1845 in History - 1st
postmasters' provisional stamps issued, New York City
Prior to 1845,
postage rates in the United States were very high, and not
really a service that was affordable to the public at large.
It was considered something that the rich and affluent
participated in. In
addition, the rates were complicated and considered difficult
by the public
to understand. The rates were not based on weight but on the
number of sheets, including the cover sheet, in the letter.
Personal correspondence was quite limited and there was
little to no business mail.
This situation brought legislation, known as the
Act of March 3, 1845; effective July 1, 1845, simple and
uniform postage rates were established. Setting basic
provisions to provide for mailing of a letter any distance of
300 miles or less, at 5˘ per half ounce and any distance over
300 miles at 10˘ per half ounce. Letters for local delivery
(utilizing only local services) were set at 2˘. Considerably
lower then the private carriers of forgone years.
The Act did not authorize the Postmaster General
(or any other government agency) to
issue postage stamps. Stamps did not arrive on the scene for two more years and
prepayment also wasn't required, that would not be enforced until
the mid 1850’s. The 1845 Act also did not prohibit "
local postmasters" from issuing their own stamps on
outgoing mail. This facilitation of prepaid mailing had the
effect of increasing the postal receipts of the issuing
postmaster, thereby raising his/her income. S the initial
legislation was like many other new governmental services, it
was "riddled with flaws". Something that time and
usage was able t rectify, especially when it's a popular
service and the public wants changes (not much has changed
since then when it comes to implementing g0vernment programs.)
the postmaster of New York City began using postage stamps for
mail handled by his office. Other postmasters' provisional
appeared during the next two years. In 1847, the U.S. Post
Office, convinced of the need and desirability of using stamps
for postage, began issuing stamps for nationwide use. These
general issues replaced the provisional. Postmasters'
provisional were used by Alexandria, VA.; Annapolis, MD.
(envelope); Baltimore, MD. (both stamps and postal
stationery); Boscawen, NH.; Brattleboro, VT.; Lockport, N.Y.;
Millbury, MA.; New Haven, CN. (postal stationery); New York,
NY; Providence, RI; and St. Louis, MO. During 1846, the New
York provisional were used "sporadically" or
"experimentally" (for New York-bound mail from
Boston, Albany and Washington).
early stamps and stamped envelopes are known as postmasters’
provisional. They were only valid at the post
office where they were issued and were not valid at other
locals. American Provisionals’ collecting is considered to be one
of the most challenging areas of advanced philately. Most US
collections do not include them they are considered to be an
advanced topic or "specialty items". I have as herd
them called "Back of the Book",
"Cinderella", topical and other inappropriate
tittles. They are actually places in the front of a
collection, and not a Cinderella because they were
"official for postal use".
postmasters issued their own stamps and stamped envelopes;
eleven of which are recognized by the Editors of the Scott
catalogs. Ten of these postmasters are from states that border
the Atlantic Ocean, the one exception being the Postmaster of
Saint Louis. Some of the postmasters were located in major
cities such as New York, Baltimore, New Haven, Providence and
Saint Louis while others were located in smaller cities and
towns like Alexandria, Virginia; Annapolis, Maryland;
Boscawen, New Hampshire; Brattleboro, Vermont; Lockport, New
York and Millbury, Massachusetts.
All of the postmasters
(11) that issued
provisional stamps, used local engravers
and printers (from what is known) to manufacture the stamps.
All of the postmaster provisionals and envelopes where invalidated on July 1, 1847
with the release of the first US general issue, (the 1847 5˘
& 10˘ stamps). However, there are few a New York provisional
stamps on cover postmarked after July know of any other
examples of late use please email me and I will update this
site accordingly. I would also welcome any other notable
information, or revisions after all we d consider this to be a
"research project", and research is never presented
in a "finished state", history is constantly
reveling itself if we just take the time to look.