The very first stamp that you had to lick.

The great day for postal services in this country is the first of May eighteen forty. Ask any postman why this is and they will immediately tell you that this was the date when the first adhesive postal stamp, the famous Penny Black came onto the market. It had a nice cameo of Queen Victoria on it. Whilst it may not be as quick as the speed and service offered by a Same Day Courier Manchester based company for the time it was a true revolution.  It was an affordable, easy to use postal payment system which saved all that tedious mucking about with glue or having to pay the post man when he turned up with the post on your doorstep. This also stopped you from being ripped off by the postal service when they claimed that it had gone miles when you knew it was from your Aunty Maude over the other side of the town.

Image Credit

The Penny Black was designed to stop all this nonsense. It would be prepared and delivered to whatever location in the country you wanted it sent.  The process of bringing this about was started by Sir Rowland Hill who was asked to come up with some way of sorting it all out. He realised that he couldn’t do everything on his own so he asked Henry Cole to help him out. The main sticking point was what to put on the stamp so Cole suggested that they have a competition to see what the best image would be. They got back two thousand six hundred suggestions (none of them being Stampy McStampface I might add) But Hill and Cole liked none of them so they went with their own idea which was to put the Monarch on it. It was the Royal Mail after all.

The artist Henry Corbould got the gig of drawing the Queens face and then the Father and Son team of Charles and Frederick Heath set about making the engravings from the image. The image was so good that they decide to stick with it even when the old dear died at eighty one and no longer represented in any way the way the stamp of her looked. Engraving is a long job and it seems that the Heath’s weren’t keen to do another one.

Image Credit

Off they all went to the Jacob Perkins printing press where the engraved plates where ready for the paper to be put in. 11 plates were made but they had to retire plate one after many years as the image was starting to wear off. They didn’t have the perforated sheets that you get today so you needed scissors and very steady hand. At least you could lick the back and stick in on the letter. Pop in the post box and of it went a triumph of British ingenuity.