1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Post, and Postal Service

POST, and POSTAL SERVICE. The germ of modern postal systems is to be looked for in the earliest organized establishment of a staff of government couriers. In the postal system of Spain and the German empire there is express record of permission to government couriers to carry letters for individuals in April 1544; and within fifteen or sixteen years that permission had grown into a legalized and regulated monopoly, whence the counts of Taxis drew part of their profits as postmasters-general. In Great Britain existing private letters of the 15th century—some, perhaps, of the 14th—bear endorsements which show that they were conveyed by relays of men and horses maintained under the control of the government, and primarily intended for its special service. In several states on the continent of Europe the universities had inland postal establishments of a rudimentary sort at an early date. The university of Paris organized a postal service almost at the beginning of the 13th century, and it lasted in a measure until 1719. In various parts of Europe mercantile gilds and brotherhoods were licensed to establish posts for commercial purposes. But everywhere—as far as the accessible evidence extends—foreign posts were under state control.

Great Britain

Early History (c. 1533–1836).

As early as the middle of the 13th century entries occur in the wardrobe accounts of the kings of England of payments to sixteenth royal messengers for the conveyance of letters. In the supervision of these royal messengers lies the germ of the office of postmaster-general. The firstSixteenth Century. English postmaster of whom a distinct account can be given is Sir Brian Tuke, who is described (1533) in the records as “Magister Nunciorum, Cursorum, sive Postarum,” “both in England and in other parts of the king's dominions beyond the seas.” But long subsequent to this appointment of a postmaster general the details of the service were frequently regulated by proclamations and by orders in council. Thus, among the royal proclamations in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, there is one of Philip and Mary (undated, but apparently of 1555) which regulates the supply of horses for the conveyance of letters to Dover. Again, in July 1556 the lords of the council ordered “ that the postes betweene this and the Northe should eche of them keepe a booke, and make entrye of every lettre that he shall receive, the tyme of the deliveries thereof unto his hands, with the parties names that shall bring it unto him." Much of the business of the foreign postal service to and from England during the earlier years of Queen Elizabeth was managed by the incorporated “merchant strangers, ” who appointed a special postmaster. When that office fell vacant in 1 568 they quarrelled about a successor; and the quarrel cost them their privilege.[1]

The accession of James I. to the English throne, by necessitating a more frequent communication between London and Scotland, led to improvements in the postal service. Special posts had already been established by the magistrates of certain Scottish towns to convey theirUnder James I. dispatches to and from the court. Thus in 1590 a messenger was appointed by the magistrates of Aberdeen with the title of “council-post.”[2] The new royal orders of 1603 directed (1) that the postmasters at the various stages should enjoy the privilege of letting horses to “ those riding in post (that is to say) with horn and guide, ” by commission or otherwise, and to that end they were charged to keep or have in readiness a sufficient number of post-horses; (2) that the lawful charge for the hire of each horse should be, for public messengers, at the rate of 21/2d. a mile, “besides the guides’ groats,” private travellers being left to make their own agreements. Finally, it was directed that every postmaster should keep at least two horses for the express conveyance of government letters, and should forward such letters within a quarter of an hour of their receipt, and that the posts should travel at the rate of not less than 7 m. an hour in summer and 5 m. in winter.[3]

In 1607 the king granted to John Stanhope, first Baron Stanhope of Harrington, and to his son Charles Stanhope, afterwards second Lord Stanhope, jointly and to the survivor of them, the post mastership of England under the title of “Master of the Posts and Messengers,” with a fee of 100 marks a year, together with all “avails and profits” belonging to the office. In 1619 a separate office of “postmaster-general of England for foreign parts” was created in favour of Matthew de Quester[4] and Matthew de Quester the younger. The new office was regarded by the existingThe De Questers. postmaster-general, Charles, Lord Stanhope, as an infringement of his own patent. A long dispute ensued in the king's bench and before the lords of the council.[5] In 1626 by an order in council liberty was granted to all companies of merchants, including the merchant adventurers, to send their letters and dispatches by messengers of their own choosing. A year afterwards this liberty was revoked, except for the Company of Merchant Adventurers. Lord Stanhope, however, continued to carry letters abroad by his agents, and obtained a warrant prohibiting De Quester from interfering. It shows strikingly the confusion of postal affairs at this period to find a statement addressed to the privy council by the postmasters'of England to the effect that they had received no payments “ ever since the last day of-November 1621 till this present time, June 1628”—the arrears amounting to £22,626.

The rights of the postmasters were also infringed by private individuals, as by one Samuel Jude in 1629 in the west of England.[6] In 1632 the foreign postmastership was assigned by De Quester, who had lost his son, to William Frizell and Thomas Witherings. Letters-patent were granted to them jointly, the 15th of March 1633.[7] Witherings took the labouring oar, and ranks as the first of many conspicuous postal reformers. Under him one Richard Boole obtained a special post mastership for the service of the court. Among the earliest measures of improvement taken under the newWitherings. patent was an acceleration of the continental mail service. For this purpose the patentees made a contract with the count of Thurn and Taxis, hereditary postmaster of the Empire and of Spain. At this time there was still but one mail weekly between London, Antwerp and Brussels, and the transit occupied from four to five days. By a subsequent contract with Count Thurn two mails weekly were secured and the transit made ordinarily in two days.[8] In June 1635 Witherings submitted to the king a proposal “for settling of staffets or pacquet-posts betwixt London and all parts of His Majesty's dominions, for the carrying and re-carrying of his subjects letters, ” which contains curious notices of the state of internal communications. The net charge to the Crown of the existing posts is stated to be £3400 per annum. Letters, it is said, “being now carried by carriers or foot posts 16 or 18 m. a day, it is full two months before any answer can be received from Scotland or Ireland to London. If any of His Majesty's subjects shall write to Madrid in Spain, he shall receive answer sooner and surer than he shall out of Scotland or Ireland.” By the new plan it was proposed that all letters for the northern road should be put into one “port mantle” and directed to Edinburgh, with separate bags directed to such postmasters as lived upon the road near to any city or town corporate. The journey from London to Edinburgh was to be performed within three days. The scheme was approved on the 31st of July 1635, the proclamation establishing eight main postal lines-namely, the great northern road, to Ireland by Holyhead, to Ireland by Bristol, to the marches of Wales by Shrewsbury, to Plymouth, to Dover, to Harwich and to Yarmouth. The postage of a single letter was fixed at zd. if under 80 m., 4d. if between 80 and 140 m., 6d. if above 140 m., Sd. if to Scotland. It was provided that no other messengers or foot posts should carry letters to any places so provided, except common known carriers, or a particular messenger “sent on purpose with a letter by any man for his own occasions, ” or a letter by a friend, on pain of exemplary punishment.[9] In February 1638 another royal proclamation ratified an agreement between Witherings and De Noveau, postmaster to the French king, for the conveyance of the mails into France by Calais, Boulogne, Abbeville and Amiens.[10]

But in 1640 the active postmaster was accused of divers abuses and misdemeanours, and his office sequestrated into the hands of Philip Burlamachi of London, merchant, who was to execute the same under the inspection of the principal secretary of state.[11] Witherings then assigned his patent to Robert Rich, earl of Warwick, and a long contest ensued in both houses of parliament. The sequestration was declared by a vote in parliament in 1642 to be illegal. Nevertheless the dispute gave repeated occupation to both houses during the period from 1641 to 1647, and was diversified by several affrays, in which violent hands were laid upon the mails. In 1643 the post office yielded only £5000 a year. In 1644 the Lords and Commons by a joint ordinance appointed Edmund Prideaux “ to be master of the posts, messengers and couriers.” In 1646 the opinion of the judges was taken on the validity of Witherings's patent (assigned to Lord Warwick), and they pronounced that “the clauses of restraint in the said patent are void and not good in law; that, notwithstanding these clauses be void, the patent is good for the rest.”[12] It is evident, therefore, that any prohibition to carry letters must be by act of parliament to have force of law.

In 1650 an attempt was made by the common council of London to organize a new postal system on the great roads, to run twice a week. This scheme they temporarily carried into effect as respects Scotland. But Mr Attorney-General Prideaux urged on the councilUnder Cromwell. of state that, if the new enterprise were permitted, besides in trenching on the rights of the parliament, some other means would have to be devised for payment of the postmasters. Both houses resolved (1) that the offices of postmasters, inland and foreign, were, and ought to be, in the sole power and disposal of the parliament, and (2) that it should be referred to the council of state to take into consideration all existing claims in relation thereto. Of these there were five under the various patents which had been granted. Thereupon the Protector was advised that the management of the post office should be entrusted to John Thurloe by patent upon the expiration of John Manley's existing contract. Thurloe was to give security for payment of the existing rent of £10,000 a year. Ultimately the posts, both inland and foreign, were farmed to John Manley for £10,000 a year, by an agreement made in 1653. Meanwhile an attorney at York, named John Hill, placed relays of post horses between that city and London, and undertookJohn Hill’s refroms. the conveyance of letters and parcels at half the former rates. He also formed local and limited partnerships in various parts of the kingdom for the extension of his plan, which aimed to establish eventually a general penny postage for England, a twopenny postage for Scotland and a fourpenny postage for Ireland. But the post office was looked upon by the government of the day as, first, a means of revenue, and secondly, a means of political espionage.[13] The new letter carriers were “ trampled down ” by Cromwell's soldiery. The inventor had a narrow escape from severe punishment. He lived to publish (1659) the details of his plan, at the eve of the Restoration, in a pamphlet entitled A Penny Post: or a Vindication of the Liberty and Birthright of every Englishman in carrying Merchants and other Man's letters, against any Restraint of Farmers, &c. It is probable that this publication[14] helped to prepare the way for those measures of partial but far-reaching reform which were effected during the reign of Charles II. The rates of postage and the rights and duties of postmasters were settled under the Protectorate by an act of parliament of 1657, c. 30. In 1659 the item, “ by postage of letters in farm, £14,000, ” appears in a report on the public revenue.”[15]

The government of the Restoration continued to farm the post office upon conditions similar to those imposed by the act of 1657, but for a larger sum. Henry Bishop, the first postmaster-general in the reign of Charles II., contracted to pay a yearly rent of £21,500, these newUnder Charles II. arrangements being embodied in the Act 12 Charles II. c. 35 (1660), entitled “An Act for Erecting and Establishing a Post Office.” A clause proposing to frank all letters addressed to or sent by members of parliament during the session was rejected by the Lords. But the indenture enrolled with the letters-patent contained a proviso for the free carriage of all letters to or from the king, the great officers of state and also the single inland letters only of the members of that present parliament during that session. It also provided that the lessee should permit the secretaries of state, or either of them, to have the survey and inspection of all letters at their discretion. Bishop was succeeded by Daniel O'Neill[16] in 1662, on similar terms. In the consequent proclamation, issued on the 25th of May 1663, it was commanded that “no postmasters or other officers that shall be employed in the conveying of letters, or distributing of the same, or any other person or persons, . . . except by the immediate warrant of our principal secretaries of state, shall presume to open any letters or pacquets not directed unto themselves.” In 1677 the general post office comprised in the chief onice, under Henry Bennet, earl of Arlington, as postmaster-general, seventy-five persons, and its profits were farmed for £43,000 a year. There were then throughout England and Scotland 182 deputy postmasters, and in Ireland 18 officers at the Dublin office and 45 country postmasters. “The number of letters missive,” says a writer of the same year, “is now prodigiously great. . . . A letter comprising one whole sheet of paper is conveyed 80 m. for twopence. Every twenty-four hours the post goes 120 m., and in five days an answer may be had from a place 300 m. distant.[17] By an act of the 15th Charles II. (“An Act for Settling the Profits of the Post Office on the duke of York, and his Heirs-Male”), and by a subsequent proclamation issued in August 1683, it was directed that the postmaster-general should “take effectual care for the conveyance of all bye-letters, by establishing correspondences . . . in all considerable market-towns with the next adjacent post-stage, and the rights of the postmasters as to hiring horses were again emphasized.

During the possession of the post-office profits by the duke of York a London penny post was established by the joint enterprise of William Dockwra, a searcher at the customs-house, and of Robert Murray, a clerk in the excise office. The working-out of the plan fell to the first-named,Dockwra’s London Penny Post. and in his hands it gave in April 1680—although but for a short timwfar more extensive postal facilities to the Londoners than even those afforded 160 years later by the plans of Sir Rowland Hill. Dockwra carried, registered and insured, for a penny, both letters and parcels up to a pound in weight and £10 in value. He took what had been the mansion of Sir Robert Abdy in Lime Street as a chief office, established seven sorting and district offices, and between 400 and 500 receiving-houses and wall-boxes. He established hourly collections, with a maximum of ten deliveries daily for the central part of the city, and a minimum of six for the suburbs. Outlying villages, such as Hackney and Islington, had four daily deliveries; and his letter-carriers collected for each despatch of the general post office throughout the whole of the city and suburbs. Suits were laid against him in the court of king's bench for infringing on the duke of York's patent, and the jealousies of the farmers eventually prevailed. The penny post was made a branch of the general post. Dockwra, after the Revolution of 1688, obtained a pension of £500 a year (for a limited term) in compensation of his losses. In 1697 he was made Comptroller of the London office. Eleven years later his improvements were outvied by Charles Povey, the author of schemes for improving coinage, and also of a curious volume, often wrongly ascribed to Defoe, entitled The Visions of Sir Heister Ryley. Povey took upon himself to set up a foot-post under the name of the “halfpenny carriage,” appointed receiving-houses, and employed several persons to collect and deliver letters for hire within the cities of London and Westminster and borough of Southwark, “to the great prejudice of the revenue,” as was represented by the postmaster-general to the lords of the treasury. Povey was compelled to desist.

At this period the postal system of Scotland was distinct from that of England. It had been reorganized early in the reign of Charles II., who in September 1662 had appointed Patrick Grahame of lnchbrakie to be postmaster-general of Scotland for life at a salary of £500 Scots.Early Scottish Postal System. But it would seem from the proceedings of the Scottish privy council that the rights and duties of the office were ill defined; for immediately after the appointment of Grahame the council commissioned Robert Mein, merchant and keeper of the letter-office in Edinburgh, to establish posts between Scotland and Ireland, ordained that Linlithgow, Kilsyth, Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Dumboag, Ballantrae and Portpatrick should be stages on the route, and granted him the sum of £200 sterling to build a packet-boat to carry the mail from Portpatrick to Donaghadee.[18]

Perhaps the earliest official notice of the colonial post is to be seen in the following paragraph from the records of the general court of Massachusetts in 1639. “It is ordered that notice be given that Richard Fairbanks his house in Boston is the place appointed for all letters which areEarly Colonial Posts. brought from beyond the seas, or are to be sent thither to be left with him; and he is to take care that they are to be delivered or sent according to the directions; and he is allowed for every letter a penny, and must answer all miscarriages through his own neglect in this kind.” The court in 1667 was petitioned to make better postal arrangements, the petitioners alleging the frequent “loss of letters whereby merchants, especially with their friends and employers in foreign arts, are greatly damnified; many times the letters are imputed (?) and thrown upon the exchange, so that those who will may take them up, no person, without some satisfaction, being willing to trouble their houses therewith.” In Virginia the postal system was yet more primitive. The colonial law of 1657 required every planter to provide a messenger to convey the dispatches as they arrived to the next plantation, and so on, on pain of forfeiting a hogshead of tobacco in default. The government of New York in 1672 established “a post to goe monthly from New York to Boston,” advertising “those that bee disposed to send letters, to bring them to the secretary's office, where, in a lockt box, they shall be preserved till the messenger calls for them, all persons paying the post before the bagg be sealed up.”[19] Thirty years later this monthly post had become a fortnightly one. The office of postmaster-general for America had been created in 1692.

The act of the 9th of Queen Anne which consolidated the posts of the empire into one establishment, and, as to organization, continued to be the great charter of the post office until the reforms of 1838–1850 mainly introduced by Sir Rowland Hill. The act of AnneAct of Con-solidation. largely increased the powers of the postmaster-general. It reorganized the chief letter-offices of Edinburgh, Dublin and New York, and settled new offices in the West Indies and elsewhere. It established three rates of single postage, viz. English, 3d. if under 80 m. and 4d. if above, and 6d. to Edinburgh or Dublin. It continued to the postmaster general the sole privilege “to provide horses to persons riding post.” And it gave, for the first time, parliamentary sanction to the power, formerly questionable, of the secretaries of state with respect to the opening of letters, by enacting that “from and after the first day of June 1711 no person or persons shall presume . . . to open, detain or delay . . . any letter or letters after the same is or shall be delivered into the general or other post office, . . . and before delivery to the persons to whom they are directed, or for their use, except by an express warrant in writing under the hand of one of the principal secretaries of state for every such opening, detaining or delaying.

Nine years after the passing of the act of Anne the cross-posts were farmed to the well-known “humble” Ralph Allen—the lover of peace and of humanity.[20] Allen became the inventor of the cross-roads postal system, having made an agreement that the new profitsCross-road Posts. so created should be his own during his lifetime. His improvements were so successful that he is said to have netted during forty-two years an average profit of nearly £12,000 a year.

The postal revenue of Great Britain, meanwhile, stood thus:—

Gross and Net Income, 1724–1774.

