Webster’s Stamp Proposal

US #152 – 1870 National Bank Note Printing.

On June 10, 1840, Senator Daniel Webster submitted a resolution to the US Congress recommending that the US issue stamps.

Webster’s proposal had been inspired by the issue of the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black, in Great Britain a month earlier on May 1.  All eyes were on Great Britain to see how their experiment would turn out.

US #282C printed in Universal Postal Union colors.

In America, the US Post Office was struggling with increasing annual deficits.  This was in large part due to the complicated and pricey system of postal rates.  Additionally, many letters were sent with the expectation that the addressee would pay for the postage, but they often refused.  This meant the Post Office carried these letters, sometimes long distances, and never received any payment for them.

Item #BLACK1x – Penny Black with 1-2 margins and a FREE album.

Webster was convinced that the US should follow Great Britain’s example and immediately began formulating a resolution to propose a similar system in America.  To help support his case, Webster commissioned William J. Stone to reproduce engravings of the Penny Black and the Mulready envelope to accompany his resolution.  In later years, many would remark that Stone’s engraving was superior to the Mulready envelopes produced in Great Britain.  (You can view Stone’s engraving here.)

On June 10, 1840, Webster addressed the 26th Session of Congress with his resolution, sharing his reproductions and arguing in favor of new rates and stamps.  Among his points were “That the rates of postage charged on letters transmitted by the mails of the United States ought to be reduced.”  And he went on to say “That it is expedient to inquire into the utility of so altering the present regulations of the Post Office Department as to connect the use of stamps, or stamped covers, with a large reduction in the rates of postage.” 

US #948 – Souvenir sheet issued for CIPEX honoring the 100th anniversary of the first US postage stamps.

Despite his convincing and impassioned presentation, Congress took no action.  At the time, many feared that reducing postage rates would only increase the Post Office’s deficit.  It would take five years for them to pass the Postal Act of 1845, which set uniform nationwide postal rates.  And it would be another two years before they issued America’s first postage stamps in July 1847.

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  1. History buffs might enjoy reading more about Daniel Webster and two other men of the same generation, all who had aspirations that were unfulfilled to becoming President. “Heirs of the Founders” by H. W. Brands.

  2. Also on this day. Driver, Charles Swarzbaugh and Westminster Post Office clerk, Atlee Wampler, the US postal Service selected Carroll County,Maryland as the first rural free delivery service in 1899. I can enclose a picture if desired. Just let me know.

    Yours Gary Artz

  3. I loved this article. It just reinforces the wonderful connection between the USPS and our nation’s history. USPS forever.

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