Local Commemorative & Local Publicity Slogans

The British Post Office established in 1917 the precedent for using slogan dies as an alternative to bars for cancelling stamps mechanically. However, all the slogan dies used in the United Kingdom before 1956 were connected with national campaigns, or advertised important national or international events. Some slogans, such as those publicising the Royal National Eisteddfods, were used only at a small number of offices in the region closely connected with the particular event.

However, since 1956 when Rochdale used a slogan to commemorate the centenary of the granting of a charter of incorporation to that town, the Post Office became more receptive to applications for local slogans. At first it restricted such applications to slogans advertising local events and commemorating local anniversaries.

The Rochdale Centenary slogan is listed in Stanley Gibbons ‘Collect British Postmarks’ catalogued at £8.00.  The highest catalogue price of the period is attached to the Stalybridge Centenary Slogan of 1958, priced at £30.00

Then on 1 April 1963 it introduced the first of the Local Publicity Slogans. Since that date local authorities and the sponsors of local events have made extensive use of postmark slogans as a means of advertising the virtues of a town, or a particular feature, as well as for announcing outstanding local events.

For some years the British practice of having the town mark of machine postmarks to the left of the obliterator was strongly criticised. The Post Office had always insisted that this practice ensured that the place and date of posting appeared legibly on the cover, not on the adhesive. However, following continuing pressure first from philatelic circles, but more particularly from the potential sponsors of Local Publicity slogans, the Post Office relented. On 1 July 1963 Bath used the first transposed slogan.

This was a Local Publicity slogan, but before the end of 1963 Paisley became the first office to use a local interest” General slogan transposed, listed in Collect British Postmarks for just 80 pence.

Specially modified die heads could be fitted to Universal and some ALF machines, enabling slogan dies to be impressed to the left of the town die. In this way the slogan falls on the cover while the town die acts as the obliterator.

For the first few years the Post Office limited the use of these special die heads to slogans in fairly restricted use. However, by 1968, an increasing number of offices were using the special die beads for national slogans as well as local ones, and in 1971 slogans in the standard position were the exception where as before they had been the rule. Subsequently the Post Office reversed its 1963 decision and from 1976 transposed slogans became the exception rather than the rule.

Many thanks to The British Postmark Society for the use of this item. 

Origins of Slogan Postmarks in Great Britain

Origins of Slogan Postmarks 

Slogan postmarks can be said to go back to the earliest stages of the postal system.  London Bishop Marks were introduced in 1661 and four Receiving House marks were introduced around the same time. 

With the introduction of automatic stamp cancelling machines at the turn of the 20th century many foreign countries and the Dominions introduced slogan cancellations.  The Post Office appeared reluctant to follow their lead and it was only in 1917 that it agreed to assist the war effort by authorising the ‘Buy National War Bonds Now’ 

Several companies had made attempts to persuade to the Post Office to permit the use of slogans on covers and post cards.  These include H & F Pear (still making the soap) in 1910 and Gordon Selfridge of Selfridges earlier in 1917. 

Whereas British Slogan Cancellations have never carried commercial advertising – companies have used dies to carry announcement’s – negotiations between the Post Office and an advertising agency reached an advanced state in 1926 to the extent that Sir William Mitchell-Thomson (Postmaster General) proposed the scheme.  The Post Office even went so far as to issue an Inter-Departmental Circular advising Postmasters: 

‘It has been decided to use the obliterating dies of letter stamping machines of the Hey-Dolphin and Universal types as a medium for commercial adverts, and a contract has recently been placed with Messrs Frank Mason and Co. Ltd, of 3 Clements Inn, LONDON WC2 giving that firm the exclusive rights to obtain orders for such advertisements’ 

However, due to a concerted campaign from the public and other advertising interests the scheme was dropped on 9 November by the Post Office saying that the estimated revenue ‘in the current circumstances is quite small’ 

Between 1917 and 1956 all slogan dies were connected with national campaigns or the advertisement of national events. The most collectable slogan covers of the period are generally related to the Empire Exhibition of 1924-25.  Torchlight Tattoo slogans are priced between £10 and £50 in the Stanley Gibbons Collect British Postmarks catalogue. 

Other slogan postmarks to look out for relating to the British Empire Exhibition are the Torchlight Tattoo events, listed at catalogue prices between £10 and £75. 

The best of the pre-war slogan postmarks is the ‘Mt. Pleasant Opening’ catalogued at £400. 

Wartime Slogan covers are plentiful, but the Kitchen Front, Cambridge Cancellation is listed at £20.