Thomas Sperry

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Thomas A. Sperry (c. 1864 – September 2, 1913) was the co-founder and the "S" of S&H Green Stamps, together with Shelley Byron Hutchinson of Ypsilanti, Michigan.


Sperry's home in Cranford, New Jersey was destroyed by a fire in 1912, with the fire causing an estimated $150,000 in damages, including the loss of a number of paintings—many from the Charles W. Morse gallery. Sperry's horse trainer and chauffeur were able to rescue several paintings from the house's music room before they were stopped by flames, including an oil painting of Sperry's son on the horse on which he had won a ribbon the previous day at the Plainfield Horse Show. After a firefighter threw down a painting of Sperry's wife in her wedding gown, Mrs. Sperry was quoted as calling out "Don't save that! Save something worth while".[1]

Sperry's son, also named Thomas, was born in Cranford in 1898. He was involved with real estate business and died in Palm Beach, Florida in 1973.[2]

Sperry died at the age of 49 years on September 2, 1913 of ptomaine poison contracted during the return voyage after a two-month trip to Europe. Sperry was brought ashore in a stretcher and his condition was too bad to travel to his home in Cranford.[3]


Together with Hutchinson, Sperry founded the Sperry and Hutchinson Company in 1896.[2] Sperry and Hutchinson started their business in Michigan and became what The New York Times described as "the first independent trading stamp company to distribute stamps and books to merchants". The stamps gained popularity during the early 1900s as the S&H program offered incentives to shoppers rewarding them for making timely payments in cash, and helping maintain customer loyalty to merchants that participated in the program.[4]

The S&H Green Stamps had their greatest popularity during the 1960s, with a significant percentage of supermarkets and gasoline stations offering the stamps to customers with their purchases. The firm had 800 redemption centers nationwide to allow stamps to be traded in for products. For a period of time in the 1960s, the firm was printing more stamps each year than the United States Postal Service.[4]


In 1921, Hutchinson sued the estate of Thomas A. Sperry in court in Trenton, New Jersey, alleging that Sperry had defrauded Hutchinson of part of his shares in the company, allowing William M. Sperry, the brother of the founder, to gain control of the firm. Hutchinson alleged that he had been cheated out of $5 million as a result of secret dividends that had diverted company funds to Sperry.[5]