When Were Postage Stamps First Used?
The first postage stamps for general use were issued in Great Britain in 1840. Before this time, people brought their letters to the post office to be mailed. They paid the postmaster a fee, and the postmaster wrote his name on a corner of the envelope to show that postage had been paid.
Prepaid gummed stamps enabled people to buy stamps in advance and stick them on their letters in place of the postmaster’s signature. The first street mailboxes also appeared in 1840. With stamps and mailboxes, it no longer was necessary to go to the post office to mail letters.
The first stamp, the penny black, became available for purchase 1 May 1840, to be valid as of 6 May 1840. Two days later, 8 May 1840, the two pence blue was introduced. Both stamps exhibit an engraving of the young Queen Victoria, neither bearing perforations, as the first stamps were separated from their sheets by cutting mechanisms (e.g. scissors).
At the time of issuance, given no need for indication of origin, no country name was included on the postage stamps. The UK remains the only country to omit itself by name on postal stamps, using the reigning monarch’s head as implicit identification.
Following the introduction of the postage stamp in the UK, the use of this prepaid postage innovation drastically accelerated the number of postal-sent. Prior to 1839, the number of letters sent was 76 million.
By 1850 this volume increased five-fold to 350 million, continuing to grow rapidly thereafter, until the end of the 20th century when newer methods of indicating postage-paid drastically reduced the use of delivery systems requiring stamps Other countries soon followed in example the United Kingdom with their own stamps.