Genesis Of Stamps - Part 3

England's postal system was more or less well established along designated postal roads throughout the kingdom. Overseas mail was carried at the sufferance of ship owners and masters. In our own country Governor Lovelace of New York had established regular posts between Albany and New York City (the old Albany Post Road, now U. S. Route 9), and between New York and Boston (the old Boston Post Road, now U. S. Route 1). Such carriers as were employed were abjured not to drink or use vile language. Later Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster for the Colonies and had in operation a considerable postal system.

Franklin stamp
Benjamin Franklin, first postmaster general of the United States.

All such systems were open to the public and anyone might send a letter, the postal fees for which were "collect on delivery." By adopting simple codes persons could indicate the message within by using a pre-arranged form of address. Hence when the letter was offered by the courier, the person to whom it was addressed could read the message from the address and would then refuse the letter. The postal service would get nothing for such "deliveries." We need not wonder at these devious methods of cheating the posts when we view the cost of sending a letter. Each letter was charged for the distance it traveled - seldom less than sixpence and often several shillings, a sizable sum indeed in days when in all the land there was not a laborer earning as much as one dollar a day the year around!

Sir Rowland
Hill stamp
Sir Rowland Hill, creator of the first postage stamp.

Meanwhile James Watts had invented his mechanical monster - the steam engine - that was to change the living patterns of the whole world. And the industrial development of the world demanded establishment of a better postal system. In 1837 Sir Rowland Hill, after having completed exhaustive studies of the postal service then in effect, made public his revolutionary idea. This was, reduced to its simplest expression, merely the fact that it cost no more to deliver a letter a hundred miles than it did to deliver one a few city blocks. After three years of pushing his claims the idea was officially adopted and along with it the means of collecting postage in advance - the postage stamp. Some people claim that the postage stamp was an "invention" but such would not seem to be the case, for stamps had been used for collecting revenues for many years previous to the introduction of their use to collect postage. Indeed, the Stamp Tax Act brought about the "Boston Tea Party" and, eventually, the American Revolution. "Taxation without representation," the ringing words that called a new nation to arms, sprang from the use of revenue stamps.

The British
Tax Stamp
The British Tax Stamp which led to the American Revolution.