Monday, November 26, 2012

1940 Centenary of World's First Adhesive Postage Stamp

On May 6, 1840, Britain issued the world's first adhesive postage stamp,the "Penny Black", featuring an engraving of a young Queen Victoria.


A set of six stamps, designed by H.L. Palmer, was issued to commemorate the centenary of the first postage stamp on May 6, 1940.

The British Postal Museum and Archives website provides a detailed account of the issue's history. This post shows first day covers and commercial usages of the set.

First Day Covers

Bradford to Zurich, Switzerland, May 6, 19403d. surface letter rate + 3d. registration fee

James Chalmers : Inventor of the Adhesive Postage Stamp

Although Sir Rowland Hill is credited with the idea of the adhesive postage stamp, Scottish bookseller and printer James Chalmers is also given consideration for its invention. The first day cover below whose cachet features an image of James Chalmers was cancelled at his birthplace, Arbroath. Scotland.

Bournemnouth 27th Philatelic Congress

Bournemouth - 27th Philatelic Congress of Gt. Britain 
May 6, 1940

Bournemouth : Centenary of Adhesive Postage Stamps Exhibition

The Postal History Society sponsored the exhibition which raised funds for The British Red Cross Society and The Order of St. John.

The Exhibition ran from May 6 to 11, 1940

Bournemouth Adhesive Stamp Centenary
Last Day of Exhibition May 11, 1940
(not a first day cover)

London : The Royal Philatelic Society's Stamp Centenary Exhibition

The Exhibition was held in London from May 6 to 14, 1940, in aid of the Red Cross  St. John Fund.

May 6, 1940 first day of issue

London Red Cross Exhibition to British Expeditionary Force (France)
 May 11, 1940 (not first day)

Received in France May 15, 1949

"Received at Chateau de la Rochere Mulsamme Le Mans"

 Chateau de la Rochere,  located in the north west French town of Mulsanne, 10km from Le Mans was likely requisitioned by British forces. The British were forced to evacuate less than two weeks after the above cover was received. German forces entered Mulsanne on June 20, 1940.

 Stamp Usages : Principal Services

I have reproduced relevant excerpts from The Post Office Guide August 1940 which summarize some of the Inland, Imperial and Foreign charges for principal services.

Several rates had increased on May 1, 1940, days before the release of the Centenary stamps.



The inland letter rate was 2 1/2d. for the first two ounces and 1/2d. for each additional 2 oz.

Maidstone to Tonbridge, Kent, May 7, 1940
2 1/2d. inland letter rate
Durham to Darlington, July 4, 1940
2 1/2d. inland letter rate

Southport to Southall, May 20, 1940
2 1/2d. inland letter rate
Shortpaid and taxed 2d., double the deficiency


Imperial rates applied to the British Empire generally, territories under British Mandate, Egypt, U.S.A., and the British Post Office in Morocco, except for H.M. Forces and Ships of War Abroad.

The letter rate was 2 1/2d. for the first ounce and 1d. for each additional ounce.

West Ealing to Melbourne, May 6, 1940
2 1/2d. Imperial letter rate
Undeliverable and returned to sender

Epsom to Toronto, July 15, 1940
2 1/2d. Imperial letter rate

Field Post Office 99 (11 Arm. Div. UK) to Toronto, July 1, 1940
2 1/2d. Imperial letter rate 
Ovington (Brighton) to Cairo, October 18, 1940
2 1/2d. Imperial letter rate
Cairo machine censorship
London to Boston, June 18, 1940
2 1/2d. Imperial letter rate
Orange press censor label

 Foreign (UPU)

The letter rate was 3d. for the first ounce and 1 1/2d. for each additional ounce

London to Budapest, Hungary, May 24, 1940
3d. foreign letter rate

Edinburgh to Brive, France, June 15, 1940
3d. foreign letter rate



 The single postcard rate was 2d.

Torquay to Exeter, June 9, 1940
2d. inland post card rate

Bracknell to London, July 4, 1940
2d. inland post card rate

Imperial and Foreign

The single postcard rate was 2d.

Woking to Tillsonburg, Ont., Canada, May 13, 1940
2d. post card rate

 Printed Papers

 The Imperial and Foreign first weight printed papers rate was cheaper than the inland rate.


The inland printed papers rate was 1d. for the first two ounces and 1/2d. for each additional 2 oz.

Woodbridbe to Otley, September 20, 1940
1d. printed papers rate
Shortpaid 1/2d. and taxed 1d., double the deficiency

 Imperial and Foreign

Edinburgh to Pittsburgh, May 18, 1940
 1/2d. printed papers rate

Fernhurst to West Newton, Mass., August 23, 1940
1 1/2d. triple weight (up to 6 oz. )printed papers rate




The inland registration fee for compensation up to £5  was 3d.

South Molton to Bristol, May 27, 1940
2 1/2d. letter rate + 3d. registration fee

Imperial and Foreign

The registration fee was 3d.

Bradford to Zurich, Switzerland, May 6, 19403d. surface letter rate + 3d. registration fee

Air Mail

South Africa

The air mail rate to South Africa was 1s. 3d. 

London to Capetown, May 9, 1940
1s. 3d. air mail letter rate

United States

The air mail rate to the United States was 1s. 3d.

Farnham to Concord, N.H., July 29, 1940
1s. 3d. air mail letter rate


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