 Gross Produce.  Net Revenue.
£ s. d. £ s. d.
 1724   178,071 16 96,339  7
1734  176,334 3 91,701  11
1744  194,461 8 85,114  9
1754  214,300 10 97,365  5  1 
1764  225,326 5  116,182  8
1774  313,032 14  164,077  8

The system of burdening the post-office revenue with pensions, nearly all of which had no public connexion with the postal service, and some of which were unconnected with any public service, was begun by Charles II., who granted to Barbara, duchess of Cleveland, £4700 a year, and toPermanent Pensions. the earl of Rochester £4000 a year, out of that revenue. The example was followed until, in 1694, the pensions so chargeable amounted to £21,200. Queen Anne granted a pension of £5000 to the duke of Marlborough, charged in like manner. In March 1857 the existing pensions ceased to be payable by the post office, and became chargeable to the consolidated fund.

In October 1782 the notice of the manager of the Bath theatre, John Palmer (1742–1818), was attracted to the postal service. So habitual were the robberies of the post that they came to be regarded as necessary evils. The officials urged the precaution of sending all bank-notes andPalmer’s Mail-coaches. bills of exchange in halves, and pointed the warning with a philosophical remark that “there are no other means of preventing robberies with effect.” At this period the postal system was characterized by extreme irregularity in the departure of mails and delivery of letters by an average speed of about 31/2 m. in the hour, and by a rapidly increasing diversion of correspondence into illicit channels. The net revenue, which had averaged £167,176 during the ten years ending with 1773, averaged but £159,625 during the ten years ending with 1783. Yet, when Palmer suggested that by building mail-coaches expressly adapted to run at a good speed, by furnishing a liberal supply of horses, and by attaching an armed guard to each coach the public would be greatly benefited, and the post-office revenue considerably increased, the officials maintained that the existing system was all but perfect. Lord Camden, however, brought the plan under the personal notice of Pitt, who insisted on its being tried. The experiment was made in August 1784, and its success exceeded all anticipation. The following table shows the rapid increase of revenue under the new arrangements:—

Gross and Net Income, 1784–1805.

 Year.   Gross Income.   Net Revenue. 
£  s. d. £  s. d.
 1784 420,101  1 8  196,513  16 7
 1785 463,753  8 4  261,409  18 2
 1790 533,198  1 9  331,179  18 8
 1795 745,238  0 0  414,548  11 7
 1800  1,083,950  0 0  720,981  17 1
 1805  1,317,842  0 0  944,382  8 4

It had been at first proposed to reward Palmer by a grant for life of 21/2% on a certain proportion of the increased net revenue, which would eventually have given him some £10,000 a year, but this proposition fell through. Pitt, however, appointed Palmer to be comptroller-general of postal revenues, an office which was soon made too hot for him to hold. He obtained a pension of £3000 a year, and ultimately, by the act 53 Geo. III. c. 157 (1813), after his case had received the sanction of five successive majorities against government, an additional sum of £50,000. Every sort of obstruction was placed in the way of his reward, although nearly a million had been added to the annual public revenue, and during a quarter of a century the mails had been conveyed over an aggregate of some seventy millions of miles without the occurrence of one serious mail robbery.[21]

Scotland shared in the advantages of the mail-coach system from the first. Shortly before its introduction the local penny post was set on foot in Edinburgh by Peter Williamson, the keeper of a coffee-room in the hall of Parliament House. He employed four letter-carriers, in uniform, appointedScottish and Irish Post Office, 1708–1801. receivers in various parts of the city, and established hourly deliveries.[22] The officials of the post, when the success of the plan had become fully apparent, gave Williamson a pension, and absorbed his business, the acquisition of which was subsequently confirmed by the Act 34 Geo. III. c. 17 (1794). A dead-letter office was established in 1784. But in Ireland in 1801 only three public carriages conveyed mails. There were, indeed, few roads of any sort, and none on which coaches could travel faster than four miles an hour.[23] At this period the gross.receipts of the Irish post office were £80,040; the charges of management and collection were £59,216, or at the rate of more than 70%; whilst in Scotland the receipts were £100,651, and the charges £16,896, or somewhat less than 17%.[24]

In the American colonies postal improvements may be dated from the administration of Franklin, who was virtually the last colonial postmaster-general, as well as the best. In one shape or another he had forty years' experience of postal work, having been appointed postmaster at Philadelphia in OctoberFranklin. 1737. When he became postmaster-general in 1753 he visited all the chief post offices throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and New England, looking at everything with his own eyes. His administration cannot be better summed up than we find it to be in a sentence or two which he wrote soon after his dismissal. Up to the date of his appointment, he says, “the American post office had never paid anything to that of Britain. We [i.e. himself and his assistant] were to have £600 a year between us, if we could make that sum out of the profits of the office. . . . In the first four years the office became above £900 in debt to us. But it soon after began to repay us; and before I was displaced by a freak of the minister’s, we had brought it to yield three times as much clear revenue to the Crown as the post office of Ireland. Since that imprudent transaction they have received from it—not one farthing.”

The interval between the development of Palmer’s methods, and the reforms introduced twenty-seven years later by Sir Rowland Hill, is chiefly marked by the growth of the packet system, under the influence of steam navigation, and by the elaborate investigations of the revenue commissioners of 1820 and the following years. In some important particulars these mark out practical and most valuable reforms, but they contrasted unfavourably with the lucidity and reasoning of Rowland Hill’s Post Office Reform.

As early as 1788 the cost of the packets employed by the post office attracted parliamentary attention. In that year the “commissioners of fees and gratuities” reported that in the preceding seventeen years the total cost of this branch had amounted to £1,038,133; and they naturally laidPacket Services. stress on the circumstance that many officers of the post office were owners of such packets, even down to the chamber-keeper. At this time part of the packet service was performed by hired vessels, and part by vessels which were the property of the Crown. The commissioners recommended that the latter should be sold, and the entire service be provided for by public and competitive tender. The subject was again inquired, into by the finance committee of 1798, which reported that the recommendation of 1788 had not been fully acted upon, and expressed its concurrence in that recommendation. The plan was then to a considerable extent enforced. But the war rapidly increased the expenditure. The average (£61,000) of 1771–1787 had increased in 1797 to £78,439, in 1810 to £105,000, in 1814 to £160,603 In the succeeding years of peace the expense fell to an average of about £85,000. As early as 1818 the “Rob Roy” plied regularly between Greenock and Belfast; but no use was made of steam navigation for the postal service until 1821, when the postmaster-general established Crown packets. The expenditure under the new system, from that date to 1829 inclusive, was thus reported by the commissioners of revenue inquiry in 1830:—

Cost of Packet Service, 1820–1829.[25]

Year. £ Year £
1820[26] 85,000   1825  110,838
1821[27] 134,868   1826  144,592
1822 115,429   1827  159,250
1823 93,725   1828  117,260
1824 116,602   1829  108,305
The general administration of postal affairs at this period was

still characterized by repeated advances in the letter rates, and the twenty years previous to Rowland Hill’s reforms by a stationary revenue. The following table will show the gross receipts, the charges of collection and management, and the net revenue (omitting fractions of a pound) of the post office of Great Britain. We give the figures for the year 1808 for the purpose of comparison.

Year. Gross
of Col-
lection, &c.
per cent.
of Gross
of United
£ £ £
1808 1,552,037 451,431  29 1,100,606
1815–16 2,193,741 594, 0 45  27 1,599,696 19,552,000
1818–19 2,209,212 719,622  321/2 1,489,590
1820–21 2,132,235 636,290  29 1,495,945 20,928,000
1824-25 2,255,239 655,914  29 1,599,325 22,362,000
1826-27 2,392,272 747, 018  31 1,645,254
1836-37 2,206,736 609,220  271/2 1,597,516 25,605,000
1838-39 2,346,278 686,768  29 1,659,510

Before passing to the reform of 1839 we have to revert to that important feature in postal history-the interference with correspondence for judicial or political purposes. We have

Zizigf' already seen (1) that this assumption had no parlialnwrfereme mentary sanction until the enactment of the 9th of with Com” Queen Anne; (2) that the enactment differed from the spondencm royal proclamations in directing a special warrant for each opening or detention of correspondence. It is a significant gloss on the statute to find that for nearly a century (namely, until 1798 inclusive) it was not the practice to record such warrants regularly in any official book.[28] Of the use to which the power was applied the state trials afford some remarkable instances. At the trial of Bishop Atterbury, for example, in 1723 certain letters were offered in evidence which a clerk of the post office deposed on oath “to be true copies of the originals, which were stopped at the post office and copied, and sent forward as directed.” Hereupon Atterbury asked this witness “ if he had any express warrant under the hand of one of the principal secretaries of state for opening the said letters." But the lords shelved his objection on the grounds of public inexpediency. Twenty-nine peers recorded their protest against this decision.[29] But the practice thus sanctioned appears to have been pushed to such lengths as to elicit in April 1735 a strong protest and censure from the House of Commons. A committee of inquiry was appointed, and after receiving its report the house resolved that it was “an high infringement of the privileges of the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament that letters of any member should be opened or delayed without a warrant of a principal secretary of state.”

Sir Rowland Hill’s Reforms (1836–1842).

Rowland Hill’s pamphlet (Post Office Reform) of 1837 took for its starting-point the fact that, whereas the postal revenue showed for the past twenty years a positive though slight diminution, it ought to have showed an increase of £507,700 a year in order to have simply kept pace with the growth of population, and an increase of nearly four times that amount in order to have kept pace with the growth of the analogous though far less exorbitant duties imposed on stage-coaches. The stagecoach duties had produced, in 1815, £217,671; in 1835 they produced £498,497. In 1837 there did not exist any precise account of the number of letters transmitted through the general post office. Hill, however, was able to prepare a sufficiently approximate estimate from the data of the London district post, and from the sums collected for postage. He thus calculated the number of chargeable letters at about 88,600,000, that of franked letters at 7,400,000, and that of newspapers at 30,000,000, giving a gross total of about 126,000,000. At this period the total cost of management and distribution was £696,569. In the finance accounts of the year (1837) deductions are made from the gross revenue for letters “refused, missent, redirected,” and the like, which amount to about £122,000. An analysis of the component parts of this expenditure assigned £426,517 to cost of primary distribution and £270,052 to cost of secondary distribution and miscellaneous charges. A further analysis of the primary distribution expenditure gave £282,308 as the probable outgoings for receipt and delivery, and £144,209 as the probable outgoings for transit. In other words, the expenditure which hinged upon the distance the letters had to be conveyed was £144,000, and that which had nothing to do with distance was £282,000. Applying to these figures the estimated number of letters and newspapers (126,000,000) passing through the office, there resulted a probable average cost of 84/100 of a penny for each, of which 28/100 was cost of transit and 56/100 cost of receipt, delivery, &c. Taking into account, however, the greater weight of newspapers and franked letters as compared with chargeable letters, the apparent average cost-of transit became, by this estimate, but about 9/100, or less than 1/10 of a penny.

A detailed estimate of the cost of conveying a letter from London to Edinburgh, founded upon the average weight of the Edinburgh mail, gave a still lower proportion, since it reduced the apparent cost of transit, on the average, to the thirty-sixth part of one penny. Hill inferred that, if the charge for postage were to be made proportionate to the whole expense incurred in the receipt, transit and delivery of the letter, and in the collection of its postage, it must be made uniformly the same from every post-town to every other post-town in the United Kingdom, unless it could be shown how we are to collect so small a sum as the thirty-sixth part of a penny. And, inasmuch as it would take a ninefold weight to make the expense of transit amount to one farthing, he further inferred that, taxation apart, the charge ought to be precisely the same for every packet of moderate weight, without reference to the number of its enclosures.

At this period the rate of postage actually imposed (beyond the limits of the London district office) varied from 4d. to 1s. 8d. for a single letter, which was interpreted to mean a single piece of paper not exceeding an ounce in weight; a second piece of paper or any other enclosure, however small, constituted the packet a double letter. A single sheet of paper, if it at all exceeded an ounce in weight, was charged with fourfold postage. The average charge on inland general post letters was nearly gd. for each. It was proposed that the charge for primary distribution-that is to say, the postage on all letters received in a post-town, and delivered in the same or in any other post-town in the British Isles- should be at the uniform rate of one penny for each half-ounce-all letters and other papers, whether single or multiple, forming one packet, and not Weighing more than half an ounce, being charged one penny, and heavier packets, to any convenient limit, being charged an additional penny for each additional half-ounce. It was further proposed that stamped covers should be sold to the public at such a price as to include the postage, which would thus be collected in advance.[30] By the public generally, and pre-eminently by the trading public, the plan was received with favour. By the functionaries of the post office it was denounced as ruinous and visionary. In 1838 petitions poured the House of Commons. A select committee was appointed, which reported as follows:—

The principal points which appear to your committee to have been established in evidence are the following: (1) the exceedingly slow advance and occasionally retrograde movement of the post office revenue during the . . . last twenty years; (2) the fact of the charge of postage exceeding the cost in a manifold proportion; (3) the fact of postage being evaded most extensively by all classes of society, and of correspondence being suppressed, more especially among the middle and working classes of the people, and this in consequence, as all the witnesses, including many of the post office authorities, think, of the excessively high scale of taxation; (4) the fact of very injurious effects resulting from this state of things to the commerce and industry of the country, and to the social habits and moral condition of the people; (5) the fact, as far as conclusions can be drawn from very imperfect data, that whenever on former occasions large reductions in the rates have been made, these reductions have been followed in short periods of time by an extension of correspondence proportionate to the contraction of the rates; (6) and, as matters of inference from fact and of opinion—(i.) that the only remedies for the evils above stated are a reduction of the rates, and the establishment of additional deliveries, and more frequent dispatches of letters; (ii.) that owing to the rapid extension of railroads there is an urgent and daily increasing necessity for making such changes; (iii.) that any moderate reduction in the rates would occasion loss to the revenue, without in any material degree diminishing the present amount of letters irregularly conveyed, or giving rise to the growth of new correspondence; (iv.) that the principle of a low uniform rate is just in itself, and, when combined with prepayment and collection by means of a stamp, would be exceedingly convenient and highly satisfactory to the public.”

A bill to enable the treasury to establish uniform penny postage was carried in the House of Commons by a majority of 100, and became law on the 17th of August 1839. A temporary office was created to enable Rowland Hill to superintend the working out of his plan. The first step taken was to reduce, on the 5th of December 1839, the Nature of Reforms. London district postage to 1d. and the general inland postage to 4d. the half-ounce (existing lower rates being continued). On the 10th of January 1840 the uniform penny rate came into operation throughout the United Kingdom-the scale of weight advancing from 1d. for each of the first two half-ounces, by gradations of 2d. for each additional ounce, or fraction of an ounce, up to 16 oz. The postage was to be prepaid, and if not to be charged at double rates. Parliamentary franking was abolished. Postage stamps were introduced in May following. The facilities of despatch were soon afterwards increased by the establishment of day mails.

But on the important point of simplification in the internal economy of the post office, with the object of reducing its cost without diminishing its working power, little was done. The plan had to work in the face of rooted mistrust on the part of the workers. Its author was (for a term of two years, afterwards prolonged to three) the officer, not of the post office, but of the treasury. He could only recommend measures the most indispensable through the chancellor of the exchequer. It happened, too, that the scheme had to be tried at a period of severe commercial depression. Nevertheless, the results actually attained Results. in the first two years were briefly these: (1) the chargeable letters delivered in the United Kingdom, exclusive of that part of the government correspondence which theretofore passed free, had already increased from the rate of about 75,000,000 a year to that of 196,500,000; (2) the London district post letters had increased from about 13,000,000 to 23,000,000, or nearly in the ratio of the reduction of the rates; (3) the illicit conveyance of letters was substantially suppressed; (4) the gross revenue, exclusive of repayments, yielded about a million and a half per annum, which was about 63% of the amount of the gross revenue in 1839. These results at so early a stage, and in the face of so many obstructions. vindicated the new system.

Seven years later (1849) the 196,500,000 letters delivered throughout the United Kingdom in 1842 had increased to nearly 329,000,000. In addition, the following administrative improvements had been effected: (1) the time for posting letters at the London receiving-houses extended; (2) the limitation of weight abolished; (3) an additional daily despatch to London from the neighbouring (as yet independent) villages; (4) the postal arrangements of 120 of the largest cities and great towns revised; (5) unlimited writing on inland newspapers authorized on payment of an additional penny; (6) a summary process established for recovery of postage from the senders of unpaid letters when refused; (7) a book-post established; (8) registration reduced from one shilling to sixpence; (9) a third mail daily put on the railway (without additional charge) from the towns of the north-western district to London, and day mails extended within a radius of 20 m. round the metropolis; (10) a service of parliamentary returns, for private bills, provided for; (11) measures taken, against many obstacles, for the complete consolidation of the two heretofore distinct corps of letter-carriers-an improvement (on the whole) of detail, which led to other improvements thereafter.[31]

Later History (1842–1905).

When Sir R. Hill initiated his reform the postmaster-general was the earl of Lichfield, the thirty-first in succession to that office after Sir Brian Tuke. Under him the legislation of 1839 was carried out in 1840 and 1841. In September 1841 he was succeeded by Viscount Lowther.

