The History of Stamps

The use of stamps first originated in Europe, thought it differed greatly from the way we use them currently. Hand stamps, usually made from wood or cork, were pressed into ink, then applied to the mail or parcel.

The markings proved that the pending mail was paid for. In the United Kingdom, before the invention of the adhesive stamp, mail was always paid by the recipient. This system of delivering created an insoluble problem—the cost of the mail could not be recovered if the receiver refused to pay accordingly. Postage stamps solved this issue by changing the mailing arrangement and have the deliverer pay instead. In addition, colorful stamps afforded people an element of beauty on envelopes. Postal stationary, including postcards and lettercards, were invented after stamps became widespread.

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Soon, the use of stamps traveled to other countries. The designs and styles became creative and bore a sense of the culture of the particular country. The size and shape of some varied as well—triangles, trapezoidal, and even water drop-shaped ones. Stamps are also used to inform or to celebrate a special occasion. For example, to raise awareness of forest fires, a type of Brazilian stamp was made to bear the scent of burnt wood. In 2007, stamps from Portugal were printed on thin-sliced cork in honor of the country’s thriving cork production, which supplies 30% of the world’s cork.

Stamps have come a long way from being literal cork or wood stamps to adhesive ones that we depend on today. They add beauty to the normally dull envelop and can represent a country’s diverse culture.