Unpaid Stampless Letters

General postal history discussions on any topics we don't have a specific category for.
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mcornes
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Joined: Mon May 08, 2023 11:10 pm

Unpaid Stampless Letters

Post by mcornes »

I have a number of pre-1840 stampless letters which I have researched distance and rates on, but it got me to thinking about unpaid examples which would have been charged double the rate.

Are there any specific markings that would denote this on a letter?
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mozzerb
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Re: Unpaid Stampless Letters

Post by mozzerb »

Pre-1840, the great majority of letters were sent unpaid -- it was the same price whether prepaid or not, and the public tended to argue that the Post Office would make more effort to deliver their letters if they didn't get paid until the letter had actually reached the address. It's also been said that it was almost an insult to prepay and imply that the recipient couldn't pay for their own mail, although I'm not sure how widely that really applied!

You did get some prepaid mail, but a relatively modest proportion. They were typically marked "Paid" or "Post Paid" either in manuscript or with a handstamp, although there was also a general convention that prepaid charges were written in red ink and unpaid charges in black. (You do occasionally see prepaid in black ink -- if that's all they had, I suppose -- but I can't actually remember seeing a postpaid in red.)

The "double postage for unpaid" method was one of Hill's key ideas to encourage prepayment and speed up delivery (as the letter carrier didn't have to hang about collecting money at every door, they could just deliver the letters and go). It first came in with the higher weight steps of the Uniform 4d Post in 1839, and was a basic principle of the Uniform Penny Post from 1840 onwards.
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Maurice Buxton
mcornes
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon May 08, 2023 11:10 pm

Re: Unpaid Stampless Letters

Post by mcornes »

Thank you
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