Portal:Philately/Selected article archive

Selected article archive

Selected article archive

Portal:Philately/Selected article archive/1

A pillar box is a free-standing post box where mail is deposited to be collected by the Royal Mail and forwarded to the addressee. Pillar boxes have been used since 1852, just 12 years after the introduction of the first adhesive postage stamps and uniform penny post. According to the Letter Box Study Group, there are more than 150 recognised designs and varieties of pillar boxes and wall boxes, not all of which have known surviving examples. Royal Mail estimates there are over 100,000 post boxes in the United Kingdom.

Most traditional British Pillar boxes produced after 1905 are made of cast iron and are cylindrical in shape, though other shapes have been used; the hexagonal Penfolds, rectangular boxes, and an oval shape used mainly for the large "double aperture" boxes seen in large cities, such as, London and Dublin. In recent years boxes manufactured in glass-fibre or ABS plastic have been produced.

The advent of the wayside post box can be traced to Sir Rowland Hill and his Surveyor for the Western District, the noted novelist, Anthony Trollope who was sent to solve the problem of collecting the mails in the Channel Islands caused by the irregular sailing times of the Royal Mail packet boats due to weather and tides. Trollope arrived in Jersey in early 1852 and his recommendation was to employ a “letter-receiving pillar” he may have seen in Paris.




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  The postage stamps of Ireland are issued by the postal operator of the independent Irish state. Ireland was part of the UK when the world's first postage stamps were issued in 1840. These stamps, and all subsequent British issues, were used in Ireland until the new Irish Government assumed power in 1922. On 17 February 1922 the existing British stamps were overprinted with Irish text for use as definitives until Irish designs were available. Rgular definitive were produced by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and issued on 6 December 1922; the first stamp was a 2d value, depicting a map of Ireland (including Northern Ireland, which remained a part of the United Kingdom).

Since then nine series of definitives have been issued while commemorative stamps did not appear until 1929. Oifig an Phoist, the Irish Post Office, issued all Irish stamps up to 1984 when the Department of Posts and Telegraphs was divided into two semi-state organisations; An Post took over the responsibility for all Irish postal services including the issuing of postage stamps.

Forerunners, essays, miniature sheets, booklet, coil, airmail stamps, postage dues and postal stationery are some of the Irish philatelic items known and collectable.




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Letter sheets are items of postal stationery issued by a postal authority. A letter sheet is a piece of paper that can be folded, usually sealed, most often with sealing wax in the 18th and 19th century, and mailed without the use of an envelope that only became popular in the late 19th century.

The first postal stationery item issued by a government is thought to be the coat of arms of Venice on a 1608 lettersheet. Part of Rowland Hill's postal reforms in the United Kingdom were the introduction of prepaid lettersheets and envelopes in 1840 designed by the artist William Mulready, whose name is always associated with these lettersheets and envelopes. Aerograms are a mid-20th century development of the letter sheet.




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Overprints are postage stamps to which a text (and sometimes graphics) have been applied after their printing. Overprints have been used for several purposes, serving as rate surcharges, commemorations, control marks or the validation of stamps by a new postal administration. Precancels, also, are overprinted stamps.

Some overprints alter or confirm the face value of a stamp. These are commonly produced when some needed types of stamps are unavailable, whether because new shipments have been delayed, because circumstances have changed too quickly to get appropriate new stamps, or simply to use up existing stamps. Surcharging during the German hyperinflation of 1921-1923 is one such example. Many countries have used surcharges when converting to new currencies, for example many Commonwealth countries chose to convert to decimal currency in the late 1960s. Also, some incoming postal administrations have overprinted the stamps of an earlier administration to show the new administration's authority, as happened in Ireland in 1922.

Overprints have been used as commemoratives, as they are a lower-cost alternative to designing and issuing special stamps. The United States, which historically has issued very few overprints, did this in 1928 for issues commemorating Molly Pitcher and the discovery of Hawaii. Overprints applied by an entity other than an official stamp-issuing agency are called "private overprints."




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Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the collecting of covers and associated material illustrating historical episodes of postal systems. The term is attributed to Robson Lowe, a professional philatelist, stamp dealer and stamp auctioneer, who made the first organised study of the subject in the 1930s and described philatelists as "students of science", but postal historians as "students of humanity".

