Fun Facts on the History of Stamp Rates

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As the nation adjusts to the January 22nd $0.02 increase in the postage stamp rate, it seemed like a good time to dig into the history of the postage stamp and see what we could find.

Let’s start with United States’ first postage stamp. Did you know it wasn’t issued by the Post Office? Instead it was a private New York Carrier, Alexander M. Greig’s City Dispatch Post, who issued the first adhesive stamp in 1842. It was five years later that Congress authorized the first US postage stamp.

Even though postage stamps weren’t in use back in 1815, people were certainly paying for postage and it must have been quite a nuisance to Americans when Congress increased postage rates by 50% to raise revenue for the War of 1812. Thankfully the increase was short lived and just over a year later that the rate increase was repealed.

Interestingly, the repeal of the War of 1812 postage increase marked the first of three times that the cost of a stamp has gone down. The second was in 1819 when rates went from $0.03 to $0.02 for local delivery. The third time was just a year ago on April 10, 2016 when the stamp rate went from $0.49 to $0.47, due to the expiration of a temporary increase to recoup losses that occurred during the Great Recession.

Today we pay $0.49 to send a 1 ounce letter anywhere in the country. This includes the farthest extremes of Alaska and the deepest Havasupai Indian Reservation, which is far below the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. However, the cost to mail a single letter used to depend on the distance the letter had to travel. In 1845, for example, the rate was $0.05 for letters traveling 300 miles or less, but $0.10 for more than 300 miles.

As a member of the direct mail industry, I have fielded hundreds of complaints about the postage stamp rates increasing too fast. While rates do seem to always be going up, the Post Office is limited to only increasing postage rates by the rate of national inflation so if the cost of postage goes up it means that the cost of everything else has gone up as well.

If you have questions about the 2017 postage rate increase and its impact on your shipping or direct mail give us a call at 303-858-1025 or complete the Request a Consultation form in the right-hand column of this page.


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