In the summer of 1844 the statement that the letters of Mazzini, then a political refugee, long resident in England, had been systematically opened, and their contents communicated to foreign governments, by Sir James Graham, secretary of state for the home department, aroused much indignation. The arrest of the brothers Opening and Detention of Letters. Bandiera,[32] largely in consequence of information derived from their correspondence with Mazzini, and their subsequent execution at Cosenza made a thorough investigation into the circumstances a public necessity. The consequent parliamentary inquiry of August 1844, after retracing the earlier events connected with the exercise of the discretional power of inspection which parliament had vested in the secretaries of state in 1710, elicited the fact that in 1806 Lord Spencer, then secretary for the home department, introduced for the first time the practice of recording in an official book all warrants issued for the detention and opening of letters, and also the additional fact that from 1822 onwards the warrants themselves had been preserved. The whole number of such warrants issued from 1806 to the middle of 1844 inclusive was stated to be 323, of which no less than 53 had been issued in the years 1841–1844 inclusive, a number exceeding that of any previous period of like extent.

The committee of 1844 proceeded to report that “the warrants issued during the present century may be divided into two classes—1st, those issued in furtherance of criminal justice . . . ; 2nd, those issued for the purpose of discovering the designs of persons known or suspected to be engaged in proceedings dangerous to the State, or (as in Mazzini's case) deeply involving British interests, and carried on in the United Kingdom or in British possessions beyond the seas. . . . Warrants of the second description originate with the home office. The principal secretary of state, of his own discretion, determines when to issue them, and gives instructions accordingly to the under-secretary, whose office is then purely ministerial. The mode of preparing them, and keeping record of them in a private book, is the same as in the case of criminal warrants. There is no record kept of the grounds on which they are issued, except so far as correspondence preserved at the home office may lead to infer them.[33] . . . The letters which have been detained and opened are, unless retained by special order, as sometimes happens in criminal cases, closed and resealed, without affixing any mark to indicate that they have been so detained and opened, and are forwarded by post according to their respective superscriptions.”[34]

Almost forty years later a like question was again raised in the House of Commons (March 1882) by some Irish members, in relation to an alleged examination of correspondence at Dublin for political reasons. Sir William Harcourt on that occasion spoke thus: “This power is with the secretary of state in England In Ireland it belongs to the Irish government. . . . It is a power which is given for purposes of state, and the very essence of the power is that no account [of its exercise] can be rendered. To render an account would be to defeat the very object for which the power was granted. If the minister is not fit to exercise the power so entrusted, upon the responsibility cast upon him, he is not fit to occupy the post of secretary of state.”[35] The House of Commons accepted this explanation; and in view of many grave incidents, both in Ireland and in America, it would be hard to justify any other conclusion.

The increase in the number of postal deliveries and in that of the receiving-houses and branch-offices, together with the numerous improvements introduced into the working economy of the post office, when Rowland Hill at length obtained the means of fullyIncrease in Postal Business, 1839–1857. carrying out his reforms by his appointment as secretary speedily gave a more vigorous impulse to the progress of the net revenue than had theretofore obtained. During the seven years 1845–1851 inclusive the average was but £810,951. During the six years 1852–1857 inclusive the average was £1,166,448—the average of the gross income during the same septennial period having been £2,681,835.

Number of Letters: Gross and Net Income, 1838–1857.

Year ending Estimated
No. of
Cost of
on Gov-
£ £ £ £
Jan. 5, 1838  2,339,737   687,313 1,652,424   38,528
„ 1842  196,500,191 1,499,418   938,168   561,249 113,255
„ 1847  299,586,762 1,963,857 1,138 ,745 825,112 100,354
„ 1852  360,647,187 2,422,168 1,304,163 1,118,004 167,129
Dec. 31, 1857  504,421,000 3,035,713 1,720,815 1,314,898 135,517

Within a period of eighteen years under the penny rate the number of letters became more than sixfold what it was under the rates of 1838. When the change was first made the increase of letters was in the ratio of 122-25% during the year. The second year showed an increase on the first of about 16 %. During the next fifteen years the average increase was at the rate of about 6% per annum. Although this enormous increase of business, coupled with the increasing preponderance of railway mail conveyance (invaluable, but costly), carried up the post office expenditure from £757,000 to £1,720,800, yet the net revenue of 1857 was within £350,000 of the net revenue of 1839. During the year 1857 the number of newspapers delivered in the United Kingdom was about 71 millions, and that of book-packets (the cheap carriage of which is one of the most serviceable and praiseworthy of modern postal improvements) about 6 millions.

Since 1858 the achievements of the period 1835-1857 have been eminently surpassed. This period includes the establishment of postal savings banks (1861) and the transfer to the state of Growth the telegraplric service (1870). These improvements and are dealt with in separate articles. The British Ch-"'X¢S» postal business has grown at a more rapid rate than the population of the United Kingdom. Some of the causes of this development must be sought within the post office department, e.g. improved facilities, lower charges and the assumption of new functions; but others are to be found in the higher level of popular education, the increase of wealth, industry and commerce, and the rapid expansion of Greater Britain. -

The following table shows the growth of letters delivered:- United Kingdom.-Estimated inland delivery of letters, 1839-1905, with the increase per cent. per annum. Also the average number to each person, 00,000's omitted.

Year ending 31st December until 1876,
and thereafter the Financial Year
ending 31st March.
Delivered in England and Wales. Tot. Eng.
& Wales
Inc. %
Ave. no.
Tot. in
Inc. %
Ave. no.
Tot. in
Inc. %
Ave. no.
Tot. in
U. K..
Inc. %
Ave. no.
Inc. %
In Lond.
Inc. %
Estimated No. of Letters, 1839
Franks. 1839
 —  —  —  — 60,0
 — } 4 { 8,0
  — } 3 { 8,0   — } 1 { 76,0
  — 3
Letters, 1840 88,0   — 44,0   — 132,0 120.0 8 19,0 143.5 7 18,0 119.2 2 169,0 22.2 7
Average of 5 years, 1841–1845 122,0 10.7 57,0 9.0 179,0 10.2 11 24,0 9.2 9 24,0 9.5 3 227,0 10.0 8
1846–1850 180,0 5.5 79,0 5.5 259,0 5.2 15 34,0 4.2 12 34,0 5.0 4 327,0 5.0 12
1851–1855 233,0 6.5 97,0 5.0 330,0 6.0 18 41,0 5.2 14 39,0 3.5 6 410,0 5.7 15
1856–1860 302,0 4.2 125,0 5.5 427,0 4.5 22 51,0 3.2 16 45,0 3.0 7 523,0 4.2 18
1861–1865 373,0 5.7 161,0 5.7 534,0 5.7 29 61,0 0.5 20 J3,o 3.2 9 648,0 5.5 22
1866–1870 472,0 4.2 192,0 3.2 664,0 4.0 31 76,0 4.7 24 60,0 3.2 11 800,0 4.0 26
Year 1871 501,0 0.5 220,0 7.0 721,0 2.5 32 80,0 1.2 24 66,0 3.0 867,0 2.3 27
 „ 1875 580,0 4.8 266,7 6.5 846,8 5.3 35 9 0 ,9 0.9 26 70,5 13 1,008,3 4.6 31
 „ 1880–1881 650,9 1 330,4 6.6 981,3 3.3 38 104,9 3.0 29 78,7 3.8 15 1, 16 5, 1 3.3 34
 „ 1884–1885 757,2 2.7 39 1, 1 4.1 1,148,3 3.2 42 122,9 2.6 32 89,1 1.6 18 1,360,3 2.9 38
 „ 1890–1891 924,4 3.3 538,4 4.0
1,462,8 35
50 1 43 ,2 2.1 36 99,8 3.1 21 1,709,0 3.4
 „ 1894–1895[36] 993,3 2.0 508,8 11.6
1,502,1 3.1
50 156,0 1.4 38 112,8 4.0 24 1,770,9 2.3
 „ 1900–1901[37] 1,312,7 2.9 664,3 5.0 1,977,0 3.6 61 202,4 2.8 47 144,2 2.2 32 2,323,6 3.4 57
 „ 1905 - 1906 1,559,9 3.2 753,4 3.6 2,313,3 3.3 68 238,1 3.7 51 155 ,8 0.1
36 2,707,2 3.1 62

The rates of inland letter postage have been altered as follows. From the 5th of October 1871 to the 1st of July 1885 the charges were not exceeding 1 oz. one penny; over 1 oz. and not exceeding 2 oz. three halfpence;Inland Letter Rates. and an additional halfpenny for, every 2 oz., so that the postage on a letter weighing between 10 and 12 oz. was 4d. On a letter weighing over 12 oz. and not exceeding 13 oz. the postage was 1s. 4d., and increased 1d. for each succeeding ounce. On the first of July 1885; the postage on letters over 12 oz. was reduced and the gradation of charge beyond 2 oz. was made uniform, at the rate of one halfpenny for each additional ounce. Thus a letter weighing over 12 and not not exceeding 14 oz. was charged 41/2d., 14 to 16 oz. 5d., and so on. Notwithstanding this change, it was found as late as 1895 that 95% of the letters sent through the post weighed not more than 1 oz. each.

Among a number of postal and telegraphic concessions made to the public on the 22nd of June 1897, the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession to the throne, were new rates for letters as follows:-

Not exceeding 4 oz. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Over 4 oz. and not exceeding 6 oz. . . . . 11/2
Over 6 oz. and not exceeding 8 oz. . . . . 2
with 1/2d. for each succeeding 2 oz.

This change, while it saved both the post office and the public the trouble of testing the weight of a large number of letters, had also the advantage of simplicity of calculation-one halfpenny is charged for each 2 oz., with a minimum charge of rd. Arrangements were at the same time made to ensure a delivery of letters by postmen at every house in the United Kingdom. It was estimated that 16 millions of letters, whose owners had previously to fetch them from the post office or from some oint on a postman's walk, would thus be added to the official) delivery. The estimate proved to be much under the mark, some 60 millions being added to the letters brought annually into the official delivery under this arrangement. Financial considerations have now been entirely disregarded for the benefit of these letters, and the cost of their delivery alone greatly exceeds the whole revenue derived from them.

In studying the statistics of letters delivered, it should be remembered that the figures for any particular year are affected by circumstances like a general election or a boom in trade, as well as by changes in the rates or condition of the post office services. The letters from foreign countries have been stimulated by lower charges, and those from the colonies by the imperial penny post, to which reference is made below.

On the 12th of February 1892 letter cards bearing an imprinted penny stamp, and made to be fastened against inspection, were issued to the public at a charge of 1s. for 10 cards. The charge was reduced almost at once to 9d. for 8 cards. Similar cards have long been in use on the continent of Europe, but they Letter and Post Cards. do not enjoy much popularity in Great Britain either with the post office, which finds them inconvenient to handle in sorting and stamping, or with the public. The number issued annually is about 10 millions, not counting those of private manufacturers.

The following table gives the number of post cards:—

Estimated Number of Post Cards delivered in the United Kingdom,
and the Increase per cent. per Annum.

Year. England and
Scotland. Ireland. United
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
1872 . .  64,000,000  —  8,000,000  — 4,000,000  —  76,000,000  —
1875 . .  73,369,100 11·6  9,206,300 6·7 4,540,900 5·5  87,116,300 10·7
1881–1882 114,251,500 10·4 14,651,400 9·3 6,426,100 6·9 135,329,000 10·1
1884–1885 134,100,000 4·3 18,400,000 5·5 7,900,000 3·1 160,400,000  4·4
1889–1890 184,400,000 8·4 22,900,000 5 . 9,800,000 5·4 217,100,000  7·8
1893–1894 209,100,000 1·4 27,400,000 2·2 12,000,000 6·2 248,500,000  1·6
1894–1895*  271,600,000 29·9
28,700,000 4·7 12,500,000 4·2 312,800,000 25·9
1895–1896 268,300,000 1·2
32,200,000 12·2 14,000,000 12·0 314,500,000  0·6
1900–1901 359,400,000 4·9 41,600,000 2·0 18,000,000 6·5 419,000,000  4·7
1905–1906 676,500,000  9·6 91,000,000  5·0 32,800,000  6·8 800,300,000   9·0

 *Private cards with adhesive stamps first allowed in this year.

Post cards were first introduced in Austria on the 1st of October 1869, and were first issued in Great Britain on the 1st of October 1870. Only one kind of card was employed, and this was sold for one halfpenny; but on the complaints of the stationers, a charge of 1/2 d. per dozen for the material of the card was made in 1872, and permission was given for private persons to have their own cards stamped at Somerset House. In 1875 a stouter card was put on sale, and the charges were raised to 7d. per dozen for thin cards and 8d. per dozen for stout cards. In 1889 the charges were reduced, and they are now sold at 10 for 51/2d. and 11 for 6d. respectively. On the 1st of September 1894, private post cards with an adhesive halfpenny stamp were allowed to pass by post, and the result has been greatly to diminish the number of cards purchased through the post office. It is estimated that 232 out of the 400 millions of cards delivered in 1899–1900 were private cards. The sizes of the official cards were again altered in January 1895 and November 1899. The regulations forbidding anything but the address to be written on the address side of a post card were made less stringent on the 1st of February 1897; and in 1898 unpaid post cards, which were previously charged as unpaid letters, were allowed to be delivered on payment of double the post card rate. These various changes, especially the use of the private card and the popularity of illustrated post cards, have contributed to the rapid increase in the number of post cards sent by post. Reply post cards were first issued on the 1st of October 1893. Their use as not been extensive. Only about 11/2 million are issued yearly.

Book Packets and Samples.—The table at foot of page shows the estimated number of book packets, circulars and samples delivered in the United Kingdom, and the increase per cent. per annum. The rate of 1/2d. for 2 oz. for the book post has remained unaltered since the 1st of October 1870. Changes have been made in the regulations defining the articles which may be sent by book post, and prescribing the mode of packing them so as to admit of easy examination for the purpose of detecting letters, &c., sent by the halfpenny post. The book post received a great impetus in 1892 (May 28) by the permission to enclose book packets in unsealed envelopes. Complaint is, however, made that such envelopes form a dangerous trap for small letters, which are liable to slip inside the Haps of open envelopes. But as the rate of postage for articles weighing over 2 oz. is now the same for letters and for book packets, articles over that weight derive no, advantage from being sent in open covers.

Sample Post.—The sample or pattern post, which was confined to bona-fide trade patterns and samples on the 1st of October 1870, was then assimilated to the book post (1/2d. for 2 oz.); but the restriction was difficult to enforce and irritating to the public, and the sample post was abolished on the 5th of October 1871, when the rates of letter postage were lowered. It was re-established on the 1st of October 1887 (Id. for 4 oz. or under, and 1/2d. for each succeeding 2 oz.); but when the Jubilee letter rates were introduced June 22, 1897) it lost its raison d’etre, and ceased to exist for inland purposes.

Year. England and
Scotland. Ireland. United
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
Number Inc. %
1872 . .  90,000,000  — 13,000,000  — 11,000,000  — 114,000,000  —
1875 . . 133,394,900 15·2 15,723,700  —  9,548,000  — 158,666,600 11·7
1881–1882 228,999,400 12·3 27,875,000 15·0 14,164,300 16·9 271,038,700 12·8
1884–1885 269,400,000 8·1 34,500,000 10·0 16,500,000 18·9 320,400,000  8·8
1889–1890 378,200,000 7·5 42,100,000 3·7 21,600,000  9·6 441,900,000  7·3
1894–1895 522,500,000 6·7
60,800,000 8·2
31,300,000 10·2
614,600,000  7·0
1898–1899#  590,900,000 3·6
75,100,000 2·3
35,500,000  5·3
701,500,000  3·5
1900–1901 619,300,000  4·0 77,800,000  3·7 35,300,000   8·6 732,400,000   4·2

 #Book packets over 2 oz. transferred to the letter post as a result of the Jubilee changes.

Newspapers.—The table on the next page shows the estimated number of newspapers delivered in the United Kingdom, and the increase per cent. per annum.

The carriage of newspapers by the post office does not show the same elasticity as other post office business This is due largely to the improved system of distribution adopted by newspaper managers and especially to the extension of the halfpenny press. The practice of posting a newspaper after reading it, under a co-operative arrangement, has practically ceased to exist. The carriage of newspapers by post is conducted by the post office at a loss.

It has been frequently stated on behalf of the post office that the halfpenny post is unremunerative. Representations are, however, made from time to time in favour of lower postage for literature of all kinds. It may therefore be of interest to mention that the postmaster-general of the United States has, in successive annual reports, deplored the effect on the post office service of the cheap rates for “second-class matter.” The cost of carriage over so large a territory is heavier than in the United Kingdom; but the postmaster-general states that the low rates of postage “involve a sheer wanton waste of $20,000,000 or upwards a year.” Facilities like the extension of free delivery are stifled, and the efficiency of the whole service cramped by the loss thus sustained. In the United Kingdom the rules respecting the halfpenny post were greatly simplified and brought into effect on the 1st of October 1906. The halfpenny post can be used only for packets not exceeding 2 oz. in weight. The length of a packet must not exceed 2 ft., while 1 ft. is the limit in width or depth. Any printed or written matter not in the nature of a letter may be sent by the halfpenny post, but every packet must be posted either without a cover or in an unfastened envelope, or in a cover which can be easily removed. The number of halfpenny packets delivered in 1906-1907 was 933,200,000.

