, 6c, 10c 25th Anniversary of Post Office die proofs, China, 1921
1c, 6c, 10c 25th Anniversary of Post Office
die proofs, China, 1921

The Chinese national postal system traces its beginning to a Qing dynasty decree in 1896. These 25th anniversary commemorative issues from 1921 show how stamps still used Western numerals and letters. The final design includes (left to right) Premier Jin Yunpeng, President Xu Shichang, and Yeh Kung-cho, minister of communications.

25th Anniversary of Postal Service hand drawn frame, China, 1921
25th Anniversary of Postal Service hand drawn frame, China, 1921
25th Anniversary of Postal Service hand
drawn frame, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service
model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service
model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service model, China, 1921
3c 25th Anniversary of Postal Service
model, China, 1921
Photograph of the first airplane in Beijing
Photograph of the first airplane in Beijing
Courtesy University of New Hampshire Library Special Collections
Photograph of the first airplane in Beijing
Courtesy University of New Hampshire Library Special Collections

William Grant photographed the first airplane in Beijing in 1914. Grant took many stereoscopic slides during his time in China and used some of them as sources for engraving images.

15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall model, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall model, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall model,
China, 1921

Grant designed and engraved this image of the American-made Curtiss Jenny over the Great Wall of China for China's first airmail stamps, symbolizing progress as well as Chinese-American collaboration. Note the moving propeller and, in the 1929 issue, the change in the flag design on the airplane's tail.

15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall model, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall model, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall model,
China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall vignette proof, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall vignette proof, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall vignette
proof, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall trial color proof, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall trial color proof, China, 1921
15c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall trial
color proof, China, 1921
90c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall specimen single, China, 1921
90c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall specimen single, China, 1921
90c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall
specimen single, China, 1921
90c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall single, China, 1929
90c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall single, China, 1929
90c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall
single, China, 1929
45c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall with proof impression of wooden chop cachet, China, 1921
45c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall with proof impression of wooden chop cachet, China, 1921
45c Curtiss Jenny over Great Wall with
proof impression of wooden chop cachet,
China, 1921
Newchwang to Moukden domestic air mail cover, China, 1924
Newchwang to Moukden domestic air mail cover, China, 1924
Newchwang to Moukden domestic air mail
cover, China, 1924
Temple of Heaven photograph, China, c. 1920
Temple of Heaven photograph, China, c. 1920
Temple of Heaven photograph, China,
c. 1920

On October 10, 1923—a week before the issue of this stamp—the Republic of China formally adopted its national constitution at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. In the stamp design, crossed Republic of China flags guard the entrance.

10c Temple of Heaven model, China, 1923
10c Temple of Heaven model, China, 1923
10c Temple of Heaven model, China, 1923
3c Temple of Heaven trial color proof, China, 1923
3c Temple of Heaven trial color proof, China, 1923
3c Temple of Heaven trial color proof, China, 1923
3c Temple of Heaven die proof, China, 1923
3c Temple of Heaven die proof, China, 1923
3c Temple of Heaven die proof, China, 1923

During the Warlord Era, from 1916 to 1928, regional strongmen controlled parts of China. Zhang Zuolin, a warlord from Manchuria, expanded his territory into northern China, gaining control of Beijing in 1926. When he died in 1928 after a bomb blew up his train, these stamps were withdrawn.

Zhang Zuolin c. 1910 photograph in vignette model, China, 1927
Zhang Zuolin c. 1910 photograph in vignette model, China, 1927
Zhang Zuolin c. 1910 photograph in vignette
model, China, 1927
4c Zhang Zuolin frame model, China, 1927
4c Zhang Zuolin frame model, China, 1927
4c Zhang Zuolin frame model, China, 1927
4c Zhang Zuolin trial color proof, China, 1928
4c Zhang Zuolin trial color proof, China, 1928
4c Zhang Zuolin trial color proof,
China, 1928