Notes from the Past

Meter Postage
A Brief History - Part III

Walter H. Bowes, who headed a firm making canceling machines for the US and other government postal systems, was also working along similar lines.  A meeting between Bowes and Pitney in Stanford, Connecticut, in late 1919 resulted in the incorporation in April, 1920, of the Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter Co.

Post Office approval for the Pitney-Bowes postage meter was given on September 1, 1920, and the international approval was granted by the Universal Postal Union effective January 1, 1923.

The meter has evolved from a relatively simple device capable of printing only a single denomination, through models capable of printing several values (called multi-denomination by the manufacturer), to those in current use, which can print a wide range of denominations from a fraction of a cent to just under $100 (omni-denomination).

Regardless of its sophistication, there are two essential features that a device must have to qualify as a true meter:  (1) at least one register (counter) and (2) an automatic lock-out feature.

For security reasons the internal workings of meters are sealed against inspection, and very few photographs are available to illustrate their printing mechanisms.

Though in some makes and models, impressions are made from a flat die that strikes the printing surface in a vertical position, as in flat-bed printing, in most meters today the printing is done in what is essentially a miniature rotary press.  A curved die is mounted on a horizontal rotating hub.  Envelopes or gummed tape are fed into the machine, and an impression is applied at each rotation of the hub.

- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume Two G-P
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted October 16, 2000

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