Year. England and
Scotland. Ireland. United
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
Number. Inc. %
1872 .  87,000,000 - 12,000,000 - 10,000,000 - 109,000,000
1875 93,345,600 2.3 13,819,100 4.5 13,884,700 10.2 121,049,400 3.4
1881–1882 108,651,700 5.7 15,477,300 2.4 16,660,100 4.7 140,789,100 5.2
1884–1885 110,700,000 7 16,900,000 0.9 16,100,000 0.5 143,700,000 0.7
1889–1890 126,600,000 6.1
16,700,000 0.6
16,000,000 -dec. 259,300,000 4.9dec.
1894–1895[38] 117,500,000 9.5
17,300,000 2.3
27,000,000 2.3
151,800,000 7.9
1899–1900 125,000,000 5.9 19,300,000 7.8 19,100,000 4.9 163,400,000 6


1900–1901 127,800,000 2.2 19,300,000 - 20,700,000 8.4 167,800,000 2.7

The inland parcel post began on the 1st of August 1883. No parcel might exceed 7 lb in weight, 3% ft. in length, of 6 ft. in Inland length and girth combined. The rates were: not p, , me, s exceeding 1 lb, 3d.; exceeding 1 lb, but not exceeding exceeding 5 lb, but not exceeding 5 lb, 9d.; exceeding 5 lb, but.not exceeding 7 lb, 1s. The following table shows the number of parcels delivered in the United Kingdom:-

Year ending 31st March. Number of Parcels.
1884 14,000,000
1885 22,910,040
1890 42,852,600
1895 57,136,000
1900 75,448,000,
1905 97,231,000

Arrangements were made with the railway companies, under which they receive 55% of the postage on each parcel sent by train. This arrangement, which was to hold good for 21 years, proved, however, an onerous one, and on the 1st of lune 1887 the post office started a parcel coach between London and Brighton. The coach, replaced in 1905 by a motor van, travelled by night, and reached Brighton in time for the first delivery.' The experiment proving successful, other coach and motor services were started at different dates between London and other places in the provinces, the mail services performed by motor vans amounting in 1906 to nearly forty. Nearly 11% millions of parcels were conveyed by the post office in 1900-1901 without passing over a railway.

On the 1st of May 1896, the maximum weight was increased to II lb, and the postage rates were reduced: not exceeding Ill), 3d.; for each succeeding lb, Iéd.; the charge for a parcel of II lb was thus IS. 6d. New rates were subsequently introduced and the rates for parcels now are: not exceeding 1 lb,1%d.; 2 lb, 4d.; 3 lb, 5d; 5 lb, 6d.; 7 lb, 7d.; for each succeeding up to II lb, Id. The length of a parcel must not exceed 3 ft. 6 in.; length and girth combined must not exceed 6 ft. By the Post Office (Literature for the Blind) Act 1906, the postage on packets of papers and books impressed for the use of the blind was greatly reduced, the rates being fixed at: not exceeding 2 oz., éd.; exceeding 2 oz. and not exceeding 2 lb, Id.; not exceeding 5 lb, Iéd.; not exceeding 6 lb, 25 .

The number of letters registered by the public in the United Kingdom in 1884-1885 amounted to II,365, I5I. In the next ten years the numbers oscillated between 10,779,555 Registered 1 .

me, .s (1886-1887) and 12,132,144 (1892-1803); but since 1894-1805, when 11,958,264 letters were registered, the number steadily increased, until it stood at 19,029,114 for 1903-1904. It decreased, however, 2.8% in 1904-1905, in increased .7 in the following year, but declined again by .8% in 1906-1907. It has been surmised[39] that the introduction of postal orders checked the growth of registered letters for some years after 1880. In 1886 a system of insurance for registered letters was adopted. The ordinary registration fee entitled the owner, in case of loss, to recover compensation from the post office up to a limit of £2. For an additional insurance fee of rd. the limit was raised to £5, and for 2d. to £10. Various changes have since been made, and the separate insurance system has been abolished. At present a registration fee of 2d. entitles to compensation up to £5, 3d. £20, and each additional penny to a further £20 up to a maximum of £400. The system of registration has also been extended to parcels.

On the 1st of February 1891 the railway letter service came into operation. At passenger stations on principal railways a letter not exceeding 4 oz. in weight may be handed in at the booking office for conveyance by the next train. A fee of 2d. is payable to the railway company as well as the ordinary postage of 1d. The letter may be addressed to a railway station to be called for. If it bears any other address it is posted on arrival at its proper station. The number of packets so sent is about 200,000 a year.

The express delivery service dates from the 25th of March 1891. A private company formed for the purpose of supplying the public on demand with an express messenger to execute errands was found to be infringing the postmaster-general's monopoly both as regards the conveyance of letters and the transmission of communications by electricity. The services of the company were, however, much appreciated by the public. The government accordingly authorized the post olhce to license the existing Company to continue its business, on the payment of royalties, till 1903,[40] and to start an express service of its own. Messengers can be summoned from the post office by telephone, and arrangements can be made with the post office for the special delivery of all packets arriving by particular mails in advance of the ordinary postman. The sender of a packet may have it conveyed by express messenger all the way, or may direct that, after conveyance by ordinary post to the terminal post office, it shall then be delivered by special messenger. The fees, in addition to ordinary postage, were originally fixed at 2d. for the first mile, gd. for the second mile, and Is. a mile additional when the distance exceeded 2 m. and there was no public conveyance. Under the present regulations the fee is 311. for each mile covered by special messenger before delivery. No charge is made for postage in respect of the special service, but if the packet is very weighty or the distance considerable, and no pubic conveyance is available, the sender must pay for a cab or other special conveyance.

Letters and parcels to or from a number of foreign countries and colonies may also be marked for express delivery after transmission by post; and residents in London, not having a delivery of ordinary letters on Sunday, may receive on that day express letters from home or abroad which have come to hand too late for express delivery on Saturday nights. The total number of express services in 1905-1906 was 1,578,746. In many cases one of these services included the delivery of batches of letters, so that in London alone 1,010,815 express services were performed, including 47,601 deliveries in advance of the postmen.

There are various central depots for dealing with “dead” or returned letters. The principal office is in London. In the year 1905-1906 10,868,272 letters were received at Returned

the various returned letter offices, of which 1,008,017 Lmem could neither be delivered to the addresses nor returned to the rsenders. Such of these as contain nothing of value are at once destroyed, and no record of them is kept. The others are recorded, and (if not previously claimed by the owners) their contents are sold by auction at intervals. If the owner applies after the sale, the proceeds are handed over to him. In addition to these 10 millions of letters, there were many others disposed of at head post offices, whence they were returned direct and unopened to the senders, whose names and addresses appeared on the outside of the letters. The total number of post cards received in the various offices as undelivered was 2,656,770; halfpenny packets, 12,439,377; newspapers, 473,346; and parcels, 248,526; 195,145 of these last were re-issued. Articles sent by the halfpenny post are destroyed at the head offices if they cannot be delivered; but the sender may have such articles returned if he writes a request to that effect on the outside of the packet, together with his name and address, and pays a second postage on the return of the packet. The number of registered letters and letters containing property sent through the post with insufficient addresses was 320,041. These letters contained £16,887 in cash and bank-notes, and £656,845 in bills, cheques, money orders, postal orders and stamps. The coin found loose in the post amounted to £1,380, as well as £12,272 in cheques and other forms of remittance.

00’s omitted.

Despatched from the
United Kingdom.
Destined for the
United Kingdom.
Country or Colony. Letters
Book Packets,
Book Packets,
Austria-Hungary 52,0 392,0 41,0 118,0
Belgium and Luxemburg 88,0 358,0 87,0 201,0
Denmark, Norway and Sweden 78,0 314,0 65,0 132,0
France (including Algeria and Tunis) 329,0 1,426,0 354,0 1,152,0
Germany 310,0 1,656,0 378,0 1,090,0
Gibraltar (including Tan-
 gier), Malta and Cyprus.
46,0 413,0 64,0 44,0
Holland 140,0 302,0 90,0 450,0
Italy 73,0 613,0 66,0 172,0
Russia 49,0 325,0 35,0 92,0
Spain, Portugal and Azores 50,0 536,0 47,0 85,0
Switzerland 66,0 490,0 55,0 147,0
Turkey, Greece, Rumania
 and Balkan States
25,5 305,0 23,0 65,0
Totals 1,306,5 7,130,0 1,305,0 3,748,0
Asiatic Turkey and Persia 8,5 100,0 5,0 35,0
India (including Aden) . 230,0 2,828,0 164,0 432,0
Ceylon, Straits Settle-
 ments and East Indies .
56,0 755,0 40,0 90,0
China and Japan 54,0 762,0 55,0 84,0
Totals 348,5 4,445,0 264,0 641,0
South African Colonies 323,0 2,671,0 237,0 530,0
East Coast of Africa (British and
 Portuguese Possessions), Mauritius, &c.
16,0 186,0 10,0 15,0
West Coast of Africa, Madeira, Canary
 Islands, Cape Verde, St Helena and Ascension.
31,0 382,0 32,0 20,0
Egypt 40,0 398,0 28,0 64,0
Totals 410,0 3,637,0 307,0 629,0
United States 397,0 2,850,0 431,0 2,488,0
Canada and Newfoundland 248,0 1,891,0 187,0 616,0
Mexico and Central Ameri
-can States
II,0 177,0 II,0 13,0
Brazil, Argentine Republic,
 Uruguay and Paraguay
39,0 621,0 35,0 78,0
Chile, Peru and Bolivia 15,0 195,0 17,0 34,0
Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela 7,0 83,0 3,0 4,0
West Indies (British and Foreign) 49,0 449,0 31,0 47,0
Totals 766,0 6,266,0 715,0 3,280,0
Commonwealth of Australia 122,0 1,600,0 80,0 534,0
New Zealand, Fiji, &c. 56,0 753,0 40,0 333,0
Totals 178,0 2,353,0 120,0 867,0
Grand totals 3,009,0 23,831,0 2,711,0 9,165,0

The table in opposite column shows the estimated weight of the mails (excluding parcels) exchanged with the British colonies and foreign countries in 1905–1906. The number of letters and postcards may be roughlyForeign Mails. taken at 40 to the ℔.

During the same year 2,474,003 parcels were dispatched out of the United Kingdom, and 1,431,035 were received from the British colonies and other countries. Germany, with 356,423, received the largest number of any one country, and easily heads the list of countries from which parcels were imported into the United Kingdom, with 474,669, France coming next with 254,490.

On the 1st of January 1889 a weekly all-sea service to the Australasian colonies was opened. The rates were 4d. per 1/2 oz. for letters, and 2d for post cards, as compared with 6d. and 3d. by the quicker route. In the Budget of 1890 provision was made for a lower and uniformForeign and Colonial Letter Rates. rate of postage from the United Kingdom to India and the British colonies generally. The rates, which had hitherto varied from 21/2d. to 4d., 5d., or 6d. per 1/2 oz., were fixed at 21/2d. per 1/2 oz. The change took effect on the 1st of January 1891, and resulted at the outset in a loss of £100,000 a year. The fourth postal union congress, which met at Vienna in May and June 1891 (third congress at Lisbon, February and March 1885), took a further step in the direction of uniformity, and on the 1st of October 1891 the 21/2d. rate was extended to foreign as well as colonial letters from the United Kingdom. The Australasian colonies gave their adhesion to the Union at this congress, and the Cape signified its adhesion at the next congress (Washington, May and June 1897), while British Bechuanaland and Rhodesia entered in 1900, and the whole of the British Empire is now included in the international union. Abyssinia, Afghanistan, Arabia, China and Morocco are the chief countries which remain outside. The rate was 21/2d. the first oz., and 11/2d. per oz. afterwards.

Advantage was taken of the presence in England of special representatives of India and the principal British colonies to hold an imperial postal conference in London in June and July 1897, under the presidency of the duke of Norfolk, postmaster-general. Chiefly atImperial Penny Post. the instance of Canada the duke announced that on and from Christmas Day 1898 an imperial penny post would be established with such of the British colonies as were prepared to reciprocate. The new rates (1d. per 1/2 oz.), which had long been advocated by Mr Henniker Heaton, were adopted then or shortly afterwards by the countries within the empire, with the exceptions of Australasia and the Cape, where the 21/2d. rate remained unaltered. The Cape came afterwards into the scheme, and New Zealand joined in 1902. Australia did not see its way to make the necessary financial arrangements, but in 1905 agreed to receive without surcharge letters from other parts of the empire prepaid at 1d. per 1/2 oz. and reduced its outward postage to 2d. per 1/2 oz., raised to 1 oz. in 1907. In 1911 penny postage was adopted throughout the commonwealth and to the United Kingdom. Owing to the special relations existing between the governments of Egypt and the United Kingdom, penny postage for letters passing between the United Kingdom and Egypt and the Sudan was introduced in December 1905; and the Egyptian post office subsequently arranged for the adoption of this rate with many of the British colonies. On the 1st of October 1908 penny postage was established between Great Britain and the United States on the same lines as the imperial penny post.

At the 1897 conference it was proposed that the parcel rates with British possessions should be lowered and simplified by the adoption of a triple scale for parcels exchanged by sea, namely, 1s. up to 3 ℔, 2s. from 3 to 7 ℔, and 3s. from 7 to 11 ℔. This scale has been adopted by many of the British colonies. The parcel post has been gradually extended to nearly the whole civilized world, while the rates have in many cases been considerably reduced. The United States remained an exception, and in 1902 an agreement was concluded with the American Express Company for a parcel service. In April 1904 an official service was established with the United States post office, but the semi-official service is still maintained with the American Express Company. By the official service the limit of weight was 4 ℔ 6 oz., and the postage 2s. per parcel; by the semi-official service parcels up to 11 ℔ in weight may be sent, the rates ranging from 3s. to 6s. On the 1st of July 1908 the rates were revised. The limit of weight was increased to 11 ℔, the rate for a parcel being 1s. 6d. for a parcel up to 3 ℔ in weight, 2s. 6d. up to 7 ℔, 3s. 6d. up to 9 ℔ and 4s. 6d. for 11 ℔.

On the 1st of January 1885 the post office at Malta was transferred from the control of H.M. postmaster-general to that of the local administration, and a similar change was made as regards Gibraltar on the 1st of June 1896.

Remarkable improvements have been effected in the speed and frequency of the mails sent abroad, and contracts are Foreign entered into from time to time with the various mail steamship companies for additional or improved services. The transit charges for special trains conveying mails through France and Italy for Egypt,Foreign Mail Service. India, Australia and the Far East have been successively reduced until they now stand at the ordinary Postal Union transit rates.

Mention should be made of the Army post office, which is now an essential accompaniment of military operations. On the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa in 1899, the British post office supplied 10 officers and 392 men to deal with the mails of the forces, sell postage stamps, deal in postal orders, &c. Contingents were also sent by the Canadian, Australian, and Indian post offices. Including telegraphists and men of the army reserve, 3400 post office servants were sent to the front.

Money Order Department

The money order branch of the post office dates from 1792.[41] It was begun with the special object of facilitating the safe conveyance of small sums to soldiers and sailors, the thefts of letters containing money being frequent. Two schemes were put forward, one similar to the present money order system. There were doubts whetherMoney Orders. the post office had power to adopt the system, and it was not officially taken up. Six officers of the post office, however, called the “clerks of the roads, ” who were already conducting a large newspaper business with profit to themselves, came forward with a plan, which was encouraged by the postmaster-general, who also bore the cost of advertising it, and even allowed the advices of the money orders to go free by post under the “frank” of the secretary to the post office. In 1798 the clerks of the roads gave up the scheme, and three post office clerks known as “Stow and Company” took it over. The death of Stow in 1836 left one sole proprietor who had a capital of £2000 embarked in the concern. In 1838 the government determined to take over the business and compensated the proprietor with an allowance of over £400 a year. The rates of commission fixed by the government were 1s. 6d. for sums exceeding £2 and under £5, and 6d. for all sums not exceeding £2. In 1840 these rates were reduced to 6d. and 3d. respectively. The number and aggregate amount of the orders issued (inland, colonial and foreign) in different periods from the reorganization until 1905 is as follows:—

 1861–1865 (average) 8,055,227 16,624,503
 1875  16,819,874 27,688,255
 1880–1881 16,935,005 26,003,582
 1885–1886 11,318,380 24,832,421
 1890–1891 10,260,852 27,867,887
 1895–1896 10,900,963 29,726,817
 1900–1901 13,263,567 39,374,665
 1905–1906 13,596,153 44,612,785

The decrease in the number of inland money orders till 1890–1891 was due to the competition of postal orders, and to the reduction (Jan. 1, 1878) of the charge for registering a letter from 4d. to 2d.[42]

In 1862 the issue of orders for larger sums was allowed: not exceeding £7, 9d.; not exceeding £10, 1s.

On the 1st of May 1871 a scale of charges was fixed as follows: orders not exceeding 10s., Id.; not exceeding £1, 2d.; not exceeding £2, 3d.; and so on, an additional penny being charged per £. For sums of £10 the rate was 1s. It was found, however, that the low rate of Id. for small orders did not provide a profit, and the rates were raised on the 1st of January 1878 to: orders not exceeding 10s., 2d.; not exceeding £2, 3d. On the 1st of September 1886 the rates were altered as follows: orders not exceeding £1, 2d.; not exceeding £2, 3d.; not exceeding £4, 4d.; not exceeding £7, 5 d.; not exceeding £10, 6d. On the 1st of February 1897 new rates were introduced; on orders not exceeding £3, 3d.; over £3 and not exceeding £10, 4d.

