Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

"Neither Snow nor Rain..." - Sidebar: December '97 American History Feature

Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: August 19, 1997 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

Stamp Sesquicentennial

For philatelists, 1997–the 150th anniversary of the U.S. postage stamp–is a big year. The hobby that attracts more Americans with a collector's instinct than any other owes a debt of gratitude to Postmaster General Cave Johnson, who urged Congress to authorize the use of stamps as a system of postage prepayment, as the British had been doing since 1840. On March 3, 1847, President James K. Polk signed into law a bill that authorized the printing of stamps, which, "when attached to any letter or packet," would indicate that the sender had paid the necessary postal charges. The first two U. S. stamps printed were a five-cent version bearing the likeness of Benjamin Franklin and one for 10 cents with George Washington's image.

Subscribe Today

Subscribe to American History magazine

Americans did not immediately take to the new postage stamps, the use of which was not compulsory. Some postmasters resisted the new system. They had been content with the hand-stamping that had been customary since 1772 or with stamps–known as "postmaster provisionals"–that were paid for out of individual postmasters' budgets. This resistance continued for almost a decade after the first stamps were issued, until the federal government finally decreed that mandatory prepayment and the use of postage stamps for mailing would take effect on January 1, 1856.

The federal government's Bureau of Engraving and Printing took over the printing of stamps in 1894, at a great savings over the previous system of private printing. Until then, stamps were considered strictly utilitarian and featured the likenesses of presidents or the Founding Fathers. But when someone realized that the stamps could be used as promotional tools, the Post Office Department issued the first commemorative stamps, mostly to call attention to international fairs and exhibitions. Gradually, public interest in such stamps grew, resulting in the wide variety of commemoratives, such as the new series on the history of aviation, that now provide the U.S. Postal Service with an important source of revenue.

Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy