The Penny Black
It might not have looked very impressive, but the Penny Black, now 170 years old, was the first stamp to be created and it launched the modem postal system in Britain.
Before 1840s and the arrival of the Penny Black, you had to be rich and patient to use the Royal Mail. Q1 Delivery was charged according to the miles travelled and the number of sheets of paper used; a 2-page letter sent from Edinburgh to London, for example, would have cost 2 shillings, or more than £7 in today’s money. And Q2 when the top-hatted letter carrier came to deliver it, it was the recipient who had to pay for the postage. Letter writers employed various ruses to reduce the cost, doing everything possible to cram more words onto a page. Nobody bothered with heavy envelopes; instead, letters would be folded and sealed with wax. You then had to find a post office – there were no pillar boxes – and hope your addressee didn’t live in one of the several rural areas which were not served by the system. If you were lucky, your letter would arrive (it could take days) without being read or censored.