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Collecting Stamps - Stamp Pioneers
STAMPS FOR POSTAGE PURPOSES have changed hardly at all since the first specimen appeared in May of 1840. Great Britain, generally acknowledged as the originator of the adhesive postage stamp idea, was fortunate in that the committee headed by Sir Rowland Hill planned so well that the only important change in 110-odd years was the use of perforations for convenient separation.
Other countries, also aware of the need for such a means of denoting the prepayment of postage, were quick to follow the innovation of the British. In all some ninety countries,colonies or other governmental units had followed Britain's lead by issuing postage stamps in the first twenty years -1840 to 1860.
Officially the United States was seventh on the list, with its regular 5-cent and 10-cent stamps of 1847; but unofficially it was second, for there was a private letter post operated in New York by Alexander M. Grieg and Henry Thomas Windsor. This was known as the City Despatch Post and commenced operations Jan. 1, 1842 with its own stamps.
The practical use of these first stamps and other private and semi-official stamps which followed, was a motivating factor in persuading Congress to authorize the issuance of regular stamps. Grieg and Windsor commenced the operation of a private letter post in New York to convey mail to and from the post office and its patrons, and to convey letters locally between its patrons. The limits of the post extended as far north as 21st Street-then a good distance-and branch offices and letter boxes were established throughout the area to assure a convenient service to its patrons. It was modeled after the English postal services; regular collections and dispatches were made, and a "Free Stamp" was placed on sale to permit patrons to prepay letters without the necessity of making a personal trip to the post office. These were the first postage stamps to be issued in the Western Hemisphere.
The production of the stamps was done by the engraving firm of Rawdon, Wright and Hatch, and the stamps were printed in sheets of forty-two. Though they had a face value of 3 cents each, they were sold in quantities of 100 for $2.50.
Other "locals," or private post adhesives followed, the most important in the United States being the New York Postmasters' Provisional of 1845, which was used as a pattern for the first governmental stamps of 1847.
The New York local of 1843 also had its effect in the first governmental stamps, since the same firm did the engraving and printing-though its name had since changed to Rawdon, Wright, Hatch and Edson.
Although the Zurich cantonal of Switzerland was released in March of 1843, and the famed "Bull's Eye" stamps vf Brazil were not released until July 1, 1843, South America claims second place officially.
First, the decrees authorizing the Brazilian stamps were issued Nov. 29, 1842; and second, the Zurich cantonals are, essentially, locals. Remote as it was from the rest of the world at the time, the Brazilian Congress passed a "Postal Reform" bill in 1842, which provided-in part that all postal matter be carried and paid for in proportion to weight, without regard to distance.