Origin Of Use Of Postage Stamps In The United States

Strangely enough the use of postage stamps in the United States was not inaugurated by the Government but, instead, by a private carrier, one Alexander M. Greig of New York City. Greig established a "City Despatch Post" on February 1, 1842 which covered New York City as far north as 23rd St. (In those days this was very nearly the city limits.) Evidences that a similar "city post" existed before this, albeit without the use of postage stamps, are noted in Greig's circular announcing his new post. Greig issued stamps, bearing a portrait of Washington, printed from line engraved plates. A few months after founding this post Greig sold out to the U. S. Government and the post became known as the "United States City Despatch Post." The government began operation of this purely local post on August 16, 1842 under an Act of Congress of some years earlier which had authorized such local delivery.

The first general issue of the United States
The first general issue of the United States

The Act of Congress of March 3, 1845, effective July 1, 1845, established uniform postal rates throughout the nation. But it was not until 1847 that Congress authorized the general use of postage stamps. Thus there were two gaps in the sequence of events when no postage stamps were authorized by the government but during each of which postage stamps were, in fact, being used by agencies of the government, i.e.: -

1. From August 16, 1842 the government operated in New York City the United States City Despatch Post for which it issued and used postage stamps. (This local post was continued in New York City certainly as late as 1850 and probably longer. It had its counterpart in Philadelphia from 1849.)
2. With the establishment of uniform postage rates effective July 1, 1845, Robert H. Morris, postmaster of New York City took it upon himself to issue his own postage stamps. These bore a portrait of George Washington and were printed from line engraved plates. By arrangement with other postmasters Mr. Morris' postage stamps were generally accepted as evidence of prepayment of postage. Other postmasters, in other cities, followed Mr. Morris' lead and issued their own stamps although few were as elaborate productions as the New York stamp. Thus the succession of use of postage stamps in the United States would be 1. Greig's City Despatch (soon the United States City Despatch post) from February 1, 1842; 2. The Postmaster provisional stamps (notably New York) from July 14, 1845 and, 3. The first general issue of postage stamps authorized by Congress and which were issued on July 1, 1847.