Have you ever thought about how letters were sent between our various ancestors? I have a postcard album that belonged to my great uncle, the earliest card having been posted in 1903. But back in the day, you could write a letter in the morning that invited a friend to tea that same day and receive a reply! However, different rates were paid for letters in different areas – there was no standard amount. It had been based on the distance the letter was to travel plus how many sheets of paper were included. Perhaps that accounts for letters in the early days being written upside down between lines already completed.
In January 1837, Rowland Hill published his pamphlet “Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability”. In response to a Parliamentary question resulting from this, Hill suggested that a standard should be “a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash.” A competition was held to design the stamp and the end result was based upon a sculpture of Queen Victoria’s head by William Wyon, which was then sketched by Henry Corbold. A die was then engraved by Charles and Frederick Heath in order to produce the stamps. Issued on 1st May, the stamp – the Penny Black – first became valid for use today, 6th May back in 1840.
One snippet that I found.... The Penny Black image of Queen Victoria was based on a sketch when she was only 15 and was to remain on stamps for the entirety of her reign.
Oh yes – what did the letter say to the stamp? Stick with me and we’ll go places!