Postal history has become a philatelic collecting speciality in its own right. While philately is concerned with the study of the stamps per se, postal history can include the study of postal rates, postal policy, postal administration, political effects on postal systems, postal surveillance and the consequences of politics, business, and culture on postal systems; basically anything to do with the function of the collection, transportation and delivery of mail. Areas of special interest include disrupted or transitional periods, such as wars and military occupations, and mail to remote areas.

In studying or collecting any postal history subject some overlap is inevitable because it is impossible to separate the different areas that affect the mail from one another. Regional studies like countries of origin, native districts, cities, towns or villages, places associated with family roots, or workplaces, can comprise geographical based postal history studies. In the past collectors usually based their studies on "mail from" but "mail to" and "mail through" a place expand the postal service story because outgoing mail mainly shows marking associated with the areas of study while incoming mail tells a much broader story and are now more likely to be included. Transportation based studies can include, Aerophilately, Balloon mail, Maritime mail, Rocket mail, while subject based studies can include Express mail, Marcophily, Military mail, Postal censorship, Pre-adhesive mail and Registered mail.




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Pigeon post is an obsolete method of sending messages by using homing pigeons. The method was used from antiquity until the early 20th century. The use of' homing pigeons to carry messages is as old as the ancient Persians from whom the art of training the birds probably came. The Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to their various cities by this means. Before the telegraph this method of communication had a considerable vogue amongst stockbrokers and financiers. The Dutch government established a civil and military system in Java and Sumatra early in the 19th century, the birds being obtained from Baghdad.

The pigeon post which was in operation while Paris was besieged during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 is probably the most famous. Barely six weeks after the outbreak of hostilities, the Emperor Napoleon III and the French Army of Chalons surrendered at Sedan on September 2, 1870. The normal channels of communication into and out of Paris were interrupted during the four-and-a-half months of the siege. With the encirclement of the city on 18th September, the last overhead telegraph wires were cut the next day, and the secret telegraph cable in the bed of the Seine was located and cut on 27th September. For an assured communication into Paris, the only successful method was by the time-honoured carrier-pigeon, and thousands of messages, official and private, were thus taken into the besieged city. Pigeons were regularly taken out of Paris by balloon. Soon a regular service was in operation, based first at Tours and later at Poitiers. The first despatch was dated 27th September and reached Paris on 1st October, but it was only from 16th October, when an official control was introduced, that a complete record was kept.

Major-General Donald Roderick Cameron, Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario from 1888–1896, recommended an international pigeon service for marine search and rescue and military service. A pigeon post between look-out stations at lighthouses on islands and the mainland at the citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia provided a messenger service from 1891 until it was discontinued in 1895.




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A Postal code, also known in various countries as a post code, postcode, or ZIP code, is a series of letters and/or digits appended to a postal address for the purpose of sorting mail.

Germany was the first country to introduce a postal code system, in 1941. The United Kingdom followed in 1959 and the United States in 1963. By February 2005, 117 of the 190 member countries of the Universal Postal Union had postal code systems. A few countries that do not have national systems include Hong Kong and Panama.

Postal services have their own formats and placement rules for postal codes. In most English-speaking countries, the postal code forms the last item of the address, whereas in most continental European countries it precedes the name of the city or town. Most postal codes are numeric. The few independent nations use alphanumeric postal code systems, such as, Argentina, Canada and United Kingdom.

Before postal codes were devised large cities were often divided into postal zones or postal districts, usually numbered from 1 upwards within each city. The newer postal code systems often incorporate the old zone numbers, as with London postal district numbers, for example. Ireland still uses postal district numbers in Dublin.




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In the United States a railway post office, commonly abbreviated as RPO, was a railroad car that was normally operated in passenger service as a means to sort mail en route, in order to speed delivery. The RPO was staffed by highly trained Railway Mail Service postal clerks, and was off-limits to the passengers on the train. In the UK, the equivalent term was Travelling Post Office (TPO). Many American railroads earned substantial revenues through contracts with the Post Office to carry mail aboard high-speed passenger trains.