The cost of a money order transaction (at least 3d.) is very little affected by the amount of the remittance, and it was thought undesirable to continue the unremunerative business of sending small sums by money order at less than cost price at the expense of the senders of larger orders. The needs of smaller emitters appeared to be sufficiently met by postal orders and the registered letter post. It appeared, however, that the new charges fell with great severity upon mutual benefit societies, like the Hearts of Oak, which sent large numbers of small money orders every week, and on the 1st of May 1897 the 2d. rate was restored for orders not exceeding £1. This society and others now use postal orders instead of money orders. In 1905 the limit for money orders was extended to £40, and the rates are: sums over £10 and not exceeding £20, 6d.; sums over £20 and not exceeding £30, 8d.; sums over £30 and not exceeding £40, 10d.

Money orders may be sent to almost an country in the world. The rates are as follows: for sums not exceeding £1, 3d.; £2, 6d.; £4, 9d.; £6, 1s.; £8, 1s. 3d.; £10, 1s. 6d.; and for countries on which orders may be issued for higher amounts (limit £40), 3d. for every additionalForeign and Colonial Money Orders. £2 or fraction of £2.

The money order system is largely used by the British government departments for the payment of pensions, separation allowances, remittance of bankruptcy dividends, &c.; and free orders may be obtained by the public. under certain conditions, for the purpose of remitting their taxes. The cost of management of the money order office was reduced by the substitution, since 1898, of a number of women clerks for men and boys.

On the 2nd of September 1889 the issue of telegraphic money orders between London and seventeen large towns was begun as an experiment, and on the 1st of March 1890 the system was extended to all head post offices, and branch offices in the United Kingdom. Two years later it was extendedTelegraph Money Orders. to every office which transacts both money order and telegraph business. The rates, which have been several times revised, are (1) a poundage at the ordinary rate for inland money orders, (2) a charge for the official telegram of advice to the office of payment at the ordinary rate for inland telegrams, the minimum being 6d., and (3) a supplementary fee of 2d. for each order. The sender of a telegraph money order may give instructions that, instead of being left at the post office to be called for, it should be delivered at the payee's residence, and that it should be crossed for payment through a bank. He may also, on paying for the extra words, send a short private message to his correspondent in the telegram of advice.

Telegraph money orders may also be sent to Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Egypt, Faeroe Islands, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, Monaco Norway, Rumania, Sweden and Switzerland. A fee of 2d. is required in addition to the usual money order commission and the cost of the telegram. The system is being rapidly extended to other countries.

The telegraph inland money orders in 1905-1906 amounted to 503,543. and the sums so remitted to £1,646,882, an average of £3, 1s. The number of telegraph money order transactions between the United Kingdom and foreign countries amounted to 18,787, representing £139,402.

Postal orders were first issued on the first of January 1881. For some years before that date postmasters-general had considered the possibility of issuing orders for fixed amounts at a small commission to replace money orders for sums under 20s., which had failed to be remunerative. When the plan was submitted to a committee appointed by the treasury, it was objected that postal orders as remitting media would be less secure than money orders. This was met in part by giving a discretionary power to fill in the name of the post office and also of the payee. Another objection which was urged, namely, that they would prove to be an issue of government small notes under another name, was quickly disproved. Parliament sanctioned the scheme in 1880. The first series were:—

1s., 1s. 6d. 2s. 6d., 5s., 7s. 6d.
Poundage 1/2d. 1d.
10s., 12s. 6d. 15s. 17s., 6d. 20s.
Poundage 2d.

In 1884 a new series was issued and a provision made that broken amounts might be made up by affixing postage stamps, to the value of 5d., to the orders. Postal orders have become increasingly popular as a means of remitting small amounts, especially since the introduction in 1903 of new denominations, rendering it possible to obtain a postal order for every complete Sixpence from 6d. to 2IS. From 6d. to 2s. 6d. the poundage is 1/2d., from 3s. to 15s., 1d., from 15S. 6d. up to 21s., 1/2d. Postal orders are also furnished with counterfoils, as a means of keeping a record of the number and amount of each order posted. Orders for amounts of 10s. and upwards are printed in red ink. A system of interchange of postal orders between the United Kingdom and India and the British colonies, and also between one colony and another, has been instituted. British postal orders are obtainable also at post offices in Panama, Constantinople, Salonica and Smyrna, and on H.M. ships. The following table shows the number and value of postal orders issued from the beginning to the 31st of March 1907 (000’s omitted):—

 1881–1882 4,4622,006 
1883–1884 12,286 5,028 
1885–1836 25,790 10,788 
1890–1891 48,841 19,178 
1895–1896 64,076 23,896 
1900–1901 85,390 29,881 
1906–1907 101,658 40,484 

It remains to be added that the various statutes relating to the post office, except those relating to telegraphs and the carriage of mails, were consolidated by the Post Office Act 1908. The act repealed and superseded 26 acts wholly and 10 acts in parts. Sections 1–11 deal with the duties of postage; §§ 12-19 with the conditions of transit of postal packets; §§ 20–22 with newspapers; §§ 23–25 with money orders; §§ 26–32 with ship letters; §§ 33–44 with the postmaster-general and officers; §§ 45–47 with the holding, &c., of land; §§ 48-49 with the extension of postal facilities and accommodation; §§ 50-69 with post office offences; §§ 70–78 with legal proceedings, and §§ 79–94 with regulations, definitions, &c.

Savings Banks.[43]

The establishment of post office savings banks was practically suggested in the year 1860 by Charles William Sykes of Huddersfield, whose suggestion was cordially received by W. E. Gladstone, then chancellor of the 3:2255 exchequer, to whose conspicuous exertions in parliament the effectual working-out of the measure and also many and great improvements in its details are due. Half a century earlier (1807) it had been proposed to utilize the then existing and rudimentary money order branch of the post office for the collection and transmission of savings from all parts of the country to a central savings bank to be established in London. A bill to that effect was brought into the House of Commons by S. Whitbread, but it failed to receive adequate support, and was withdrawn. When Sykes revived the proposal of 1807 the number of savings banks managed by trustees was 638, but of these about 350 were open only for a few hours on a single day of the week. Only twenty throughout the kingdom were open daily. Twenty-four towns containing upwards of ten thousand inhabitants each were without any savings bank. Fourteen counties were without any. In the existing banks the average amount of a deposit was £4, 6s. 5d.

Gladst0ne's Bill, entitled “ An Act to grant additional facilities for depositing small savings at interest, with the security of Government for the due repayment thereof, ” became law on the 17th of May 1861, and was brought into operation on the 16th of September following. The banks first opened were in places theretofore unprovided. In February 1862 the act was brought into operation in Scotland and in Ireland. Within two years nearly all the money order offices of the United Kingdom became savings banks, and the expansion of the business was continual. The growth of business is shown in the following table:—

Year ending
31st December.
Number of
Amount of
Balance in
each Account.
of Offices.
 £  s  d
1863–1868 663,000 7,000,000 11  3  5 3,390
1869–1874 1,373,000 18,00,000 13  5  3 4,498
1875–1880 1,889,000 29,000,000 15 12  5 5,742
1881–1885 3,088,000 42,000,000 13 11  3 7,348
1886–1890 4,248,000 59,000,000 13 16 10 9,025
1891–1895 5,776,000 83,000,000 14  7  0 10,888

The code of the 1st of November 1888 did not enlarge the limits of deposits or make any great and conspicuous change in the general system, but the postmaster-general obtained power to offer certain facilities for the transfer of money from one account to another, for the easier disposal of the funds of deceased depositors by means of nominations, and in various ways for the convenience of the customers of the bank. Arrangements were made for reducing to rs. the cost of certificates of births, deaths and marriages required for savings bank purposes. In July 1889 Local Loans 3 % Stock was made available for purchase through the postofiice savings bank. " In July 1891, ” says the report of the postmaster-general in 1897, “another Act of Parliament was passed by which the maximum amount which might be deposited was raised from £150 to £200, inclusive of interest. The annual limit remained at £30, but it was provided that, irrespective of that limit, depositors might replace in the bank the amount of any one withdrawal made in the same year. The object of this provision was to avoid curtailing the saving power of a person who might be driven by emergency to make an inroad upon his store, but who might nevertheless, when the emergency had passed, find himself none the poorer and able to replace the money withdrawn. “ The act provided also that where on any account the principal and interest together exceeded £200, interest should cease only on the amount in excess of £200, whereas previously interest ceased Zltogether when it had brought the balance of an account up to 200.

“The next striking development of the Savings Bank arose out of the Free Education* Act, passed in September, 1891. The government of the day desired that advantage should be taken of the opportunity to inculcate upon parents and children alike a lesson of thrift-that they should save the school pence which they were no longer bound to pay. The Education Department and the postmaster-general worked in concert to realize this end. School managers were urged to press the matter upon all concerned, special stamp slips were prepared and issued, managers were supplied on credit with stocks of stamps to be sold to the children, and clerks from the nearest post offices attended at schools to open accounts and receive deposits. The arrangement began in January 1892; about 1400 schools adopted the scheme at once, and three years later this number had risen to 3000. A sum of nearly £14,000 was estimated to have been deposited in schools in 5 months, and about £40,000 in the first year. C0currently with the spread of the stamp-slip system in the schools, the extension of School Penny Banks, connected intimately with the Savings Bank, was a conspicuous result of the effort to turn into profitable channels the pence which no longer paid school fees.

“In December 1893 another Act of Parliament extended the annual limits of deposits from £30 to £50. The maximum of £200 remained unchanged, but it was provided that any accumulations accruing after that amount had been reached should be invested in government stock unless the depositor gave instructions to the contrary.

“In December 1893 arrangements were made for the use of the telegraph for the withdrawal of money from the savings bank. Postmasters-general had hesitated long before sanctioning this new departure. It was known that the system was in force a road, and it was recognized that there might be, and doubtless were, cases in the United Kingdom where the possibility of withdrawing money without delay might be all-important, and might save a depositor from debt and distress. But, on the other hand, it was strongly held that the cause of thrift was sometimes served by interposing a delay between a sudden desire to spend and its realization; and it was also held to be essential to maintain a marked distinction between a bank of deposit for savings and a bank for keeping current accounts."

On the whole, the balance of opinion was in favour of the change, and two new methods of withdrawal were provided. A depositor might telegraph for his money and have his warrant sent to him by return of post, or he might telegraph for his money and have it paid to him in an hour or two on the authority of a telegram from the savings bank to the postmaster. The first method cost the depositor about 9d., the second cost him about 1s 3d. for the transaction. On the 3rd of July 1905 a new system of withdrawal was instituted, under which a depositor, on presentation of his book at any post office open for savings bank business, can withdraw immediately any sum not exceeding £1. Depositors have availed themselves extensively of this system. During 1906, 4,758,440 withdrawals, considerably more than one-half of the total number of withdrawals, were made "on demand, ” and as a consequence the number of Withdrawals made by telegraph fell to 122,802, against 168,036 in the previous year (during only half of which the “ on demand ” system was in force).

By an act which came into force on the 1st of January 1895 building societies, duly incorporated, were enabled to deposit at any one time a sum not exceeding £300, and to buy government stock up to £500 through the savings bank. Savings Bank Finance.-The increase in the deposits lodged in the post office savings bank must be ascribed to a variety of causes. Numbers of trustee banks have been closed, and have transferred their accounts to the post office bank; greater facilities have been offered by the bank; the limits of deposit in one year, and of total deposit, have been raised; and, since October 1892, deposits may be made by cheque; while the long-continued fall in the rate of interest made the assured 2% % of the post office savings bank an increasing temptation to a class of investors previously accustomed to look elsewhere. The high price of consols, due in part to the magnitude of purchases on savings bank account, proved a serious embarrassment to the profitable working of the bank, which had shown a balance of earnings on each year's working until 1896, after paying its expenses and 2%% interest to its depositors. Economical working minimized, but did not remove the difficulty. The average cost of each transaction, originally nearly 7d., has been brought down to 5§ d. Down to the year 1896, £1,598,767 was paid into the exchequer under § 14 of the Act 40 Vict. c. 13, being the excess of interest which had accrued year by year. But since 1895 there have been deficits in each year, and in 1905, owing principally tc the reduced rate on consols, the expenditure exceeded the income by £88,094 The central savings bank having outgrown its accommodation in Queen, Victoria Street, London, a new site was purchased in 1898 for £45,000 at West Kensington, and the foundation-stone of a new building, costing £300,000, was laid by the prince of Wales on the 24th of June 1899. The entire removal of the business was carried out in 1903. Under the Workrnen's Compensation Act of 1897, sums awarded as compensation might be invested in the post office savings bank. This arrangement proved so convenient that an act of 1900 authorized a similar investment of money paid into an English county court in ordinary actions at common law, and ordered to be invested for the benefit of an infant or lunatic. In 1906 a committee was appointed to go into the question as to Whether the post office should provide facilities for the insurance of employers in respect of liabilities under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, but no scheme was recommended involving post office action either as principal or agent. Post offices, however, exhibit notices drawing attention to the liabilities imposed by the act of 1906, and sub-postmasters are encouraged to accept agencies in their private capacity for insurance companies undertaking this class of insurance. Inducemenis to Thrift.—By arrangement with the war office in July 1893, the deferred pay of soldiers leaving the army was invested on their behalf in the post office savings bank, but it was found that the majority of the soldiers draw out practically the whole amount at once, and the experiment was discontinued in 1901. At the request of large employers of labour, an officer of the savings bank attends at industrial establishments on days when wages are paid, and large numbers of workmen have thus been induced to become depositors. The advantages of the savings bank appear to be now thoroughly appreciated throughout the United Kingdom, as shown by the following table:—

On the 31st of December 1900.
Number of
Total. Amount
to Credit of
to Credit
of each
Proportion of
Depositors to
   £  £.  s.  d.
England and Wales . 7,685,317 122,365,193 15 18  5 1 in 4
Scotland.. . 372,801 5,126,299 13 15  0 1 in 12
Ireland.. . 381,865 8,058,153 21  2  1 1 in 12
Totals . 8,439,983 135,549,645 16  1  3 1 in 5
On the 31st of December 1905
   £  £.  s.  d.
England and Wales . 9,027,112 135,668,450 15  0  7 1 in 3.8
Scotland. .. . 451,627 6,205,339 13 14 10 1 in 10.4
Ireland.. . 484,310 10,237,351 21  2  9 1 in 9.1
Totals. . 9,963,049 152,111,140 15  5  4 1 in 4.3
Between the foundation of the bank and the end of 1899, upwards

of £648,000,000, inclusive of interest, was credited to depositors, of which £474,000,000 was'withdrawn. There were 232,634,596 deposits, 81,804,509 withdrawals, 27,071,556 accounts opened, and 18,631,573 accounts closed. The cross-entries, or instances where the account is operated upon at a different office from that at which it was opened, amounted to 33 %. It is chiefly in respect of this facility that the post office savings bank enjoys its advantage over the trustee savings bank. In 1905, 16,320,204 deposits were made, amounting to £42,300,617. In the same year the withdrawals numbered 7,155,283, the total sum withdrawn being £42,096,037. The interest credited to depositors was £3,567,206, and the total sum standing to their credit on the 31st of December 1900 was £152,111,140.

A classification of accounts opened for 3 months in 1896, and assumed to be fairly typical, showed the following results:- Occupation as stated by Depositors . Percentage in opening Account. to Total

Professional .... . 1.55

Official . . . . . . 2.81

Educational . . . . 1.01

Commercial . . . 3.88

Agricultural and fishing 1.83

Industrial ...... 18.43

Railway, shipping and transport 2.96

Tradesmen and their assistants 8.14

Domestic service . .... 8.61

Miscellaneous .. .. . 0.37

Married women, spinsters and children 50.41
Women and children of all ranks are believed to be 60.59 of the total number of depositors.

The accounts open at the end of 1895 showed the following division of deposits:—

Per cent.
Balances not exceeding £50 36.1
Exceeding £50 and not exceeding 100  24.5
 „ 100 150 17.3
 „ 150 200 14.8
 „ 200 7.3

The division according to number of accounts, in the same groups, was 90.8, 5.3, 2.2, 1.3 and 0.4 respectively.

