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Chronological Overview of Stamps

Chronological Overview of Stamps

1840 - The first postage stamps appear in Britain, bearing Queen Victoria's profile. The tiny stamps (3/4 by 7/8 inches) are printed using only black ink. Brazil is the second nation to have postage stamps.

1847 - United States stamps debut. The first two feature George Washington and Ben Franklin.

1852 - The first pre-stamped envelopes are sold. Pre-stamped postcards (for a penny) appear 19 years later.

1855 - Prepayment of postage required in United States. (Up until this point some mail was still being sent without using stamps whereby the addressee had to pay for delivery.)

1857 - Perforated U.S. stamps appear. (Previously people had to cut apart sheets of stamps.)

By 1860, almost all countries have postage stamps.

1869 - First U.S. pictorial stamps. First time U.S. stamps show something other than a dead person.

1893 - The first U.S. commemorative stamps are issued. They depict scenes of Columbus' voyage to America.

1896 - Rural free delivery beings bringing mail to homes in the country.

1900 - First U.S. stamps issued in booklet form.

1904 - Meters to pay postage were first used in New Zealand. The first use in the United States was on December 10, 1920, at Stamford, Connecticut.

1908 - First U.S. coil stamps (stamps sold in a roll only one stamp wide).

1918 - U.S. Airmail stamps go on sale for 24 cents. The United States began airmail service on May 15, 1918. Special stamps were issued to indicate prepayment of mail carried on the first flights. The first route, flown by Army pilots in Army planes, linked Washington, DC and New York City via Philadelphia, PA. The rate was 24 cents an ounce. This rate included special delivery to the addressee.

1940 - Booker T. Washington is the first African-American honored on a stamp.

1957 - The Citizen's Stamp Advisory Committee is created to provide advice to the Postmaster General on the subject matter and design of US stamps.

     1962 - The first U.S. Christmas stamp.

1963 - The Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) code -- a five digit number -- began on July 1, 1963. The first number designates the state or area; the next two numbers, the area within that state or area; and the last two digits, the office itself. Mr. ZIP was created to help people remember to use the ZIP code to help the Postal Service move the mail. He was printed on the margins of many U.S. stamps issued between 1964 and 1986.

1964 - The United States started printing stamps of different designs on one sheet known as se-tenants. The Christmas issue of 1964 was the first year different designs were printed on the same pane of stamps. Four different stamps featuring holly, mistletoe, poinsettia and a sprig of conifer were issued in panes of 100 stamps, each pane containing 25 blocks of the four different stamps.

1973 - Valentine's Day "Love" stamps are first issued.

1974 - The first U.S. self adhesive stamp is issued.


1992 - Full-scale production of U.S. self-adhesive stamps begins.

1997 - U.S. Postal Service introduces linerless coil self-adhesives. (Linerless coils mean there is no backing paper on the stamps -- see Stamp Collecting Words and Definitions for more details)

1998 - U.S. Postal Service issues its first semi-postal.(Semipostals are postage stamps which are used to raise funds for a charity.
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