The world's first official carriage of mail by rail was by the United Kingdom's General Post Office in November 1830 on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Sorting of mail en route first occurred in the United Kingdom with the introduction of the Travelling Post Office in 1838.

In the United States, some references suggest that the first shipment of mail carried on a train occurred in 1831 on the South Carolina Rail Road. Other sources state that the first official contract to regularly carry mail on a train was made with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in either 1834 or 1835. The United States Congress officially designated all railroads as official postal routes on July 7, 1838.

Similar services were introduced on Canadian railroads in 1859. In the United States it was introduced on July 28, 1862 using converted baggage cars on the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad (which also delivered the first letter to the Pony Express).




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Postage stamp separation describes methods for making postage stamps easily detachable from each other in the sheet or pane they were originally printed on. The three most often encountered methods of separation are perforation (cutting rows and columns of small holes), rouletting (small horizontal and vertical cuts) and diecutting (cut paper to shape using a metal die) - frequently used for self-adhesive stamps.

With the introduction of the Penny Black in 1840 and until the 1850s all stamps were imperforate and had to be cut from the sheet with scissors or knife. This was both time-consuming and error-prone.





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The Air Mail Scandal, also known as the Air Mail Fiasco, is the name that the American press of the 1930s gave to the political scandal resulting from a congressional investigation of a meeting (the so-called Spoils Conference) between Postmaster General Walter Folger Brown and the executives of the top airlines, and to the disastrous results of the steps taken by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to use the U.S. Army Air Corps to fly the mail. The parties of the conference effectively divided among them the air mail routes, resulting in a Senate investigation.

Although a public relations nightmare for both the administrations of President Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt, the scandal resulted in the growth of the airline industry and the modernization of the Air Corps.

Brown invoked his authority under the third provision of the Air Mail Act of 1930, passed on April 29 and known as the McNary-Watres Act after its chief sponsors, that gave authority to "extend or consolidate" routes in effect according to his own judgment. He consolidated the air mail routes to only three companies, forcing out their competitors. These three carriers later evolved into United Airlines (the northern airmail route), TWA (Transcontinental and Western Air, which had the mid-United States route) and American Airlines (American Airways, the southern route). Brown also extended the southern route to the West Coast. He awarded bonuses for carrying more passengers and purchasing multi-engined aircraft equipped with radios and navigation aids.




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  The Apollo 15 postal covers incident, a 1972 NASA scandal, involved the astronauts of Apollo 15, who carried about 400 unauthorized postal covers into space and to the Moon's surface on the Lunar Module Falcon. Some of the envelopes were sold at high prices by West German stamp dealer Hermann Sieger, and are known as "Sieger covers". The crew of Apollo 15, David Scott, Alfred Worden and James Irwin, agreed to take payments for carrying the covers; though they returned the money, they were reprimanded by NASA.

The three astronauts and an acquaintance, Horst Eiermann, had agreed to have the covers made and taken into space. Each astronaut was to receive about $7,000. Scott arranged to have the covers postmarked on the morning of the Apollo 15 launch on July 26, 1971. They were packaged for space and brought to him as he prepared for liftoff; he brought them aboard in a pocket of his space suit. Due to an error, they were not included on the list of the personal items he was taking into space. The covers spent July 30 to August 2 on the Moon inside Falcon. On August 7, the date of splashdown, the covers were postmarked again on the recovery carrier USS Okinawa. One hundred were sent to Eiermann (and passed on to Sieger); the remaining covers were divided among the astronauts.

Worden had agreed to carry 144 additional covers, largely for an acquaintance, F. Herrick Herrick; these had been approved for travel to space. Apollo 15 carried a total of approximately 641 covers. In late 1971, when NASA learned that the Herrick covers were being sold, the astronauts' supervisor, Deke Slayton, warned Worden to avoid further commercialization of what he had been allowed to take into space. After Slayton heard of the Sieger arrangement, he removed the three as backup crew members for Apollo 17, though the astronauts had by then returned compensation from Sieger. The Sieger matter became generally known in the newspapers in June 1972. There was widespread coverage; some said astronauts should not be allowed to reap personal profits from NASA missions.

By 1977, all three former astronauts had left NASA. In 1983, Worden sued, and the covers were returned to them. One of the postal covers given to Sieger sold for over $50,000 in 2014.




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