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Who invented the first postage stamp?

I LOVE STAMPS!!! I'm a stamp nerd... I love snail mail, and art... so of course stamps are a big deal to me. In the United States we are constantly getting new stamp designs! I actually just bought three sheets of new stamps, they are the coolest! We've got foil stamps, and heat changing stamps, scratch and sniff stamps, and glow stamps... I mean it's just great! And though I'm not super deep in the Philately game (that is the proper term for the studying of stamps and stamp collecting), I still must ask, who invented the first postage stamp?!


That, my friends, was Sir Rowland Hill. He wasn't always "Sir". In fact when he first proposed the idea of a single national rate to send letters as postage reform in London he was ignored. When he self-published his pamphlet Post Office Reform, its Importance and Practicability (he was a noted essayist), he gained public traction but officials were still calling the idea 'preposterous'.


The London postal system had started around 1680 with a man named William Dockwra, who promised to get a letter across town quickly and inexpensively. There were a few problems though. It wasn't inexpensive, and the receiver was expected to pay and there were all sorts of taxes and tariffs and delivery fees ... so you can imagine how well that went over.


Hill was summoned by Postmaster General, Lord Lichfield, after his pamphlet was published in order to discuss postal reform and, during their subsequent meeting, the two men conceived of an adhesive label that could be applied to envelopes to indicate payment (by the sender). Hill eventually earned enough support from other like-minded individuals, like Henry Cole, founding director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as larger, powerful organizations, who were able to convince Parliament to implement Hill's system.


The “penny black” stamp went on sale May 1, 1840, though was not valid until May 6, 1840. It was an immediate hit. Over the next year, 70 million letters were sent. Two years later, the number had more than tripled. Other countries soon followed suit. The Penny Black’s design was so well received, it remained in use for forty years, though, as the National Postal Museum notes, “it underwent color changes (1841), adopted perforations (1848), and acquired check letters in all four corners (1858)…and most of those designs were retained for Victoria’s successor, Edward VII, (1901) with his profile being substituted.”


Do you have a favorite stamp? Perhaps a top 10? I'm not even sure I could narrow it down to top ten!




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