Postage Stamps and Postal History of Great Britain - Postage Stamps

Postage Stamps

The Great Post Office Reform of 1839 and 1840 was championed by Rowland Hill as a way to reverse the steady financial losses of the Post Office. Hill convinced Parliament to adopt the Uniform Fourpenny Post whereby a flat 4d per ┬Żoz rate (equivalent to 10s 8d/pound for heavier items) was charged regardless of distance. The rate went into effect on 5 December 1839 but only lasted for 36 days. This was immediately successful, and on 10 January 1840 the Uniform Penny Post started, charging only 1d for prepaid letters and 2d if the fee was collected from the recipient. Fixed rates meant that it was practical to avoid handling money to send a letter by using an "adhesive label", and accordingly, on May 6, the Penny Black became the world's first postage stamp in use.

The stamp was originally for use only within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and as such was in effect initially a local stamp. For this reason the name of the country was not included within the design, a situation which continued by agreement with foreign post offices, provided the sovereign's effigy appeared on the stamp. Envelopes sold with postage paid did not include this, so were marked with the country's name. In 1951, the special commemorative issue for the Festival of Britain included the name "Britain" incidentally. It could therefore be said that the name of the country then appeared for the first time on a stamp of the UK, although the word "British" had appeared on British Empire Exhibition commemorative stamps of 1924.

It soon became obvious that black was a not a good choice of stamp colour, since any cancellation marks were hard to see, and from 1841 onwards, the stamps were printed in a brick-red colour. The Penny Reds continued in use for decades.

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Famous quotes related to postage stamps:

    Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste.
    William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)