Investments in Government Stock.-In September 1888 the minimum amount of government stock which mi ht be purchased or sold through the post office savings bank was reduced from £10 to IS., and it was also provided that any person who had purchased stock through the savings bank could, if he so desired, ave it transferred to his own name in the books of the Bank of England. The act of 1893 raised the limit of stock to £200 in one year, and £500 in all; but any depositor might purchase stock, to replace stock previously sold, in one entire sum during that year. If a depositor exceeds the authorized limits of deposit in the post office savings bank, the excess is invested in stock by the post office on his behalf. The investments of depositors in government stock, however, have a tendency to decrease, and the sales, on the other hand, to increase, as will be seen from the following table:—

Year. Investments. Sales. Average
price of
No. of
holding of
No. Amount. No. Amount.
£ £ £
1901 46,550 3,192,154 13,574 761,629 941/4 109,509 12,786,190
1902 40,893 2,694,447 17,221 1,054,193 943/8 118,696 14,285,617
1903 47,726 3,131,172 17,742 1,085,578 903/4 131,343 16,165,548
1904 39,633 2,507,546 18,848 1,131,543 881/4 138,582 17,357,950
1905 32,301 2,212,285 22,824 1,507,219 897/8 139,992 17,877,644

Annuities and Life Insurances.—The act of 1882, which came into operation on the 3rd of June 1884, utilized the machinery of the post office savings bank for annuities and life insurances, which had been effected through the post office at selected towns in England and Wales since the 17th of April 1865. Under the act of 1882 all payments were to be made by means of money deposited in the savings bank, and an order could be given by a depositor that any sum-even to Id. a week-should be devoted to the purchase of an annuity or insurance so long as he retained a balance in the savings bank. In February 1896 new life insurance tables came into operation, with reduced annual rates, and with provision for payment of sums insured at various ages as desired. The following table shows the business done from 1901 to 1905:-

Year Annuities. Life Insurances.
Immediate. Deferred.
entered into.
Receipts. Payments. Contracts
entered into.
Receipts. Payments. Contracts
entered into.
Receipts. Payments.
No. Amount
Amount. No. Amount. No. Amount
No. Amount. No. Amount. No. Amount
No. Amount. No. Amount of
claims on
death and
£ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £
1901 1,764 42,268 562,159 33,269 527,371 142 3,066 1,365 23,630 1,075 14,175 920 44,296 21,972 22,647 380 12,992
1902 1,679 42,791 558,770 34,375 548,251 139 2,973 1,353 21,764 1,164 17,172 722 34,646 22,553 23,045 389 14,646
1903 1,763 43,973 557,981 35,463 571,904 157 3,424 1,366 24,489 1,210 14,689 592 31,413 22,672 23,063 387 13,126
1904 1,768 41,000 520,538 36,607 594,502 128 2,492 1,366 21,011 1,297 16,167 517 28,629 22,323 23,031 465 16,878
1905 1,840 45,488 573,205 37,686 614,406 158 3,204 1,386 24,287 1,347 16,965 741 37,011 21,836 23,36 449 15,593

Telegraph and Telephones.

The history of the development of telegraphy and the early proposals for the transference to the state of the telegraph Telegraphs monopoly will be found in the article Telegraphy. On the 5th of February 1870 the Telegraph Act of the previous year took effect. The post office assumed control of telegraphic communication within the United Kingdom, and it became possible to send telegrams throughout the country at a uniform charge irrespective of locality or distance. In 1885 sixpenny telegrams were introduced. The charge for a. written telegram which came into force in 1870 was one shilling for the first twenty words, and threepence for every additional five words, the addresses of sender and receiver being sent free. In 1885 the charge was reduced to a halfpenny a word throughout, including addresses (a system of abbreviated addresses, which could be registered on payment of a guinea a year, being introduced), with a minimum charge of Sixpence. To obviate the damage and interruption resulting from storms large numbers of wires have been laid underground. In 1891 the terms under which a new telegraph office was opened, on the request of a person or persons who undertook to guarantee the post office against loss, were reduced. In 1892 rural sanitary authorities were empowered to give such guarantees out of the rates. In 1897, as part of the Jubilee concessions, the government undertook to pay one-half of any deficiency under guarantees. During the six years ended in 1891 the average number of telegraph offices guaranteed each year was 77. From 1892 to 1897 the average rose to 167. In 1905 and 1906 it amounted to 152. The number of telegraph offices opened without guarantee has increased apace, and there are now 12,993 telegraph offices in all. As part of the Jubilee scheme the charges for porterage were reduced as follows: Up to 3 miles free; beyond 3 m., 3d. per m., reckoned from the post office; and arrangements were made for the free delivery at all hours of the day or night of any telegram within the metropolitan postal district. The cost of free delivery up to 3 m. was estimated at £52,000 a year.

Foreign Telegrams.—The sixth international telegraph conference, held at Berlin in 1884, effected a reduction in the charges to many countries. E.g. the rate per was reduced for Russia from 9d. to 61/2d., Spain 6d. to 41/2d., Italy 5d. to 41/2d., and India 4s. 7d. to 4s. The cost of repeating a message was reduced from one-half to one-fourth of the original charge for transmission. At the next conference (1890) held at Paris, further considerable reductions were effected. The rates to Austria-Hungary and Italy were reduced from 41/2d. to 3d., Russia 61/2d. to 51/2 d., Portugal 51/2d. to 41/2d., Sweden 5d. to 4d., Spain 41/2d. to 4d., Canary Islands 1s. 71/2d. to 1s. &c. The minimum charge for any foreign (European) telegram was fixed at 10d. The eighth conference (Budapest, 1896) succeeded in making the following reductions, among others, from the United Kingdom: China 7s to 5s. 6d., Java 6s. to 5s., Japan 8s to 6s. 2d., Mauritius 8s od. to 5s., Persia zs. 5d. to 1s. 9d. At this conference it was made incumbent upon every state adhering to the union to fix in its currency an equivalent approaching as nearly as possible the standard rate in gold, and to correct and declare the equivalent in case of any important fluctuation.

The limit of letters in one word of plain language was raised from 10 to 15, and the number of figures from 3 to 5. The International Telegraph Bureau was also ordered to compile an enlarged official vocabulary of code words, which it is proposed to recognize as the sole authority for words which may be used in cypher telegrams sent by the public. (See Appendix to Postmaster-General’s Report, 1897.) See further Telegraph.

Ten years of state administration of the telegraphs had not passed before the postmaster-general was threatened with a formidable rival in the form of the telephone, which, assumed a practical shape about the year 1878, the first exchange in the United Kingdom being established in the City of London in that year. The history of the telephone service and the growth of the industry are set out in the article Telephone.

Post Office Staff.

The staff of the post office on the 31st of March 1906 amounted to 195,432. Of these 41,081 were women, a proportion of over one-fifth of the staff. The postmasters numbered 875 (including 10 employed abroad), and the sub-postmasters 21,027. The total number of offices (including branch offices) was 22,088. The unestablished staff, not entitled to pension, made up chiefly of telegraph boys, and of. persons who are employed for only part of the day on post office business, included 87,753 out of the grand total, and almost the whole of the sub-postmasters. The pay and prospects of almost all classes have been greatly improved since 1884, when the number stood at 91,184. The principal schemes of general revision of pay have been: 1881, Fawcett’s scheme for sorting-clerks, sorters and telegraphists (additional cost £210,000 a year), and for postmen, 1882, £110,000: Raikes’s various revisions, 1888, chief clerks and supervising officers, £6230; 1890, sorting-clerks, sorters and telegraphists, £179,600; 1890, supervising force, £65,000; 1890, London sorters, £20,700§ 1891, London overseers, £9400; 1891, postmen, £125,650: Arnold Morley, 1884, London overseers, £1400, and rural auxiliaries, £20,000.

A committee was appointed in June 1895 with Lord Tweedmouth as chairman, to consider the pay and position of the post office staff, excluding the clerical force and those employed at headquarters. The committee reported on the 15th of December 1896 and its recommendations were adopted at an immediate increased expense of £139,000 a year, which has since risen to £500,000 In 1897 additional concessions were made at a cost of £100,000 a year.

In July 1890 a number of postmen in London went out on strike. Over 450 were dismissed in one morning, and the work of the post office was carried on without interruption. The men received no sympathy from the public, and most of them were ultimately successful in their plea to be reinstated. A quasi-political agitation was carried on during the general election of 1892 by some of the London sorters, who, under the plea of civil rights, claimed the right to influence candidates for parliament by exacting pledges for the promise of parliamentary support. The leaders were dismissed, and the post office has upheld the principle that its officers are to hold themselves free to serve either party in the State without putting themselves prominently forward as political partisans. Parliament, has been repeatedly asked to sanction a parliamentary inquiry to reopen the settlement of the Tweedmouth Committee, and the telegraphists have been especially active in pressing for a further committee. The rates of pay at various dates since 1881 are set out with great fullness in the Parliamentary papers (Postmen, No. 237 of 1897; Sorters, Telegraphists, &c., No. 230 of 1898, and Report of the Select Committee on Post Office Servants, 1907; this latter contains important recommendations for the removal of many grievances which the staff had been long agitating to have removed).

In November 1891 an important change was made in the method of recruiting postmen, with the object of encouraging military service and providing situations for those who after serving in the army or navy are left without employment at a comparatively early age. In. making appointments to the situation of postman, preference was given to army, navy and royal marine pensioners, and men of the army reserve. Due regard was paid to the legitimate claims of telegraph messengers or other persons who had prospects of succeeding to these situations. In August 1897 the government decided to reserve one-half of all suitable vacancies for ex-soldiers and sailors, as postmen, porters and labourers, and preference has been shown to them for employment as lift-attendants, caretakers, &c.

Finance.—The following table shows the financial working of the post office:—

Year. Revenue. Expenditure. Net
Value of
to other
Total. Sites and
and other
Wages, &c.
ance of
P. O.
£ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £ £
1884–1885  7,808,911  382,002  198,336  8,389,249  72,464  80,234  150,742  2,829,210  1,154,211  728,413  515,892  136,999  5,668,268  2,721,084 
1889–1890  9,467,165  36,279  218,037  9,721,481  70,900  79,840  153,921  3,359,563  1,249,821  664,342  553,910  142,788  6,275,085  3,446,396 
1894–1895  10,748,014  277,446  11,025,460  12,597  175,390  188,919  4,597,355  1,395,282  729,813  677,524  178,464  7,955,344  3,070,116 
1899–1900  13,192,020  202,315  23,394,335  115,294  169,098  269,092  5,963,399  1,474,118  759,307  719,944  213,747  9,683,999  3,710,336 
1900–1901  13,776,886  218,584  13,995,470  81,949  175,000  286,238  6,277,275  1,516,859  764,804  726,101  236,677  10,064,903  3,930,567 
1905–1906  16,823,349  24,363  216,311  17,464,023  75,759  250,127  377,131  7,737,010  1,822,758  687,209  604,927  295,191  11,849,012  5,540,897 

Postage Stamps.

For all practical purposes the history of postage stamps begins in the United Kingdom. A post-paid envelope was in common use in Paris in the year 1653. Stamped postal letter-paper (carta postale bollata) was issued to the public by the government of the Sardinian States in November 1818, and stamped postal envelopes were issued by the same government from 1820 until 1836.[44] Stamped wrappers for newspapers were made experimentally in London by Charles Whiting, under the name of “go-frees,” in 1830. Four years later (June 1834), and in ignorance of what Whiting had already done, Charles Knight, the well-known publisher, in a letter addressed to Lord Althorp, then chancellor of the exchequer, recommended similar wrappers for adoption. From this suggestion apparently Rowland Hill, who is justly regarded as the originator of postage stamps, got his idea. Meanwhile, however, the adhesive stamp was made experimentally by James Chalmers in his printing-office at Dundee in August 1834.[45] These experimental stamps were printed from ordinary type, and were made adhesive by a wash of gum. Chalmers had already won local distinction by his successful efforts in 1822, for the acceleration of the Scottish mails from London. Those efforts resulted in a saving of forty-eight hours on the double mail journey, and were highly appreciated in Scotland.

Rowland Hill brought the adhesive stamp under the notice of the commissioners of post office inquiry on the 13th of February 1837. Chalmers made no public mention of his stamp of 1834 until November 1837.

Rowland Hill’s pamphlet led to the appointment of a committee of the House of Commons on the 22nd of November 1837, “to inquire into the rates and modes of charging postage, with a view to such a reduction thereof as may be made without injury to the revenue.” This committee reported in favour of Hill’s proposals; and an act was passed in 1839, authorizing the treasury to fix the rates of postage, and regulate the mode of their collection, whether by prepayment or otherwise. A premium of £200 was offered for the best, and £100 for the next best, proposal for bringing stamps into use, having regard to “(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.

English Issues

(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 221/2 mm. by 183/4 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[46] 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.

One Shilling.—All perforated 14. First issue, November 1, 1856: watermark heraldic emblems; no letters in angles; dull green, pale to dark green. Second issue, December 1, 1862: as above; small white letters in angles; pale to dark green. Third issue, February 1865: as above; large white letters in angles; pale to dark green, bluish green. Fourth issue, August 1867: watermark spray of rose; otherwise as third issue; pale to dark green, bluish green. Fifth issue, September 1873: large coloured letters in angles; otherwise as fourth issue; light to dark green, bluish green. Sixth issue, October 14, 1880: as fifth issue; pale red-brown. Seventh issue, June 15, 1881: watermark large crown; otherwise as sixth issue; pale red-brown.

Two Shillings.—Watermark spray of rose; perforated 14. First issue, July 1, 1867: pale to full blue, very deep blue. Second issue, February 1880: light brown.

Five Shillings.—First issue, July 1, 1867: watermarked with a cross paté; pink, pale rose; perforated 151/2 by 15. Second issue, November 1882: watermark large anchor; Carmine-pink; perforated 14.

Ten Shillings.—First issue, September 26, 1878: watermark cross paté; green-grey; perforated 151/2 by 15. Second issue, February 1882: watermark large anchor; green-grey; perforated 14.

One Pound.—First issue, September 26, 1878: watermark cross paté; brown-violet; perforated 151/2 by 15. Second issue, December 1882: watermark large anchor; brown-violet; perforated 14.

(iv.) After 1880.

In 1880–1881 the halfpenny, penny, three-halfpenny and twopenny surface-printed stamps superseded the line-engraved stamps of the same value, and a new surface-printed stamp of five pence was introduced. These stamps are distinguished from the stamps already described by the absence of plate-numbers and (except in the penny stamp) of check-letters in the corners; also by the coarser style of engraving necessary for printing by machines driven by steam-power.

One Halfpenny.—First issue, October 14, 1880: large crown watermark; pale green, bluish green, dark green; perforated 14. Second issue, April 1, 1884: slate-blue.

One Penny.—January 1, 1880: large crown watermark; venetian red; perforated 14.

Three-halfpence.—October 14, 1880: large crown watermark; venetian red; perforated 14.

Twopence.—December 8, 1880: large crown watermark; pale to very deep carmine red; perforated 14.

Fivepence.—March 15, 1881: large crown watermark; dark dull indigo, indigo-black; perforated 14.

The Customs and Inland Revenue Act which came into force on June 1, 1881, made it unnecessary to provide separate penny stamps for postal and fiscal purposes. By an act of 1882 (45 & 46 Vict. c. 72) it became unnecessary to provide separate stamps for postal and fiscal purposes up to and including stamps of the value of 2s. 6d. A new series was therefore issued:—

One Penny.—All perforated 14. First issue, July 12, 1881: large crown watermark; 14 pearls in each angle; purple-lilac, purple. Second issue, December 12, 1881: as first issue; 16 pearls in each angle; purple.

Three-halfpence.—April 1, 1884: large crown watermark; purple; perforated 14.




Fourpence.—Ditto, except in colour (sea-green).

Fivepence.—As fourpence.



One Shilling.—Ditto.

Two Shillings and Sixpence.—July 22, 1883: watermark large anchor; purple, dull lilac, dark purple; perforated 14.

Five Shillings.—April 1, 1884! ditto; pale to very deep carmine.

Ten Shiliings.—Ditto; pale blue, cobalt, light to dull blue.

One Pound.—First issue, April 1, 1884: large crown watermark, 3 appearing in each stamp; brown-violet; perforated 14. Second issue, January 27, 1891: same watermark; bright green; perforated 14.

Five Pounds.—March 21, 1882: large anchor watermark; orange vermilion, vermilion, bright Vermilion; perforated 14.

Following upon the report of a committee of officials of the General Post Office and Somerset House, a series of new stamps, commonly known as the “Jubilee” issue, was introduced on January 1, 1887, all of which between one halfpenny and one shilling exclusive were printed either in two colours or on a coloured paper, so that each stamp was printed in part in one or other of the doubly fugitive inks-green and purple.

One Halfpenny.—January 1, 1887: large crown watermark; orange-Vermilion to bright vermilion; perforated 14.

Three-halfpence.—January 1, 1887: as the halfpenny; green and purple.

Twopence.—Ditto: green and scarlet to Carmine.

Twopence-halfpenny.—January 1, 1887: blue paper; watermark large crown; dark purple; perforated 14.

Threepence.—January 1, -,1887: yellow paper; watermarked with a large crown; urple;, perforated 14.

Fourpence.—January 1, 1887: watermark and perforation as in threepence; green and brown.

Fourpence-halfpenny.-September 15, 1892: as the fourpence; green and carmine.

Fivepence.-January 11, 1887: as the fourpence; purple and blue. Sixpence:-January 1, 1887: pale red paper; watermarked with a large crown; purple; perforated 14.

Ninepence.—January 1, .1887: large crown watermark; purple and blue; perforated I 4., ,

Tenpence.—February 24, 1890: as the ninepence; purple and Carmine-red.

One Shilling:-January 1, 1887: as the ninepence; green.

The various fiscal stamps admitted to postage uses, the overprinted official, stamps for use by government departments, and the stamps specially surcharged for use in the Ottoman Empire, do not call for detailed notice in this article.

The distinctive telegraph stamps are as follows 1-One

Halfpenny.~April 1, 1880: shamrock watermark; orange Vermilion; perforated 14.

One Penny.—February 1, 1876: as the halfpenny; reddish brown.

Threepence.—Perforated 14. First issue, February 1, 1876: watermark spray of rose; carmine. Second issue, August 1881: watermark large crown; carmine.-I

Fourpence.—March 1, ,1877: watermark large garter; pale sage-green; perforated 14.

Sixpence.—Perforated 14.' 'First issue, March 1, 1877: watermark spray 'of rose; greenish-grey. Second issue, July 1881: as first issue; watermark large crown.

One Shilling.-Perforated 14. First issue, February 1, 1876: watermark spray of rose; green. Second issue, October 1880: watermark spray of rose; pale red-brown. Third issue, February 1881: watermark large crown: Pale red brown.

