Mail used to be sent free; the delivery was paid for by the recipient. But in 1837, an English schoolmaster named Rowland Hill noticed that the post office lost out too much by recipients refusing delivery. He proposed prepaid stamps in a pamphlet called The Post Office Reform. On 1 May 1840, the first stamps went on sale in Britain. (The Christmas card was invented 3 years later.) They were the One-Penny Black and Twopence Blue stamps, featuring Queen Victoria. In 1870, the British Post Office introduced a half penny stamp for sending cards.
No provision was made for separating the stamps one from another. To do
so required a knife or a pair of scissors. In 1847 an Irish engineer
named Henry Archer submitted a plan to the British Post Office for
perforating stamp sheets. By 1854 Archer's machine was sufficiently
perfected to produce the first perforated stamps. The United States
began using a perforating machine in 1857.
The first Christmas stamp Canada issued a stamp with the Mercator map "Christmas
1898" inscribed. Post offices in England and the Netherlands also
issued stamps with Christmas-related themes. In the US, postcard artist
Ellen H. Clapsaddle designed Christmas themes for stamps. However, none
were special Christmas issues. The first postage stamp for Christmas was
issued in 1937 in Austria: the Rose and Signs of the Zodiac stamp.
The first official US Christmas stamp was launched in 1962. This year,
the US Post Office will print more than 4 billion Christmas postage
stamps. They can even be bought at some ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines)
using a bank card: 18 stamps are printed out on a sheet the size of a $1
The Christmas stamp on your Christmas card may be accompanied by a
Christmas seal, an idea conceived by a Danish postal clerk and first
issued by Denmark in 1904 to raise money for tuberculosis. In the same
year, Sweden and Iceland followed with their versions later in the same
year. In 1907, American Red Cross worker Emily Bissell followed the
Danish Christmas seal success with a simple red and white seal to raise
money to save her local TB sanatorium. It was so successful that in 1908
the American Red Cross ran the campaign national wide. Since 1973, the
Christmas seal campaign has been organised by the American Lung
You might want to use your Christmas stamps, and Christmas seals, for
letters you want to send someone in a town called Christmas in the USA.
In fact, there are 140 "Christmas" place names in the US,
including Merry Christmas Creek, Alaska; Christmas Gift Mine in Pinal
County, Arizona; and Merrie Christmas Park in Miami-Dade County,
You'll even find 11 towns called "Santa Claus" in 8 US
states: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon,
and Utah. And 50 "Noel" place names, including communities
named Noel in Colorado, Missouri, and Virginia. You'll find Noel Lake in
Spencer County, Indiana, near the community of Santa Claus.
All about Christmas
The word philately was coined in 1864. It comes from two Greek words
that mean "the love of tax-free things."
John Grossman, noted California collector/designer and long-time member
of the Ephemera Society of America, has a collection of 200,000
Victorian Christmas stamps. He has licensed the stamp designs to the US
Post Office via his business, The Gifted Line, John Grossman, Inc.
Read about the history of Christmas stamp and Victorian Christmas stamps.