Archive for Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are you a collector?

July 17, 2008

Everyone uses stamps, and probably more than a few collect them. As far back as 1661 in the London General Post Office, they marked the mail with the day and month the letter was mailed, hand stamped with ink. This was the invention of Henry Bishop and they became know as Bishop marks after the inventor.

The first issued postage stamps began with Great Britain's Penny Post. On May 6, 1840, The British Penny Black stamp was released. The Penny Black was engraved with the profile of Queen Victoria's head, which remained on all British stamps for the next 60 years. The man that created this stamp was Roland Hill. He was a schoolmaster in England and he invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1837, and was knighted by the queen for doing this. Roland also created the first uniform postage rates that were based on weight rather than size.

In the United States the first letters did not have envelopes. They were folded and sealed with wax. They were hand stamped with pen and ink with various designs. The first printed stamps were by a private manufacturer until 1894, when the printing of stamps was transferred to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Treasury Department, where all postage stamps have since been produced. The first use of adhesive postage stamps in the United States was in 1847.

When I was born in 1928, first-class postage was 2 cents. Over the years good jobs were provided for artists to design stamps for various commemorative and memorial issues. The first pre stamped envelopes were sold in 1852. The first perforated sheets of stamps came in 1857. Previously people had to cut them apart. By 1870 almost all countries had postage stamps. In 1869 we had our first pictorial stamps. Now we have birds, animals, buildings and on and on and on. In 1896 the RFD (Rural Free Deliver) began in rural areas. In 1918 the first Air Mail was started and carried by Army planes for 24 cents an ounce. This included home delivery.

In Lansing, mail delivery could not take place until the streets were named and houses were numbered. Street delivery started in early 1960s. ZIP codes started in 1963. There are Web sites available to help anyone who wants to start collecting stamps as a new hobby.

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