Letter franked with Penny Black
June 28, 1840
The Penny Black is the first stamp issued in the world. The museum has a franked copy on a letter dated June 28, 1840. The stamp was born in England thanks to an important postal reform carried out by Rowland Hill, a British official, during the reign of Queen Victoria. The postal reform was designed to simplify and streamline the delivery of mail in the kingdom, prevent the spread of illegality associated with shipments, unify the numerous tariffs present in the territory for which the payments of the mail varied by the distances, the number of sheets and the weight and reduce the very high costs of the service. The British monarchy realized that illicit behavior had spread to circumvent the Royal Mail, the mail of the monarchy, and that people did not pay the amount due and often letters and packages returned. England in the mid-nineteenth century was a kingdom in great change, we are in the century of the masses and public opinion, in which people read and write and need to communicate, but the high costs and complexity of the postal service did not facilitate people to communicate. Roland Hill understood the need for a radical reform of the postal system: he understood that the lower the postal rate, the higher the profits would be, because more people would communicate. In this way, the postal reform cut costs, 1 penny for a shipment, but forced people to pay before shipping by purchasing a special stamped paper. It was the stamp, the Penny Balck worth 1 penny and black in color. The postage stamp revolutionized the information transmission system because it democratized information. In fact, more and more people in the kingdom could afford 1 penny to buy the stamp, everyone could communicate regardless of class and income. The Penny Black went into circulation on May 1, 1840 and the subjects of Queen Victoria could see the face of their sovereign every time they bought that adhesive label. Indeed, Rowland Hill decided that the Penny Black should depict Queen Victoria's face in profile, so that the queen's face could be recognized and known to everyone in the kingdom. The black color was decided, as well as for its elegance, because it was functional for sorting letters in post offices where electricity was not yet widespread: the employees could easily recognize the payment of the tax because the black created a contrast with the white paper immediately visible.