Royal Reels: Gambling


This registered cover uncovers the gullibility of the writer who presumably wanted to increase his height. It is addressed to The Cartilage Company, Rochester, New York, U.S.A. It has three coloured Queensland stamps, the green ‘ONE HALFPENNY’ showing QV in widow’s weeds, and two ‘Four Corners’ stamps, a blue 2d and a brown 3d, for a total cost of 5½d. The stamps are cancelled with FORTITUDE VALLEY/ 21 OC 10/ QUEENSLAND, and there is ample evidence to show it is registered: the red crayon cross-hatching, the black registration label, worded FORT. VALLEY, the two-line black handstamp ‘REGISTERED/ FORTITUDE VALLEY and one of the handstamped numbers. The vendor has stated that the registration label is rare and this was the very first post office to issue registration labels (? in Queensland or ? in Australia) (Figure 1).

The reverse has a transit blue REGISTERED/ 6– P 21 OC. 10/ BRISBANE, a transit double oval NEW YORK, N.Y./ 11-20/ 1910 and an arrival purple ROCHESTER N.Y./ NOV/21/ 1910/ REG. DIV. postmark (Figure 2).

To date, the only Australian newspaper I have found with information about the Rochester, N.Y. company was The Advertiser (Adelaide) on 7 July 1906, page 7, and it gave the company quite a spread, with a header I have rarely seen the likes of in an early 1900s column. The item (by Special Correspondence) starts off “Will Criminals Escape Detection by Remarkable Discovery of Rochester Scientist? Man Increases Height and Cheats Bertillon System. How Anyone May Grow Tall. United States Government Official Offers Himself as Proof That the Height Can Be Increased. Several Inches May Easily be Added by Mr. Minges’ New System – How it is Done (Figure 3).

The text continues: “Brighton, N.Y., February 4 – At last, after years of study and endless scientific experiments for increasing the height of those who are so unfortunate as to be short in stature, a Rochester scientist has solved the problem and given to the World a greater gift than Edison’s electric light: Marconi’s wireless telegraphy; or the Bell telephone; for what can be more inconvenient or productive of more discomfort, than to be short. The short man or woman is always at a disadvantage; in business, society, on the stage or rostrum. The grea orators, statesman, generals, presidents have rarely been short men. Not that the short men are not just as brainy, but their stature is against them. The great society leaders are not short women. It seems there is no longer any excuse for anyone being short, if you will just follow out Mr. K. Leo Minges’ discovery….He determined to grow tall…he delved deep into the study of anatomy and physiology….Mr. Minges tried his new discovery on himself…to-day he is six feet two inches tall and as straight as an arrow….(he) has written a book which truly explains the secrets and science of growing tall”. This miracle extends for another column, and a drawing of Mr. Minges is shown and included as Figure 4.

Several adverts exist in the early 1900s in the U.S. journals, and you are urged to write away to The Cartilage Company, Dept. 117 L, Rochester, N.Y. and one of these (Scribner’s Magazine, 1903, No. 11) shows another picture of Mr. Minges, who now describes himself as Prof. K. Leo Minges (Figure 5).

Two more advertisements show how you can increase your height and give more proof, whether you are a short man or woman (Figures 6 & 7).

The Journal of the American Medical Association (J.A.M.A, March 28 1908, pages 1065 and 1066) in a section called Medical Economics, has two short paragraphs which mention Mr. Minges, as follows: American College of Sciences, Rochester, New York – Sells a worthless course of instruction in personal magnetism and hypnotism. Together with the Yabe School, K. Leo Minges, John D. Quakenbos, and Monsieur G.A. Mann, is the enterprise of the one F.D. Shoemaker, jeweller of 59 Page Street, R.I. The second para is as follows: K. Leo Minges, Rochester N.Y. And 7 Avenue de l’Opera, Paris –The reputed proprietor of a “cartilage treatment” which is guaranteed to add two or three inches to the height. It is undiluted humbug.

If the sender of the cover from Fortitude Valley, Queensland had seen the juxtaposition of these two advertisements, perhaps he could have saved the 5½ pence postage (Figure 8).

Addendum (July 2010): The same advert shown as Figure 3 has actually appeared several times in The Advertiser (Adelaide) in 1906 and 1907, as well as The Mercury (Hobart) and The West Australian (Perth).

Addendum (January 2011):  Another Australian cover has been seen, this one postmarked ARMADALE/ 18 APR 12/ WESTERN AUSTRALIA on a rose-pink ‘ONE PENNY SWAN’ W.A. stamp and there is a 6-sided boxed tax handstamp of ‘T over 30’ applied as well as an additional ‘spectacle’ type handstamp of ‘NEW YORK N.Y./ MAY/ 89/ HUD. TERM. STA./ G/ 12’ and a ‘DUE/ 6/ CENTS’.  Below this mark there is a typed ‘FOREIGN DEPT.’ and the printed address is shown as ‘THE CARTILAGE CO.,  Rochester, N.Y., U.S.A. There were no markings on the reverse (Figure 9).