Henry Archer, an Irishman, was the first to develop a means of perforating sheets of stamps to enhance their separation. He began development work in 1847 with rouletting devices. He discarded this method as the knives wore out too rapidly. Examples of the Penny Black which were used in these experiments exist.
In 1850 Archer patented a hole-punching machine. Products of this perforation (perf 16) may be found but they can only be confirmed by year dates or postal use on dated covers before 1854. In 1851 the House of Commons was provided stamps perforated by the Archer machine.
With help from James N. Napier, a mechanical engineer, Archer developed a new machine which perforated a row of stamps on three sides in one stroke. This was the comb perforator. Archer sold his invention and patent rights to the British Treasury for £4,000 and on January 28, 1854, perforated stamps went on official sale in Britain.
Subsequently, Archer and Napier corrected one of the problems of the original machine which left the sheets of perforated stamps weak. They changed the gauge of the perforations to 14 from the original 16.
Posted May 5, 2000
Index of 508 Notes from the Past
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