During Victorian era, letter writing was the only way through which people could communicate with their near ones living at a distance. However, before 1840 the post was expensive. One of the peculiar things about that time was that unlike the way mails work today, the burden of payment was on the receiver during that time. Only in the case of unaffordability of the recipient, the letter was returned to the sender. This was the reason why people did not prefer to leave their homes because this meant leaving touch with family and friends.
The Penny Post
Victorian era is also called “the age of mail”. It was during this period that transportation of letters was simplified and the costs were reduced to make almost everyone afford to write letters. The time taken by the letters to reach their destination was also minimised as soon as Queen Victoria came to the throne. However, the recipient was responsible for paying for the letter he or she received. Avoidance of payment was costly to the post office.
The post office grew and changed over time. However, the greatest and most remarkable change was brought with the introduction of the Penny Post. This made the mail service cheaper which automatically brought in volume making the service further efficient. Although reforms were often talked about, the pamphlet of 1837 by Rowland Hill offered the push for the change. Most of the reforms proposed by Hill was accepted and passed which included the use of stamps as we know them today. The first stamp was known as the Penny Black.
The reforms of 1840 not only made the delivery of mails faster, but also more frequent and reliable as compared to earlier times.
Queen Victoria’s Efforts
One of the first things that Queen Victoria did after coming to the throne in 1837, is appointing a Select Committee on Postage. On August 17, 1839, Victoria gave royal acceptance to the Postal Duties Bill. After this, in 1840, Uniform penny Postage and the popular adhesive postage, which was paid by the sender, started to be used. The Penny Post transformed the mail to a civic service affordable to all social classes from an expensive tax for revenue.
The stamp and the prepayment became the model for mails and gradually became a model for other countries including the United States. The Penny Post actually helped Victorians to rise above geographical boundaries. This helped people to stay connected to their friends and family members despite of the relocation, immigration and travel. The prepayment system enabled Victorians to communicate and do business with people outside their friend circle also.
On one hand, The Penny Post is believed to be the forerunner of the information technologies of today and enabled letter sending for business, advertising, communication congratulations, condolences and for casual moments as well. Unfortunately, the Penny Post also gave birth to frauds and blackmail giving rise to junk mails which is an unsolved problem even today.