By Steve Kovacs (Introduction by Chuck Gibson)

LOVELAND, OH (May 6, 2024) – In this edition of Fun with Maps we learn the story behind paid postage and the postage stamp.


The first use of an organized courier system to send documents date to 2400 BC Egypt.  The modern government-controlled courier system, the Post Office, dates much later. 

Today in 1840 marked a revolutionary change in communications – the issue of the world’s postage stamp, Great Britain’s “Penny Black”.

Before Rowland Hill, Britain’s Postmaster, came up with the idea of the Penny Black, postage was paid by the receiver, which caused much of the mail being refused, costing the postal services a lot of money in delivery. 

Hill is the one who decided that postage should be paid upfront, by the sender, and individual distances did not matter but could be lumped together. 

The first postal rate was one penny for a half ounce letter. The stamp, colored black, used a profile portrait of Queen Victoria. The royal profiles are still used today for many British postage stamps.

Hill’s idea was such a success that within the year, letters sent had doubled, and the number doubled again within 10 years. By 1860 over 90 countries had introduced postal stamps.

Has the Post Office outlived its usefulness with the advent of e-mail and direct package delivery by Amazon or UPS?  Report back on that and on the wait time after visiting the Loveland or Fields Ertel Post Office on a Monday morning or on a Saturday.

Rowland Hill was a native of the British Midlands, specifically of Worcestershire, hence here is Walker’s map of Hill’s home county from 1835.

Worcestershire , British Midlands – Circa 1835 (Credit Steve Kovacs)

Steve Kovacs and his wife Theresa reside in Loveland, Ohio where they raised their two children. He is a passionate collector of antique maps.

Visit his antique map boutique world-on-paper online. Watch for his daily feature Steve Kovacs: Fun with Maps here on Loveland Beacon.