7 October 2006
Postal History studies the methods used to convey mail. A lot of people are satisfied with searching for just postmarks of their home town but there are other marks of interest to the collector on envelopes and cards.
Do people really collect postmarks? Someone had to spend he's entire day at the first South Pole base postmarking letters for collectors wanting the "South pole" postmarks. Carrying the mail was the main revenue for the Zeppelin fights and by collectors wanting mail stamped as having been carried by the great airships. So it seems postal history has always been popular. It is a huge subject covering such things as Pony Express riders, Indian thumb prints, Pigeon or rocket mail just to name a few.
Some collectors have spent their whole lives researching just one type of postmark or mail route!
What to collect? Well, why do you collect postmarks etc of your home town in England?........
Postmarks and addresses answer many questions (Where posted, cost to send, destination, route). Local library and church records searches may result in finding out about people mentioned in the letter.Very few people could read and write back then, let alone afford to send letters. If you find one letter from a particular family, you will undoubtedly find some more items - normally at one place or In an Estate sale.
Some of the letters of this period, would only give brief details for the post/mailman. All letters went via London at first, so the postage was charged with regard to how many miles from London the letter was posted. A "post free" mark was a much abused free post privilege given to members of Parliament and other government agents.
You can find old letters and postcards almost anywhere. "garage sale", "car boot sale" etc. Some dealers only sell and buy Postal history, but it is more exciting finding it for yourself, also cheaper. One of the best sources is to visit a local antique or collectors fair and rummage through the boxes of old letters and cards. Allow yourself a good day at the larger fairs!!
Postal History is such an interesting area of philately - not just UK either. I have had in my possession before various International Postal History items such as "Tin Can Mail" from Tonga where the natives used to have to row out to the post boats carrying their mail in tin cans! Or crash mail where mail has been found floating in the sea when a ship has sunk - the stamps have unfastened and floated off and the resulting dried envelope had been stamped "crash mail". All totally fascinating - so enjoy....................