Stamp Vending Machine

History of Postage Stamp by Mary Bellis Thought Co.

The first issued postage stamp began with Great Britain’s Penny Post. On May 6, 1840, the British Penny Black stamp was released. The Penny Black engraved the profile of Queen Victoria’s head, who remained on all British stamps for the next 60 years. 

Rowland Hill Invents Adhesive Postage Stamps

A schoolmaster from England, Sir Rowland Hill invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1837, an act for which he was knighted. Through his efforts, the first stamp in the world was issued in England in 1840. Roland Hill also created the first uniform postage rates that were based on weight rather than size. Hill’s stamps made the prepayment of mail postage possible and practical.

Hill had received a summons to provide evidence before the Commission for Post Office Enquiry in February 1837. In providing his evidence, he read from the letter he wrote to the Chancellor, including a statement the notation of paid postage could be created “…by using a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp and covered at the back with a glutinous wash…”. This is the first publication of an unambiguous description of a modern adhesive postage stamp.

Hill’s ideas for postage stamps and charging paid-postage based upon weight soon came to fruition and were adopted in many countries throughout the world. With the new policy of charging by weight, more people began using envelopes to mail documents. Hill’s brother Edwin Hill invented a prototype of the envelope-making machine that folded paper into envelopes quickly enough to match the pace of the growing demand for postage stamps.

William Dockwrats

In 1680, William Dockwra, an English merchant in London, and his partner Robert Murray established the London Penny Post, a mail system that delivered letters and small parcels inside the city of London for a total of one penny. The postage for the mailed item was prepaid by the use of a hand- stamp to frank the mailed item, confirming payment of postage. 


In addition to the most common rectangular shape, stamps have been printed in geometric (circular, triangular and pentagonal) and irregular shapes. The United States issued its first circular stamp in 2000 as a hologram of the earth. Sierra Leone and Tonga have issued stamps in the shapes of fruit. 


Bellis, Mary. “The History of Postage Stamps.” ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021,