Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Penny Post

The penny post was introduced in Great Britain on January 10, 1840.  A major change from the previous charging scheme was that any letter posted in Great Britain or Ireland cost the same amount (one penny), regardless of distance.  Sir Rowland Hill receives credit for introducing the new system, as well as the idea of the prepaid postage stamp.

The penny post came into existence well after Walter Scott passed away (1832).  Scott provides this vignette of the role of the post in daily life from "The Antiquary":

Leaving Mr. Oldbuck and his friend to enjoy their hard bargain of fish, we beg leave to transport the reader to the back-parlour of the post-master's house at Fairport, where his wife, he himself being absent, was employed in assorting for delivery the letters which had come by the Edinburgh post. This is very often in country towns the period of the day when gossips find it particularly agreeable to call on the man or woman of letters, in order, from the outside of the epistles, and, if they are not belied, occasionally from the inside also, to amuse themselves with gleaning information, or forming conjectures about the correspondence and affairs of their neighbours. Two females of this description were, at the time we mention, assisting, or impeding, Mrs. Mailsetter in her official duty. 

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