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The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

How to save on stationery and
postage in the mid 20th century

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Economy labels for envelopes

During the Second World War and in the years of austerity afterwards, it was common to save on paper by using the same envelopes several times.

When a letter was received, it had to be split carefully along the top and not torn. Then, for the next use it was resealed with what was called an 'economy label' - see the picture. Such economy labels were readily available in shops.

1940s economy label showing how it enabled an envelope to be reused

Economy label enabling a used envelope to be re-used, courtesy of Gwen Nelson. Note the lack of a modern postcode and that the address is clearly typed on an old manual typewriter.

Businesses, particularly those which sent out invoices and required cheques in payment, continued to use economy labels for some years. These were ready printed with the return address and were often ready stamped or franked.

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Air mail stationery

Mail to Australia and New Zealand normally went by sea because the much quicker air mail was so expensive. By sea mail took a very long time - six weeks in the case of Australia. This meant that the time from sending to receiving a reply took at least three months. So, as air mail postage was costed by weight, weight needed to be kept down. This meant the use very lightweight paper, known as air mail stationery.

Air mail stationery consisted of special flimsy envelopes, flimsy writing paper and what were known as air letters, also called aerogrammes. The envelopes, which were sold in various stationery outlets, always seemed to have the British colours of red, white and blue round the edge. The air letters were sold by the Post Office. They were single sheets of flimsy paper which served as letters and envelopes combined. When folded into three and stick down, they looked just like an envelope. They were ready franked and printed with the air mail logo and were always blue.

air mail envelope for a letter

Top: An air envelope for a letter.



aerogramme (air letter) folded as for transit

An air letter folded as for transit.

One side of an open air letter/aerogramme

One side of an open air letter. Part of this side and all of the other side were for correspondence.

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This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in 20th century Britain from the early 1900s to about 1960, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times.