Stamps are essentially little pieces of paper that persons apply to their written messages to prepay the postage from one location to another. Strictly speaking, stamp collectors accumulate and study stamps. But stamp collectors or philatelists have become much more sophisticated, and more advanced collectors are interested in all matters pertaining to stamps, not only their production and types, but also their usages on different types of mail and the reasons why stamps of different denominations were printed and sold when the stamps of a certain issue were contemporary. This means that collectors have become involved with the postal history of a particular stamp series, not just the physical characteristics of the stamps themselves.

Please click a cover above to learn more about the stampless period.

1854 letter from New York (indistinct red postmark) to an addressee at the Fremont House, a hotel in Chicago. This individual had left town. The post office in Chicago advertised the letter “ADVERTISED/ JUL 1/ 1 ct.” Since no one answered the advertisement, the cover was sent to the Dead Letter Office in Washington (large black oval postmark). The envelope was opened there and found to contain $10.00 in currency. The large red “D” was the first initial of the addressee, “Dunn”. This letter was returned to the sender who was the father of the addressee.

Union patriotic cover depicting George Washington which was mailed at Cairo, Illinois on July 30, 1861 to “His Ex Abraham Lincoln President of the United States, Washington D.C.” Lincoln as President could receive mail free of postage. During the Civil War federal soldiers and sailors could send their letters with the postage due after an officer certified the letter as a soldier’s letter. These are all stampless covers. Other letters which were not free franked required the postage to be prepaid with stamps although occasional stampless usages can be found from many towns.