Thomas Sperry

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Thomas Sperry
Thomas Alexander Sperry.png
Thomas Alexander Sperry

(1864-07-06)July 6, 1864
Knoxville, Tennessee
DiedSeptember 2, 1913(1913-09-02) (aged 49)
New York, New York
Kate Major
(m. 1891)
Signature of Thomas Alexander Sperry.png

Thomas Alexander Sperry (July 6, 1864 September 2, 1913) was the co-founder and the "S" of S&H Green Stamps, together with Shelley Byron Hutchinson of Ypsilanti, Michigan.



Thomas Alexander Sperry was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, on July 6, 1864. He married Kate Major on January 1, 1891. [1]

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

Sperry Sr.'s home in Cranford 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." [3]

Sperry died in New York City at the age of 49 years on September 2, 1913, of ptomaine poisoning 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. [4]

His daughter, Katherine Sperry, married Walter Beinecke in 1917. His niece, Carrie Sperry, had married Walter's brother, Frederick Beinecke, in 1912. Their son is William Sperry Beinecke. The family donated land in Cranford to the Rahway River Parkway along the Rahway River. [5] [6] [7]


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, helping to maintain customer loyalty to participating merchants. [8]

S&H Green Stamps had peak popularity during the 1960s; a significant percentage of supermarkets and gasoline stations gave the stamps to customers with their purchases. The firm had 800 redemption centers nationwide where stamps were traded for products. For a period in the 1960s, the firm was printing more stamps annually than the United States Postal Service. [8]


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 Miller Sperry, 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 diverted company funds to Sperry. [9]

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  1. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. XV. James T. White & Company. 1916. p. 360. Retrieved December 25, 2020 via Google Books.
  2. 1 2 "Thomas Sperry, 75, Dead; Real Estate Operator Here" . The New York Times . April 22, 1973. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
  3. "Sperrys Flee From Flames By Ladder; Their Country Home at Cranford, N.J., with Its Valuable Paintings, Destroyed". The New York Times . June 8, 1912. p. 9. Retrieved December 25, 2020 via
  4. "Thomas A. Sperry Dies. Originator of Trading Stamp System a Victim of Ptomaine Poisoning". The New York Times . September 3, 1913. p. 9. Retrieved December 25, 2020 via
  5. Paul Wesley Prindle, Ancestry of William Sperry Beinecke (1974) (Katherine Sperry, daughter of Thomas Sperry, married Walter Beinecke on February 17, 1917)
  6. The Yale Alumni Weekly Vol XXVI No 1 (noting marriage at Cranford's First Presbyterian Church)
  7. "Caroline Sperry Beinecke on her wedding day, 1912". Immigrant Entrepreneurship. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2020.
  8. 1 2 Slatalla, Michelle (March 9, 2000). "Online Shopper; Clicks, Not Licks, as Green Stamps Go Digital" . The New York Times . Retrieved October 29, 2008.
  9. "Sues For $5,000,000.; Hutchinson Renews Litigation for Trading Stamp Profits". The New York Times . Trenton, New Jersey. July 22, 1921. p. 18. Retrieved December 25, 2020 via