Press "Enter" to skip to content

Stamps changed how America communicated

We live in an age of constant connectivity. Loved ones, history facts, and shopping outlets are only a mere click away.

This fantastic technology can spark joy, excitement, and continuous exploration in the tech field.

Have you ever been absolutely giddy about checking your mail? And I’m not talking about seeing bills or unsolicited advertisements. Did you ever wait by the mailbox for a card from your grandmother or for the newest toy catalog to arrive? Did you have a pen pal?

Without everyday connections, our mailboxes were the tether that kept us attached to one another and the little sticker or paper that graced the top right corner of those correspondences were the horses that led the charge.

Before the advent of the postage stamp, letters were delivered with either hand-stamped or inked postmarks. Often these marks included the date and post office the letters were sent from. The addressee had to pay the postage to receive the letter instead of the sender paying. Mail simply traveled “postage due.” Sending a letter pre-paid was sometimes seen as an insult; it assumed that the recipient couldn’t afford to pay for the postage. In 1845, a letter sent from the eastern part of America to the western side would cost as much as a bushel of wheat.

The advent of the postage stamp flipped the world of mail upside down. Several men are credited with introducing the postage stamp to the world: William Dockwra of London, Lovrenc Kosir of what is now Slovenia, and Rowland Hill, a member of the British Parliament.

The idea of stamps didn’t take overnight but offered many positive changes to the postal system. The “Penny Black” was one of the first stamps sold, named for the ink used to print it and it sold for one penny each. Stamps continued to evolve as they gained popularity. Prices changed and so did the images, creating a rise in collectorship.

Stamp collecting is a serious hobby, one that involves different tools and equipment. Albums for keeping your stamps, hinges, stamp mounts, and magnifying glass are all useful tools for collecting stamps. Each year the USPS, the United States Postal Service, issues a “Stamp Yearbook,” chronicling that year’s printed stamps. The most expensive sold for $12,790,600 and was titled the “Mauritius 1847 Post Office Stamp.”

Today you can purchase stamps for as little as $12.60 a sheet. Through the years stamp faces have depicted satellites, dragons, sports stars, musicians, and even Star Trek. Each year Stamp Development works with professional artists to create new and exciting stamps to roll out for the season. Established in 1957, the committee uses its knowledge of various subjects and public interest to recommend stamp subject matter to the USPS.

If you’re a philatelist, the title given to a person who studies stamps, like me, you need to put the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. on your bucket list. Here at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, we want to thank Don and Debra Edmonds for donating a large stamp collection belonging to William Chandler, who was a postal service mail carrier for 35 years. Who knows, maybe we will have a stamp exhibit one day.

Emily Morgan is the guest services manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at or by calling 336-786-4478 x229



Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply