The Penny Black

On this day in history, 175 years ago to be exact, the Penny Black was the world’s first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. Pretty neat stuff, assuming your generation knows what stamps are used for, you with your WiFiy, Snapchatery, KiK tomfoolery! It was issued in Britain on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year and features a profile of the Queen Victoria:


Teacher, inventor, social reformer and postal administrator, Rowland Hill, introduced the Penny Black adhesive stamp as a way to indicate pre-payment of postage, prior to his 1837 proposal to reform the British postal system, it was normal then for the recipient to pay postage on delivery — the price was calculated by the sheet and on the distance it travelled. Sending letters is now accessible to all and (hopefully) priced at an affordable flat rate.

To close, I found these passages by historian and Guardian columnist, to be quite sincere in regards to the special charm of letter writing, in contrast to the much abbreviated nature of digital correspondence:

“To a historian this stuff is gold dust. For buried away in the interstices of the most apparently banal note you will find all sorts of data, not just about how people lived, loved, ate and dressed a century ago, but – and this is the important bit – what they thought and felt about it all. Letters are a prompt to reflection and what cultural critics call “self-fashioning”. Put bluntly, we get to know who we are and what we think by writing about it to other people.

Deprive a generation of older people of the chance to send letters, and you not only lose a storehouse of fascinating archival material – you also deprive a huge and growing cohort the chance to find out how they feel about their lives at any given moment. And, perhaps just as importantly, you deprive older peoples’ correspondents the chance to connect with them deeply and meaningfully, on a level that the faux intimacy of email will never begin to match.” ~

~ by Fionnlagh on May 1, 2015.

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