“(1) the convenience as regards the public use; (2) the security against forgery; (3) the facility of being checked and distinguished at the post office, which must of necessity be rapid; and (4) the expense of the production and circulation of the stamps.” To this invitation 2600 replies were received, but no improvement was made upon, Rowland Hill's suggestions. A further Minute, of the 26th of December 1839, announced that the treasury had decided to require that, as far as practicable, the postage of letters should be prepaid, and such prepayment effected by means of stamps. Stamped covers or wrappers, stamped envelopes, and adhesive stamps were to be issued by government. The stamps' were engraved by Messrs Perkins, Bacon & Petch, of Fleet Street, from Hill's designs, and the Mulready envelopes and covers by Messrs Clowes & Son, of Blackfriars. The stamps were appointed to be brought into use on the 6th of May 1840, but they appear to have been issued to the public as early as the 1st of May. The penny stamp, bearing a profile of Queen Victoria, was coloured black, and the twopenny stamp blue, with check-letters in the lower angles (in all four angles from April 1858). Up to the 28th of January 18 54 the stamps were not officially perforated, except in the session of 1851, when stamps, perforated by a Mr Archer, were issued at the House of Commons post office. In 1853 the government purchased Archer's patent for £4000. The stamps were first water-marked in April 1840.
The canton of Zürich was the first foreign state to adopt postage stamps, in 1843. The stamps reached America in the same year, being introduced by the government of Brazil. That of the United States did not adopt them until 1847; but a tentative issue was made by the post office of New York in 1845. An adhesive stamp was also issued at St Louis in the same year, and in Rhode Island in the next. In Europe the Swiss cantons of Geneva (1844) and of Basel (1845) soon followed the example set by Zürich. In the Russian Empire the use of postage stamps became general in 1848 (after preliminary issues at St Petersburg and in Finland in 1845). France issued them in 1849. The same year witnessed their introduction into Tuscany, Belgium and Bavaria, and also into New South Wales. Austria, Prussia, Saxony, Spain, Italy, followed in 1850. The use of postage stamps seems to have extended to the Hawaiian Islands (1851.) a year before it reached the Dutch Netherlands (1852). Within twenty-five years of the first issue of a postage stamp in London, the known varieties, issued in all parts of the world, amounted to 1391. Of these 841 were. of European origin, 333 were American, 59 Asiatic, 55 African. The varieties of stamp issued in the several countries of Oceania were 103. Of the whole 1391 stamps no less than 811 were already obsolete in 1865, leaving 580 still in currency.
(i.) Line-engraved Stamps.
Halfpenny Stamp.—First issue, October 1, 1870: size 18 mm. by 14 mm.; lake-red varying to rose-red.
One Penny Stamp.—First issue, 1st (for 6th) May 1840: the head executed by Frederick Heath, from a drawing by Henry Corbould of William Wyon's medal struck to commemorate her majesty's visit to the City of London on the 9th of November 1837: size 221 mm. by 183 mm.; black, watermarked with a small crown; a few sheets in 1841 struck in red, two essays were made in April and October 1840 in blue and blue-back; imperforate. The second issue, January 20, 1841, differed only from the first issue as to colour—red instead of black. It is stated that the colour, “though always officially referred to as ‘red,’ was really a red-brown, and this may be regarded as the normal colour; but considerable variations in tone and shade (brick-red, orange-red, lake-red) occurred from time to time, often accentuated by the blueing of the paper, though primarily due to a want of uniform it in the method employed for preparing the ink.” The change of colour from black was made in order to render the obliteration (now in black instead of red ink) more distinct; imperforate. Third issue, February 1854: small crown watermark; perforated 16 (i.e. 16 holes to 2 centimetres). The fourth issue, January 1855, differed only from the third issue in being perforated 14. Fifth issue, February 1855: from a new die, with minute variations of engraving. In the second die the eyelid is more distinctly shaded, the nostril more curved, and the band round the hair has a thick dark line forming its lower edge. Small crown watermark; perforated 16 and 14. Sixth issue, July 1855: large crown watermark; perforated 14; a certain number 16. Seventh issue, January 1858: carmine-rose varying from pale to very deep. Large crown watermark; perforated, chiefly 14. Eighth issue, April 1, 1864: check-letters in all four corners instead of two only; large crown watermark; perforated 14.
In 1880 the line-engraved one penny stamps were superseded by the surface-printed one of similar value in venetian red, designed and printed by Messrs De la Rue & Co.
Three-halfpenny Stamp.—October 1, 1870: large crown watermark; lake-red; perforated 14. Superseded in October 1880 by De la Rue's surface-printed stamp.
