logo - Join me in the 1900s mid C20th
The webmaster, Pat Cryer, as a young child

Postage stamps
in mid 1900s Britain

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Postage stamp vending machine, 1940s-1960s Britain

Stamp machine, photographed in Bath Postal Museum.

Postage stamps could be bought in a post office or from vending machines - always just called stamp machines.

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The head of the monarch on the postage stamps

George V halfpenny postage stamp  George V three halfpenny postage stamp

George V postage stamps.

In the early mid 1900s, stamps showed the head of George V and then briefly that of Edward VIII. He was only king for a very short time as he abdicated in favour of George VI. Only four stamps were produced during the short reign of Edward VIII.

The four types of Edward VIII postage stamps, the only ones ever produced: 0.5d, 1d, 1.5d and 2.5d

Edward VIII postage stamps.

Photographed through glass at West Somerset Museum

George VI postage stamp used to show payment of purchase tax with the signature of the recipient across it.

A George VI postage stamp used to show payment of purchase tax with the signature of the recipient across it.

The earliest stamps that I knew in general use showed the head of George VI.

When George VI died, stamps showed the young head of Queen Elizabeth II. For pictures of these stamps, see the photo of postcards below which opens on click to a large image.

There is a picture of an Edwardian stamp in the early 1900s section on posting mail.

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The glue on postage stamps

All the stamps stuck onto the envelopes with a type of gum or glue that was non-sticky when dry and which had to be moistened to become sticky. As with the flaps of envelopes, most people simply licked, although businesses had special arrangements of sponges in water.

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Class of postage stamps

There was no such thing as a 'class' of stamp or class of postage. The Post Office simply dealt with all mail as quickly as possible - a much more efficient arrangement in my view.

Mail to Australia took six weeks by surface mail. Presumably mail to other overseas countries also took a long time, but I don't know how long. I think there was airmail but ordinary families would never have dreamt of using it. It is hardly surprising that families lost touch with one another after an emigration.

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Perforated postage stamps

Postcards showing pre-decimal Elizabeth II UK postage stamps - thumbnail.

Postcards from the effects of my mother showing pre-decimal postage stamps, including perforated ones. Click for a larger image.

I can't remember any post (ie mail) being franked by the sender, although I can't be sure that it didn't exist. Businesses publicised themselves by perforating their postage stamps with some sort of simple logo. If you click on the photo of the postcards for a larger image, these perforations show up clearly on the front postcard.

My aunt worked for the Prudential Assurance Company (PAC) and my family would always know from the envelope that a letter was from her because of the perforated PAC stamps. In today's terms, these were 'stolen' from her employer for personal use, but she never thought of it that way. As she told me several times, "It's all right to take stamps!". Interesting - as she was otherwise of totally upright character.

If you can add anything to this page, I would be pleased to hear from you.

Pat Cryer, webmaster

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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.