Postage Stamps - History of Postage Stamps

Postage Stamps

In 1837, Rowland Hill, a schoolmaster in England, had the idea to create postage stamps. He wrote a letter to a high-ranking politician, which laid out his ideas for changes to the English postal system. One of the ideas was a simple way to show that the cost of postage was paid by a letter's sender. He suggested using an adhesive (sticky) stamp. After a lot of discussion among the public, his changes to the postal system were put in place.

The first postage stamp was sold in England in May, 1840. The stamp cost one penny, and featured an engraved image of young Queen Victoria. The background ink color was black, and so the stamp was nicknamed the "Penny Black". One penny was enough postage to deliver any letter that weighed less than half an ounce to anywhere in the country.

  • Before postage stamps, letters had to be postmarked by hand, with ink and a hand-held stamp. Ink postmarks were created by the Postmaster General of England, Henry Bishop, in 1661. It became known as the "Bishop Mark", and included the date a letter was received by the Post Office.

  • Before the adhesive postage stamp, it was usually the receiver who had to pay for a letter, and the price depended on the number of sheets of paper and the distance.

  • The introduction of the postage stamp in the United Kingdom in 1840 fixed a broken system. There was significant corruption in the postal system, and postal officials might read the mail, or censor letters by not delivering them.

  • Rowland Hill was made the Secretary to the Postmaster General in 1854, and was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1860.

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