Three Shillings.—Perforated 14; slate blue. First issue, March 1, 1877: watermark spray of rose. Second issue, August 1881: watermark 'large crown.

Five Shillings.-First issue, February 1, 1876: watermark cross paté; dark to'light rose; perforated 15 by 151/2. Second issue, August 1881: watermark large anchor; carmine-rose; perforated 14.

Ten Shillings.-March 1, 1877; watermark cross pate; green grey; perforated 15 by 151/2.

One Pound.-March 1, 1877: 'watermark shamrock; brown purple; perforated 14.

Five Pounds.-March 1, 1877: watermark shamrock; orange vermilion: perforated 151/2 by 15.

In addition to these, there were stamps specially prepared for the army telegraphs.

British Colonies and Dependencies

Australian Commonwealth.—In 1905 there were 6654 post offices open; 311,401,539, letters and cards, 171,844,868 newspapers, book-packets and circulars, 2,168,810 parcels, and 13,680,239 telegrams were received and dispatched; the revenue was £z,738,146 and the expenditure £2,720,735.

New Zealand.—In 1905 there were 1937 post offices open; 74,767,288 letters and cards, 47,334,263 newspapers, book packets and circulars, 392,017, parcels, and 5,646,219 telegrams were dealt with., The revenue from the post office was £410,968, and from telegraphs £273,911, while the expenditure on the post office was £302,146 and on telegraphs £276,531.

Dominion of Canada.—In 1905 there were 10,879 post offices open; 331,798,506 letters and' cards, 60,405,000 newspapers, book-packets and circulars, and 58,338 parcels were received and dispatched. The revenue from the post office amounted to £1,053, 548, and from telegraphs £28,727, while the expenditure was, 'on the post office £952,652 and on telegraphs £78,934.

Cape of Good Hope.—The number of post offices open in 1905 was 1043: 7,596,606 letters and cards, 3,706,960 newspapers, book-packets and circulars, 536,800 parcels, and 6,045,228 telegrams were dealt with. The revenue from the post office was £423,0S6, and from telegraphs £206,842 the expenditure being, £4 56,171 on the post office and £272,863 on telegraphs.

British India.—In 1995 there were 16,033 post offices open; 597,707,867 'letters and cards, 76,671,197 newspapers, book packets and circulars, 4, 541, 367 parcels, and 9,098,345 telegrams were dealt with. The revenue from the post office was £1,566,704 and from telegraphs £733,193, while the expenditure was, on the post office, £1,199,557 and on telegraphs £546,914


The French postal system was founded by Louis XI. (June 19, 1464), was largely extended by Charles IX. (1565), and received considerable improvements at various periods under the respective governments of Henry IV. and Louis XIII. (1603, 1622,1627 seq.).[47] In 1627 France originated a postal money-transmission system,Early History a system of cheap registration for letters. The postmaster who thus anticipated modern improvements was Pierre d’Alméras, a man of high birth, who gave about £20,000 (of modern money) for the privilege of serving the public. The turmoils of the Fronde wrecked much that he had achieved. The first farm of postal income was made in 1672, and by farmers it was administered until June 1790. To increase the income postmaster ships for a long time were not only sold but made hereditary. Many administrative improvements of detail were introduced, indeed, by Mazarin (1643), by Louvois (c. 1680 seq.), and by Cardinal de Fleury (1728); but many formidable abuses also continued. The revolutionary government transferred rather than removed them. Characteristically, it put a board of postmasters in room of a farming postmaster-general and a controlling one. Napoleon (during the consulate[48]) abolished the board, recommitted the business to a postmaster-general as it had been under Louis XIII., and greatly improved the details of the service; Napoleon’s organization of 1802 is, in substance, that which now obtains, although, of course, large modifications and developments have been made from time to time.[49]

The university of Paris, as early as the 13th century, possessed a special postal system, for the abolition of which in the 18th it received a large compensation. But it continued to possess certain minor postal privileges until the Revolution.[50]

Mazarin’s edict of the 3rd of December 1643 shows that France at that date had a parcel post as well as a letter post. That edict creates for each head post office throughout the kingdom three several officers styled respectively (1) comptroller, (2) weigher, (3) assessor; and, instead of remunerating them by salary, it directs the addition of one-fourth to the existing letter rate and parcel rate, and the division of the surcharge between the three. Fleury’s edicts of 1728 make sub-postmasters directly responsible for the loss of letters or parcels; they also make it necessary that senders should post their letters at an office, and not give them to the carriers, and regulate the book-post by directing that book parcels (whether MS. or printed) shall be open at the ends.[51] In 1758, almost eighty years after Dockwra’s establishment of a penny post in London, an historian of that city published an account of it, which in Paris came under the eye of Claude Piarron de Chamousset,[52] who obtained letters-patent to do the like, and, before setting to work or seeking profit for himself, issued a tract with the title, Mémoire sur la petite-poste établie à Londres, sur la modèle de laquelle on pourrait en établir de semblables dans les plus grandes villes d’Europe. The reform was successfully carried out.

By this time the general post office of France was producing a considerable and growing revenue. In 1676 the farmers had paid to the king £48,000 in the money of that day. A century later they paid a fixed rent of £352,000, and covenanted to pay in addition one-fifth of their net profits. In 1788—the date of the last letting to farm of the postal revenue–the fixed and the variable payments were commuted for one settled sum of £480,000 a year. The result of the devastations of the Revolution and of the wars of the empire together is shown strikingly by the fact that in 1814 the gross income of the post office was but little more than three-fifths of the net income in 1788. Six years of the peaceful government of Louis XVIII. raised the gross annual revenue to £928,000 On the eve of the Revolution of 1830 it reached £1,348,000. Towards the close of the next reign the post office yielded £2,100,000 (gross). Under the revolutionary government of 1848–1849 it declined again (falling in 1850 to £1,744,000); under that of Napoleon III. it rose steadily and uniformly with every year. In 1858 the gross revenue was £2,296,000, in 1868, £3,596,000.

The ingenuity of the French postal authorities was severely tried by the exigencies of the German War of 1870–71. The first contrivance was to organize a pigeon service (see also Pigeon Post), carrying microscopic dispatches prepared by the aid of photographic appliances.[53] The Posts number of postal pigeons employed was 363, of which Pigeon and Balloon Posts. number fifty-seven returned with dispatches. During the height of the siege the English postal authorities received letters for transmission by pigeon post into Paris by way of Tours, subject to the regulations that no information concerning the war was given, that the number of words did not exceed twenty, that the letters were delivered open, and that 5d. a word, with a registration fee of 6d.,[54] was prepaid as postage. At this rate the postage of the 200 letters on each folio was £40, that on the eighteen pellicles of sixteen folios each, carried by one pigeon, £11,520. Each despatch was repeated until its arrival had been acknowledged by balloon post; consequently many were sent off twenty and some even more than thirty times. The second step was to establish a regular system of postal balloons, fifty-one being employed for letter service and six for telegraphic service. To M. Durnouf belongs much of the honour of making the balloon service successful. On the basis of experiments carried out by him a decree of the 26th of September 1870 regulated the new postal system. Out of sixty four several ascents, each costing on the average about £200, fifty-seven achieved their purpose, notwithstanding the building by Krupp of twenty guns, supplied with telescopic apparatus, for the destruction of the postal balloons. Only five were captured, and two others were lost at sea. The aggregate weight of the letters and newspapers thus aerially mailed by the French post office amounted to about eight tons and a half, including upwards of 3,000,000 letters; and, besides the aeronauts, ninety-one passengers were conveyed. The heroism displayed by the French balloon postmen was equalled by that of many of the ordinary letter-carriers in the conveyance of letters through the catacombs and quarries of Paris and its suburbs, and, under various disguises, often through the midst of the Prussian army. Several lost their lives in the discharge of their duty, in some cases saving their dispatches by the sacrifice.[55] During the war the Marseilles route for the Anglo-Indian mails was abandoned. They were sent through Belgium and Germany, by the Brenner Pass to Brindisi, and thence by Italian packets to Alexandria. The French route was resumed in 1872.[56]

The comparative postal statistics for all France during the years 1900 and 1905 stands thus:—

1900. 1905.
No. No.
Letters . . . . . 980,629,000 1,213,090,000
Post-cards 62,591,000 450,889,000
Newspapers, printed matter,
samples, circulars, &c. .
1,390,246,000 1,441,713,000
Value of money French francs 1,422,736,000 1,834,360,000
orders Internatl. 56,210,000 73,229,000
Value of postal orders 40,688,000 54,582,000

The savings banks system of France, so far as it is connected with the postal service, dates only from 1875, and began then (at first) simply by the use of post offices as agencies and feeders for the pre-existing banks. Prior to the postal connexion the aggregate of the deposits stood at £22,920,000. In 1877 it reached £32,000,000. Postal savings banks, strictly so called, began only during the year 1881. At the close of 1882 they had 210,712 depositors, with an aggregate deposit of £1,872,938 sterling; in 1905 they had 12,134,523 depositors, with an aggregate deposit of £229,094,155.

The union of the telegraph with the post office dates only from 1878. The following table gives the figures for 1900 and 1905:—

1900. 1905.
Length of line. kilometres
Length of wire kilometres
miles .
Total gross receipts francs. . 43,977,000
Number of messages forwarded:
Home service. ... . 36,723,000 39,433,000
International 3,374,000 3,686,000
Amount of International tele-
graphic money orders:
 From foreign countries to
  France. (Total francs)
6,145,455 10,239,546
 From France to foreign
  countries.. (Total francs)
6,124,913 4,754,960

The postal telephonic system began in 1879. The following table gives the figures for 1901 and 1905:—

1901. 1905.
Length of line kilometres
Length of wire kilometres
Messages 175,340,000 232,727,645
Receipts . francs

Bibliography..—P. d’Alméras, Réglement sur le port des lettres (1627); Le Quien de la Neufville, Usages des postes (1730); Rowland Hill, Report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the French Post Office (1837); Annuaire des postes (from 1850–); M. du Camp, “De L’administration . . . et de l’hôtel des postes,” in Revue des deux mondes (1865), 3rd series; Revue des postes et télégraphes (pub. at various periods); A. de Rothschild, Histoire de la poste-lux-lettres (1875); “Entwickelung des Post- u. Telegraphenwesens in Frankreich,” in Archiv f. Post. u. Telegraphie (1882); “Die französischen Postsparkassen, " and other articles, in L’Union postale (Berne).


The Austrian postal system is among the oldest on record. Vienna possessed a local letter post and a parcel post, on the plan of prepayment, as early as May 1772, at which date no city in Germany possessed the like. This local post was established by a Frenchman (M. Hardy) and managed by a Dutchman (Schooten).[57] Thirteen years after its organization it became merged in the imperial post. The separate postal organizations of the empire (Austria) and of the kingdom (Hungary) date from 1867. In Austria the post office and the telegraph office are placed under the control of the minister of commerce, in Hungary under that of the minister of public works. The following table gives the figures for 1900 and 1904:—


1900. 1904.
Post offices No. 6,895  8,327 
Letters and post-cards ,, 1,193,418,000 1,421,107,000
Newspapers „ 144,986,000
Packet post :
Ordinary packets. kilogs. 37,522,000 44,624,000
Registered packets and letters kronen
Receipts. kronen
Expenses kronen


1900. 1904.
Post offices. No. 4,923  5,097 
Letters, newspapers, &c. „ 487,670,000 584,081,000
Packet post :
Ordinary packets . . „ 17,730,000 21,367,000
Packets with 6 256 900 000 4,936,403,000
Glared value and
money letters
260,704,000 205,683,000
Reimbursements and korona 1,095,591,000 1,253,440,000
money orders £ 45,649,000 52,226,000
Postal order korona
Receipt korona
Expenses korona

German Empire

The Prussian postal system developed mainly by the ability and energy of Dr Stephan, to whom the organization of the International Postal Union[58] was so largely indebted, into the admirably organized post and telegraph office of the empire began with the Great Elector, and with the establishment in 1646 of a Government post from Cleves to Memel. Frederick, II. largely extended it, and by his successor the laws relating to it were consolidated. In Strasburg a messenger code existed as early as 1443. A postal service was organized at Nuremberg in 1570. In 1803 the rights in the indemnity-lands (Entschädigungsländer) of the counts of Taxis as hereditary imperial postmasters were abolished. The first mail steam packet was built in 1821; the first transmission of mails by, railway was in 1847; the beginning of the postal administration of the telegraphs was in 1849; and, by the treaty of postal union with Austria, not only was the basis of the existing system of the posts and telegraphs of Germany fully laid, but the germ was virtually set of the International Postal Union. That treaty was made for ten years on the 6th of April 1850, and was immediately accepted by Bavaria. It came into full operation on the 1st of July following, and then included Saxony, Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Holstein. Other German states followed; and the treaty was renewed in August 1860. The following table gives figures for 1900 and 1905:—

1900. 1905.
Post offices. . . No. 32,135 33,105
Letters received. „ 2,893,555,000 3,855,369,000
Letters and parcels
 received (value
10,508,000 10,518,000
declared) 1000 marks 15,984,425 16,215,800
Parcels received (value not declared) No. 153,985,000 186,038,000
Postal orders re-No. 126,217,209 162,800,261
ceived. 1000 marks 7,868,860 9,807,934


1900. 1905.
Length of line kilometres
miles .
of which under- { kilometres 10,969 11,460
 ground { miles. . 6,812 7,117
Length of wire {kilometres
{ miles
of which under- { kilometres 49,934 52,014
 ground. { miles 31,009 32,301
Number of offices open to the
20,768 26,912
Receipts Marks
Number of messages:
Home service. .. . 28,643,849 30,275,833
International.. . 12,356,840 15,300,309

†Exclusive of Württemburg and Bavaria.


1901. 1905.
 Length of line . . . miles 59,460  85,450 
 Length of wire . . .  „ 731,174  1,672,415 
 Number of messages . .  766,226,337   1,207,400,000 

Bibliography.—Von Beust, Versuch einer ausfiihrlichen Erkldrung des Postregals, . insbesondere in Anschauung d. h. rom. Reichs Teutscher Nation (3 vols., Jena, 1747–1748); Avis instruct if au public; pour la petite paste [de Vienrte] (1772); Ueber die kleine Past in Wien (1780); A. Flegler, Zur Gesch. d. Posten (1858); Stephan, Hein. Gesch. d. preuss Post (1859); Fischer, Die Verkehrsanstalten der deutschert Reichs (1873); Von Linde, Haftverbindlichkeit d. Postanstalt; W. Kompe, Das Handelsgesetzbuch u. das Postrecht; Gad, Die Haftpflicht d. d. Postanrtalten (1863); Eug, Hartmann, Erttwickelungsgesch. d. Postert (1868); P. D. Fischer, Die d. Portund Telegraphic-Gesetzgebung; O. Dambach, Das Gesetz iiber das Postwesen des deutschen Reichs (1881); Archiv f. Post u. Telegraphic; F. X. von Neumann-Spallart, Uebersichten iiber Verkehr in d. Weltwirthschaft; Deutsche Verkehrszeiturtg; W. Lenz. Katechismus d. d. Reichspost.


The origin of the Italian post office may be traced virtually to Venice and to the establishment of the “ Corrieri di Venezia ” early in the 16th century. As early as 1818 the Sardinian post office issued stamped letter-paper. The total number of letters, newspapers and book-packets conveyed in 1862 was but III,733, 3IQ. In 1900 there were 7234 post offices; letters conveyed amounted to 180,34Q,449, post. cards 82, 544, 547, newspapers, &c., 301,495,580, samples 9,117,526, official letters, franked, 46,302, l2I, postal packets 8,170,988, and registered letters of a declared value of £12,931,026. The receipts amounted to £2,429,000 and the expenses to £1,980,000.

United States

The early history of the post office in the British colonies in North America has been referred to above. Benjamin Franklin was removed by the home department from his office of postmaster-general in America in 1774. On the 26th of July

1775 the American Congress assumed direction of the post offices, re-appointing Franklin to his former post. Shortly afterwards, when Franklin was sent as ambassador to France his son-in-law, Richard Bache, was made postmaster-general in November 1775.

In 1789 the number of post offices was 75; in 1800, 903; in 1825, 5677; in 1875, 35,734; in 1885, 51,252; in 1390, 62,401; in 1895, 70,064; in 1900, 76,688; and in 1905, 68, 131.

The following table gives the financial statements for a number of years:—

 Year.  Extent of post
routes in miles.
Revenue. Expenditure.
1875 277,873 $26,791,360 $33,611,309
1880 343,888 33,315,479 36,542,804
1885 365,251 42,560,844 49,533,150
1890 427,991 60,882,097 65,930,717
1895 456,026 76,983,128 86,790,172
1900 500,982 102,354,579 107,740,268
1905 486,805 152,826,585 167,399,169

The revenue quoted does not include any allowance for the large quantity of official matter carried for other public departments, &c., indeed, the postmaster-general, in his Report for 1906, estimated that if the due allowance were made il would add approximately $20,000,000 to the revenue. The post office department is compelled to carry anything sent under a penalty frank, and franks are used by all the departments and their agents for the purpose of carrying everything they choose to send (Report, postmaster-general, 1893). The expenditure does not include the amounts certified to the Treasury for the transportation of mails over aided Pacific railways, or any allowance for the use of such buildings as are provided by the government.