Twopenny Stamp.—First issue, 1st (for 6th) May 1840: small crown watermark; light blue, dark blue; imperforate. Second issue, March 1841: small crown watermark; white line below “Postage” and above “'I'wopence"; dull to dark blue; imperforate. Third issue, February (?) 1854: small crown watermark; blue, dark blue; perforated 16. Fourth issue, March 1855: small crown watermark; blue, dark blue; perforated 14. Fifth issue, July 1855: large crown watermark; blue; perforated 16; blue, dark blue; perforated 14. Sixth issue, May (?) 1857: large crown watermark; white lines thinner, blue, dark blue; perforated 14; dark blue; perforated 16. Seventh issue, July 1858: large crown watermark; white lines as in fifth issue; deep to very deep blue; perforated 16. Eighth issue, April (?) 1869: large crown watermark; white lines thinner; dull blue, deep to very deep blue, violet blue; perforated 14. Superseded in December 1880 by De la Rue's surface-printed Stamp.
(ii.) Embossed Stamps.
Produced by Dryden Brothers, of Lambeth, from designs submitted by Mr Ormond Hill of Somerset House, engraved after Wyon’s medal.
Sixpence.—March 1, 1854: violet, reddish lilac, dark violet; imperforate. Superseded in October 1856 by De la Rue's surface printed stamp.
Tenpence.—November 6, 1848: pale to very deep chestnut brown; imperforate. Superseded by De la Rue's surface-printed stamp in 1867.
One Shilling.—September 11, 1847: emerald green, pure deep green, yellow-green; imperforate. Superseded in November 1856 by De la Rue's surface-printed stamp.
(iii.) Surface-printed Stamps before 1880.
Twopence-half-penny.—First issue, July 1, 1875: small anchor watermark; lilac-rose; perforated 14. Second issue, May 1876: orb watermark; lilac-rose, perforated 14. Third issue, February 5, 1880: orb watermark; cobalt, and some ultramarine; perforated 14. Fourth issue, March 23, 1881: large crown watermark; bright blue; perforated 14.
Threepence.—All perforated 14. First issue, May 1, 1862: heraldic emblems watermark; carmine (pale to deep). Second issue, March 1, 1865: same watermark as above; carmine-pink. Third issue, July 1867: watermarked with a spray of rose; carmine pink, carmine-rose. Fourth issue, July 1873: watermark as third issue; carmine-rose. Fifth issue, January 1, 1881: watermark large crown; carmine-rose. Sixth issue, January 1, 1883; watermark as fifth issue; purple shades overprinted with value in deep pink.
Fourpence.—All perforated 14. First issue, July 31, 1855: watermark small garter; deep and dull carmine. Second issue, February 1856: watermark medium garter; pale carmine. Third issue, November 1, 1856: watermark medium garter; dull rose. Fourth issue, January 1857: watermark large garter; dull and pale to deep rose, pink. Fifth issue, January 15, 1862: watermark large garter; carmine-vermilion, Vermilion-red. Sixth issue, July 1865: watermark large garter; pale to dark vermilion. Seventh issue, March 1, 1876; watermark large garter; pale vermilion. Eighth issue, February 27, 1877: watermark large garter; pale sage-green. Ninth issue, July 1880: watermark large garter; mouse-brown. Tenth issue, January 1, 1881: watermark large crown; mouse-brown.
Sixpence.—All perforated 14. First issue, October 21, 1856: no letters in angles; watermark heraldic emblems; dull lilac. Second issue, December 1, 1862! small white letters in angles; otherwise as first issue. Third issue, April 1, 1865: large white letters in angles; otherwise as first issue. Fourth issue, June 1867: watermark spray of rose; otherwise as third issue; some in bright lilac. Fifth issue, March 1869: as fourth issue; lilac, deep lilac, purple lilac. Sixth issue, April 1, 1872: as fourth issue; bright chestnut brown. Seventh issue, October 1872: as fourth issue; buff. Eighth issue, April 1873: as fourth issue; greenish grey. Ninth issue, April 1, 1874: watermarked as fourth issue; large coloured letters in angles; greenish grey. Tenth issue, January I, 1881: large crown watermark; otherwise as ninth issue. Eleventh issue, January 1, 18813: as tenth issue; purple, overprinted with value in deep pink.
Eightpence.—September 11, 1876: watermark large garter; chrome-yellow, ale yellow; perforated 14.
Ninepence.—All perforated 14. First issue, January 15, 1862: watermark heraldic emblems; ochre-brown, bright bistre. Second issue, December 1, 1865: watermark as above; bistre-brown, straw. Third issue, October 1867: watermark spray of rose; straw.
Tenpence.—July 1, 1867: watermark spray of rose; red-brown; perforated 14.
- Wright and Creeke, History of the Adhesive Stamp of the British Isles available for Postal-and Telegraph Purposes (London, 1899).