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. 

The Registered Post

In the 1780’s a system was introduced in the United Kingdom to ensure the safe transit of letter to and from abroad while in the UK.  In 1792 the ‘Money Letter’ system was introduced.  This provided safeguards for letter containing money although no compensation could be claimed.  Money letters were charged at double the normal rate and were endorsed “Money Letter”.  The system was ended on 1st January 1840.

The ending of the money letter system corresponded with complaints of theft and so Registered Post began on 6th January 1841.  However, no compensation was offered until 1878, but each letter was endorsed with ‘Registered’ and a number and was sent with a green way-bill giving details along with a receipt form to be completed by the addressee.

It was obviously more convenient for Post Offices to have handstamps for Registered letters.  An early example was in use in Chester in 1842.

Registered Handstamp used in Chester in 1842

The Post Office name was shown in this example from Edinburgh and was used into the 1850’s.

Used in Edinburgh during the 1850’s

In March 1848 the 1 shilling registration fee was reduced to 6d.  The Post Office in Burnley, Lancashire produced  a rectangular with ‘Registered’ and its office name incorporated.  During the 1850’s a number of provincial Post Offices produced varieties of framed stamps with the word ‘Registered’ and unframed stamps also started to come into use.

There were also a small number of special types and Liverpool produced a variant of the Duplex Spoon cancellation which was in use between 1857-58.

Liverpool 446 Spoon Registered Cancellation

Glasgow used a double arc type cancellation from 1858 into the early 1860’s.

Glasgow Double Arc Cancellation

By the late 1850’s time dated stamps for registered letters had begun to appear.  At the London Chief Office an unframed oval dated type came into use during 1856.  This was replaced the following year by a smaller single arc type.

1857 Smaller Size London Cancellation

In 1858 the dated type in an oval frame appeared which became the standard type which was in use until the switch over to printed labels.  The images below show types used at the time in Glasgow and Dublin

Glasgow Oval Frame
Dublin Open Frame

On letter sent from foreign locations the Crown registered mark remained in use at the London Chief Office until the late 1860’s.

From August 1862 it was made compulsory for inland letters containing coins to be registered.

Edinburgh Coin Registered Cancellation

In the late 1870’s Glasgow suffered from a considerable amount of non-delivery of important letters.  The solution was to charge an extra ½d for a report of delivery to the sender.  The stamps below we used during the early 1880’s when the scheme was in operation

During the 1880’s the use of single circle date stamps became far more common and large provincial offices started using them as cancellations.  However a number of the earlier undated types still survived including this example from Cork.

Undated Cork Registered Cancellation

The Dublin Office used an octagonal stamp from the 1870’s until the 1920’s.

Dublin Octagonal Cancellation

The use of double circle dated cancellations were widespread in Scotland which lead to the introduction of the type in the 1890’s.  The type was in use will into the 20th Century.

Scottish Double Circle Type

In the late 19th Century Hooded Circle types were also tried for registered letters.

London Hooded Circle Type