Contrary to expectations repeatedly expressed, each year shows a deficit. This is partly explained by reductions in charges. The rate of postage on first-class matter was reduced from three cents to two cents on the 1st of October 1883, and the unit of weight was increased from half an ounce to one ounce on the 1st of July 1885. On the latter date, also, the postage on second-class matter was reduced from two cents to one cent per pound. This low rate has led to wholesale violation of the purpose of the law. In his report for 1899 Mr Emory Smith, postmaster-general, estimated that “fully one-half of all the matter mailed as second-class, and paid for at the pound rate, is not properly second-class within the intent of the law "; and that the cost of mere transportation of this wrongly classed matter exceeded the revenue derived from it by more than $12,000,000 for the year.

Until 1863 the rates of postage were based upon the distances over which the mails were conveyed. In 1846 these rates were—not exceeding 300 m., three cents; exceeding 300 m., ten cents. In 1851 the rates were reduced to three cents for distances not exceeding 3000 m. and ten cents- for distances exceeding 3000 m. The use of adhesive postage stamps was first authorized by act of Congress, approved on the 3rd of March 1847, and on the 1st of June 1856 prepayment by stamps was made compulsory. In 1863 a uniform rate of postage without regard to distance was fixed at three cents, and on the 1st of October 1883, the rate was further reduced to two cents, the equivalent of the British penny postage.

All mail matter for distribution within the United States is divided into four classes. First-class matter includes letters, postal cards, post cards and anything sealed or closed against inspection. Second-class matter includes all newspapers and periodicals exclusively in print that have been “entered as second-class matter,” and are regularly issued at stated intervals as frequently as four times a year from a known office of publication and mailed by publishers or newsagents to actual subscribers or to newsagents for sale, and newspapers and publications of this class mailed by persons other than publishers. The rates of postage to publishers are one cent a pound, and to other than publishers, one cent for each four ounces. T hird-class matter includes printed books, pamphlets, engravings and circulars in print or reproduced by a copying process. The rate for third-class matter is one cent for each two ounces. Fourth-class matter is all mailable matter not included in the three preceding classes which is so prepared for mailing as to be easily withdrawn from the wrapper and examined. The rate is one cent for each ounce.

The franking privilege, which had grown to be an intolerable abuse, was temporarily abolished in 1873, but the post office now carries free under official “penalty” labels or envelopes (i.e. envelopes containing a notice of the legal penalty for their unauthorized use) matter which is of an official character, the privilege being extended to congressmen and government officials (see FRANKING). As late as 1860 the mails conveyed nothing but written and printed matter. They now admit nearly every known substance which does not exceed four pounds in weight (this restriction does not apply to single books), and which from its nature is not liable to injure the mails or the persons of postal employés. A delivery system existed in a number of cities of the Union in 1862, the carriers remunerating themselves by the collection of a voluntary fee of from one to two cents on each piece of mail delivered. A uniform free delivery system was first authorized by law on the 3rd of March 1863, and was established on the succeeding 1st of July in forty-nine cities. The number of carriers employed the first year was 685. On the 1st of July 1884 there were 3890 letter-carriers in one hundred and fifty-nine “free delivery cities.”

The free delivery service has grown rapidly. On the 1st of July 1901, 866 cities and towns were included in the scheme, and 16,389 letter-carriers were serving a population of 32,000,000. An extension to rural districts was started in 1896, and by December 1901, 4,000,000 of the rural population were within the scope of free delivery. Since the 1st of October 1885 a system has been in force for the immediate delivery by special messengers of letters, parcels, &c., for addresses within certain areas. A special ten-cent stamp (or its equivalent) is required in addition to the ordinary postage.

The registry system did not attain any degree of excellence until after 1860; and the money-order system was first established in 1864. The aggregate number of money orders, domestic and foreign, issued during the fiscal year 1906 was 61,497,861, of the value of $507,563,719. A step towards the popularization of the registry system was authorized in December 1899; letter-carriers in many city districts now accept and register letters at the door of the householder. Sea post offices for sorting mails during the Atlantic transit were established in December 1890 on the steamers of the North German Lloyd and Hamburg-American lines, and later on the vessels of the International Navigation Company. This plan effects a saving of from two to fourteen hours in the delivery of mails from Europe. The issue of “postal notes,” commenced in 1883, was abandoned in 1894. The introduction of “postal checks” for small fixed amounts has been advocated. A new postal convention with Canada, removing the former restriction against sending merchandise, came into force on the IS(of March 1888. Uniformity of postage rates having been previously established, the United States and Canada became virtually one postal territory.

A convention for an exchange of parcels with Jamaica, admitting articles not exceeding 11 ℔, was agreed to in 1887; and since then conventions on similar lines have been concluded with other colonies and countries in America. The first arrangement of the kind with any European country was made with Germany, and came into operation on the 1st of October 1899. The postal laws, regulations and domestic conditions of the United States have been extended, by act of Congress, to Porto Rico and Hawaii. The “island possessions” (Guam, the Philippine Archipelago and Tutuila) have also been brought within the scope of the domestic conditions, including the rates of postage. The service introduced into Cuba, though modelled on the American plan, is practically autonomous.

Telegraphs.—The formation of a postal telegraph system has continued to be a subject of discussion by the postmasters general. In his report for the year 1888 D. M. Dickinson proposed the appointment of an expert commission authorized to erect short experimental lines. His successor, John Wanamaker, for four years vigorously advocated a limited postal telegraph service. Under this proposal, contracting telegraph companies were to furnish lines, instruments and operators, and to transmit messages at rates fixed by the government; the department was to receive a small sum per message, to cover its expenses in collection and delivery. In 1894 Mr Bissell expressed the opinion that a government system would be unprofitable and inexpedient.

Savings Banks.—The establishment of postal savings banks was also recommended by Mr Wanamaker in his reports for the years 1889 to 1892, and by J. A. Gary in 1897. What is regarded as a step in this direction was taken in 1898, when the postal regulations were modified to allow money orders to be made payable at the office of issue,—a “mild and very convenient adaptation of the European savings bank system, without the payment of interest” (Mr Emory Smith). Finally in 1910 a system of postal savings banks was authorized by Congress.

Authorities.—Postmaster-General’s Annual Reports: Joyce, History of the British Post Office (1893); J. Wilson Hyde, The Post in Grant and Farm (1894); A. H. Norway, History of the Packet Service (1895); F. E. Baines, Forty Years at the Post Office (1895); Raikes, Life of Rt. Hon. H. C. Raikes (1898); L’Union postale universelle, sa fondation et son développement (Lausanne, 1900); mémoire publié par le bureau international à l’occasion de la célébration du xxvme anniversaire de l’union 2–5 juillet 1900; Statistique générale du service postal (Bern); Statistique générale de la télégraphie (Bern).

The various postal and telegraph rates and regulations of the United Kingdom appear in the quarterly Post Office Guide (price 6d.). For the United States, see the U.S. Official Postal Guide. (T. A. I.) 

  1. F. Windebank to Sir W. Cecil: “All the Italians were unwilling to give their voices to Raphael, . . . but inclined to favour Godfrey” (Dom. Cor. Eliz. xlviii. § 65, State Paper Dept., Rolls Office). Raphael was a German, Godfrey an Englishman.
  2. Kennedy, Annals of Aberdeen, i. 262.
  3. Book of Proclamatlons, p. 67 (S. P. O.; now in Rolls House); Report from the Secret Committee on the Post Office, (1844) appendix, pp. 38–40.
  4. Or “De l’Equester, " as he is called in Latch’s Reports of King’s Bench Cases, p. 87.
  5. These disputes were much embittered by the growing jealousies of English against foreign merchants. The proofs of this in the state correspondence of Elizabeth’s day are abundant, but there were many statesmen who took larger views. See, e.g. John Johnson’s “Brief Declaration for the . . erecting and maintaining of the Staple . . . in England ” (June 1582), Dom. Corresp. Eliz. cliv. No. 30; and compare the same wrirer's “Discourse for the repairing the decayed State of the Merchants, " &c. (July 22, 1577), ibid. cxiv. No. 39, with Leake's “Discourse,” &c., of the same year (ibid. cxi. I seq.), and with John Hales's “Letter to Sir W. Cecil” (March 20, 1559), ibid. iii., where he describes the merchant strangers as being “spies for foreign princes,” and with Cecil's “Reasons to move a Forbearing of the Restitution of the Intercourse to Antwerp” (1564), ibid. xxxv. No. 33 (in Rolls House).
  6. See Analytical Index to the Revnembrancia, p. 418, as quoted by H. B. Wheatley in the Academy of the 27th of December 1879, p. 464.
  7. Minute in “House of Lords' Papers ” (1633), Fourth Report of Hist. MSS. Commission (1874), app. The papers there calendared contain many proofs of Witherings's activity and ability. See also appendix to Fifth Report (1875), and “A proclamation concerning the Postmaster of England for Forraigne Parts” (July 19, 1632), in Rymer's Foedera, xix. 385.
  8. Egerton MS. (Brit. Mus.), No. 2543, fol. 5 seq.
  9. Rymer, Foedera, xix. 649.
  10. Ibid. xx. 192.
  11. Ibid. xx. 429.
  12. 6Journals of the House of Commons, ii. 81, 82, 95, 470, 493, 500, 501, 658 seq.; Journals of the Home of Lords, v. 343, 387, 450, 469-73, 500 seq.; Report from Secret Committee on the Post Office, Appendix, pp. 60–69.
  13. Illustrations of this may be seen (in the state-paper department of the general record office) among the correspondence between Sir John Coke and Lord Conway, and also in many other state letters, as well after the outbreak of the great rebellion as before it. There is in the Bodleian Library (MS. Rawlinson, A. 477) a minute account of the methods alleged to have been pursued in the systematic and periodical examination of letters entrusted to the post office. The paper is not authenticated by any signature, and is undated. But it is an original document of the time of Charles II., addressed to Mr. Bridgman, clerk of the council, and drawn up to recommend the adoption of a like practice, but with greater dexterity than that used by Dr Dorislaus and Samuel Morland, who, according to this narrative, formed the Cromwellian board of examiners for post-office letters, and who read all that were addressed to foreign parts.
  14. There is a copy in the library of the British Museum, from which H. B. Wheatley has given the abstract quoted above.
  15. Journals of the House of Commons, vii. 627.
  16. The trusted friend but not always the trusted adviser of the duke of Ormonde. O'Neill's correspondence exists among the duke's papers, in part at Kilkenny Castle, in part (extensively) among the Carte MSS. in the Bodleian; and it abounds in incidental illustrations of postal administration in both England and Ireland.
  17. Quoted in Gent. Mag. (1815), xxxv. 309, 310.
  18. Lang, Historical Summary of the Post Office in Scotland, pp. 4, 5.
  19. Miles, “History of the Post Office,” in the American Banker’s Magazine, new series, vol. vii. p. 358 seq.
    “Is there a variance ? enter but this door,
    Balked are the courts; the contest is no more.”
  20. Pope's “humble Allen” was also the “Allworthy” of Fielding.
  21. Debates of both Houses of Parliament in 1808 relative to the Agreement for the Reform and Improvement of the Post Office, passim. See also H. Joyce, The History of the Post Office (1893).
  22. Lang, Historical Summary of the Post Office in Scotland 15.
  23. Minutes of Evidence before Select Committee on Taxation of Internal Communication (1837), evidence of Sir Edward Lees, p. 397.
  24. Report, &c., of Select Committee on Postage.
  25. Twenty-second Report of the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry, pp. 4–6.
  26. Last year of exclusive sailing packets.
  27. First year of steam-packets.
  28. Report of Secret Committee on the Post Office (1844), p. 9.
  29. Lords’ Journals, xxii. 183-186; State Trials, xvi. 540 seq.
  30. Post Office Reform, 27 seq.
  31. Hill, History of Penny Postage (1880), appendix A (Life, &c., ii. 438). Part of the strenuousness of the opposition to this measure arose, it must be owned, from the “high-handedness” which in Sir R. Hill's character somewhat marred very noble faculties. The change worked much harm to some humble but hardworking and meritorious functionaries.
  32. Ricordi dei fratelli Bandiera e dei loro compagni di martirro in Cosenza, p. 47 Paris, 1844).
  33. Report from the Secret Committee on the Post Office (1844), p. 11.
  34. Ibid., pp. 14–17.
  35. Hansard, Debates, vol. cclxvii. cols. 294–296 (session of 1882).
  36. It was discovered in the course of this year that the estimated figures for previous years had been swollen by an imperfect method of reckoning the London letters, &c. In 1883 as many as 2,770,000 valentines were sent through the post. The numbers gradually decreased until in 1890 only 320,000 were observed. Christmas cards have, however, considerably increased.
  37. Since the 22nd of June 1897, all packets over 2 oz., formerly counted as book packets, are reckoned as letters.
  38. See note to table of Letters Delivered.
  39. Thirty-second Report of Postmaster-General.
  40. Afterwards extended to the 31st of March 1922.
  41. An historical outline is given in the Forty-Second Report of Postmaster-General (1896), p. 26.
  42. The total sums remitted did not fall off to the same extent, showing that the small orders alone were effected. The average amount for ordinary inland orders is now £2, 19s. 5d.
  43. For a succinct account of the history of the post office savings bank, “so far as depositors and the general public are concerned,” see Forty-third Report of Postmaster-General (1897), pp. 32 seq.
  44. Stamp-Collector’s Magazine, v. 161 seq.; J. E. Gray, Illustrated Catalogue of Postage Stamps, 6th ed., 167.
  45. Patrick Chalmers, Sir Rowland Hill and James Chalmers, Inventor of the Adhesive Stamp (London, 1882), passim. See also the same writer’s pamphlet, entitled The Position of Sir Rowland Hill made plain (1882), and his The Adhesive Stamp: a Fresh Chapter in the History of Post-Office Reform (1881). Compare Pearson Hill’s tract, A Paper on Postage Stamps, in reply to Chalmers, reprinted from the Philatelic Record of November 1881. Pearson Hill has therein shown conclusively the priority of publication by Sir Rowland Hill. He has also given proof of James Chalmers’s express acknowledgment of that priority. But he has not weakened the evidence of the priority of invention by Chalmers.
  46. Wright and Creeke, History of the Adhesive Stamp of the British Isles available for Postal-and Telegraph Purposes (London, 1899).
  47. For the details, see Ency. Brit., 8th ed., xviii. 420–424, and Maxime Du Camp, “L’Administration des Postes,” in Revue des deux mondes (1865), 2nd series, vol. lxvii. 169 seq.
  48. 28 Pluviose, an XII.=the 18th of February 1804.
  49. Le Quien de la Neufville, Usages des postes (1730), pp. 59–67, 80, 121–123, 147–149, 286–291; Maxime du Camp, op. cit. passim; Pierre Clément, Appréciation des conséquences de la réforme postale, passim: Loret, Gazette rimée (Aug. 16, 1653); Furetière, Le Roman Bourgeois (in Du Camp, ut supra); “Die ersten Posteinrichtungen, u.s.w.,” in L’Union postale, viii. 138; Ordonnances des Rois de France, as cited by A. de Rothschild, Histoire de la poste-aux-lettres (3rd ed., 1876), i. 171, 216, 269. We quote M. de Rothschild’s clever book with some misgivings. It is eminently sparkling in style, and most readable; but its citations are so given that one is constantly in doubt lest they be given at second or even at third hand instead of from the sources. The essay of M. du Camp is, up to its date, far more trustworthy. He approaches his subject as a publicist, M. de Rothschild as a stamp-collector.
  50. There are several charters confirmatory of this original privilege. The earliest of these is of 1296 (Philip “the Fair”).
  51. Ordonnances, &c., as above.
  52. There is an interesting biographical notice of Piarron de Chamousset in Le Journal officiel of July 5, 1875.
  53. The despatches carried by the pigeons were in the first instance photographed on a reduced scale on thin sheets of paper, the original writing being preserved, but after the ascent of the twenty-fifth balloon leaving the city an improved system was organized. The communications, whether public dispatches, newspapers or private letters, were printed in ordinary type, and micro-photographed on to thin films of collodion. Each pellicle measured less than 2 in. by 1, and the reproduction of sixteen folio pages of type contained above 3000 private letters. These pellicles were so light that 50,000 dispatches, weighing less than 1 gramme, were regarded as the weight for one pigeon. In order to ensure their safety during transit the films were rolled up tightly and placed in a small quill which was attached longitudinally to one of the tail feathers of the bird. On their arrival in Paris they were fattened out and thrown by means of the electric lantern on to a screen, copied by clerks, and dispatched to their destination. This method was afterwards improved upon, sensitive paper being substituted for the screen, so that the letters were printed at once and distributed.
  54. Seventeenth Report of the Postmaster-General, p. 7.
  55. Boissay, “La Poste et la télégraphie pendant le siège de Paris,” in Journal des économistes, 3rd series, vol. xxii. pp. 117–129 and pp. 273–282. Cf. Postal Gazette (1883). i. 7.
  56. Sixteenth Report of the Postmaster-General, p. 8.
  57. Loeper, “Organisation des postes de ville,” in L’Union postale vii. 1 seq.
  58. The International Postal Union was founded at Berne in 1874. All the countries of the world belong to it, with the exception of Afghanistan, Baluchistan, China, Abyssinia and Morocco. Congresses have been held at Paris (1878), Lisbon (1885), Vienna (1891), Washington (1897) and Rome (1906).