The period when postage stamps were developed corresponds with a period of rapid growth in the United States. The West was just opening up and expansion was occurring everywhere. Most mail continued to be sent as stampless covers even though stamps were available. Only in 1851 was there a penalty to send mail unpaid, a five cent postal fee versus three cents for a prepaid letter. But still there was no requirement that postage had to be prepaid with stamps – that did not happen until 1855.
So the period of the 1850’s was a crossover period with an increasing number of letters carried in envelopes and those envelopes bearing postage stamps. Foreign mail was frequently sent as stampless covers even into the 1860’s. It is impossible to understand the postal markings on stamps or on envelopes bearing stamps without a full appreciation of the postal usage’s of the day. Thus stampless covers comprise the entire bulk of early American mail with a gradual usage of postage stamps beginning in 1847 but not really dominant until almost ten years later. Postal history of this period requires collecting both stamped and stampless covers to tell any story about usages.
1. American Stampless Cover Catalog. Vol. 1, 1997, David G. Phillips, N. Miami, Florida.
2. American Stampless Cover Catalog. Vol. 2, 1987, David G. Phillips, N. Miami, Florida.
3. The Posted Letter in Colonial and Revolutionary America. Alex ter Braake, 1975, American Philatelic Research Library, State College, Pennsylvania.
4. Postal Markings of Boston, Massachusetts to 1890. Maurice Blake and Wilbur Davis, 1949, Severn-Wylie-Jewett, Portland, Maine.
5. The First Hundred Years of United States Territorial Postmarks, 1787-1887. Carroll Chase and Richard Cabeen, 1950, American Philatelic Society, State College, Pennsylvania.
6. Vessel-named Markings on United States Inland and Ocean Waterways, 1810-1890. James W. Milgram, M.D., 1994, Published Collectors Club of Chicago.
Postal History Society , APS Affiliate AF0004