Notes from the Past

Stamps of the First Decade

The first stamp issued was the Penny Black of Great Britain on May 1, 1840.  This innovation by the British Post Office led to issues of postage stamps by other nations in the decade ending in 1849.

The second use of adhesive labels to prepay postage was by an American firm - City Dispatch Post of New York City.  They were a subsidiary of the United States Post Office having been acquired in August, 1842.  They issued their first stamp in 1842 for local letters which they delivered.  It had a portrait of George Washington, was printed in black on grayish paper, and sold for 3¢.  The stamps are carrier stamps.  There were a number other carrier and local stamps issued by various United States Post Offices and delivery firms in the first decade.

The cantons of Switzerland started issuing stamps early on.  In 1843 Zurich issued the 4 and 6 rappen numerals.  Later that year, Geneva issued the Double Geneva.  It was called that because the design consisted of two coats of arms side by side.  Each side could be separated and used for half the 10c rate of the 'Double.'  Basle joined the parade in 1845 by issuing the 'Dove' stamps.

Brazil issued its first 'Bulls' Eye' stamps before Zurich issued its stamps in 1843.  These were simple stamps with only a value inside a circle containing machine engraving.

On July 12, 1845, the New York Postmaster's Provisionals were issued.  This stamp was the first among 12 cities which issued provisional stamps or used handstamps to provide for prepayment of mail from 1845 until the government provided general issues in 1847.

In 1847, Mauritius issued the famous 'Post Office' stamps which were engraved locally.  Pastnotes on these can be seen here and here.

In 1847, David Bryce, who owned a steamer providing mail service in Trinidad, issued stamps for prepayment.  These stamps were not official but nevertheless are the first use of stamps in a British Colony.

In 1848, W. B. Perot, the postmaster in Hamilton, Bermuda, made some homemade stamps using his datestamp without the date inserts.  He struck it a number of times on sheets of gummed paper and inscribed the strikes with 'one penny' and his signature.  He then sold these for the use of after-hours mailers who previously had been shorting him on postage.

In 1849, Bavaria issued its first stamp, a 1 kreuzer black.  Also in 1849, France issued its first 'Ceres' issue, a typographed 10 centimes bistre.  The Belgians also issued their first stamp, the engraved 10 centimes brown portrait of King Leopold I.

 Posted November 19, 2000

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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