Today in Postal History


 
Scotland to England
July 27, 1840

Sir Rowland Hill's dreams of inexpensive mail and post office reforms
were brought about by the Postal Reform Bill of 1839.
One of the reform features was prepayment of the postage.

In September, 1839, the British Treasury solicited suggestions
with prizes of 100 and 200 for the most useful ideas for prepaying postage.
Over 2,600 suggestions were submitted.
It is not noted whether the suggestions led to production.

Rowland Hill strongly favored stamped paper.
Adhesive stamps were only a secondary consideration.
The design of William Mulready, R.A., was approved for use in both envelopes and wrappers.
Two denominations were prepared.
One was printed in black inscribed "POSTAGE ONE PENNY" for letters up to ounce.
This is the one we have today.
The second was blue and inscribed "POSTAGE TWO PENCE" for letters up to one ounce.

Sales were initiated on May 1 although they were not intended
for use until May 6 when the penny rate went into effect.
Used examples are known before May 6.
This use in July was still rather early.

There is an incomplete square mark behind the red CDS from
Ayr in Scotland indicating this city as the origination point.*
The red CDS  G | 27 JY 27 | 40 is a London receiver.

This Mulready also has a red Maltese cross.
I don't have an explanation for the 1840 inscribed on the lower left front.
I expect it was the mark of some past owner of the cover.

The destination was also a London address: Crown Court on Threadneedle Street.

As one might imagine with hindsight, the Mulready design was not well-accepted.
Poor Mulready's name was inscribed on the design in the lower left front.
Quite a monument to leave behind.

Howard Robinson (The British Post Office: A History,
Princeton University Press, 1948) quotes this contemporary doggerel:
". . .  and with him he brings
A set of those odd-looking envelope things,
Where Britannia (who seems to be crucified) flings
To her right and her left funny people with wings
Amongst Elephants, Quakers and Catabaw Kings;
And a taper and Wax
And small Queen's heads, in packs,
Which, when notes are too big, you're to stick on their backs."

Hill's journal records on May 12, "I fear that we shall have to substitute some
other stamp for that designed by Mulready, which is abused and ridiculed on all sides."
The Mulready envelope had a mercifully short life.

Fortunately, the adhesive stamp was accepted and saved the day.

*Thanks to David Benson for identifying the Ayr mark.

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