Postal History is more than history of stamps

The collection and study of postal history material is a fascinating branch of philately that is currently extremely popular. But just what is meant by the term "postal history?"

The title of "postal historian" to describe one who engages in the activity sound rather esoteric and it could tend to scare off some collectors who might well enjoy becoming involved.

But one need not feel that this is only for the experienced and wealthy collector. Depending on one's inclination and the subject chosen it can require expenditures ranging a millionaire's bankroll to a youngster's dollar or two weekly allowances

Postal history can be declined as the collection and study of material showing not only the use of the postage stamp but all aspects of the transportation of the written word.

They want to know for what specific postal purpose it was created and how it was used.

They may want to know how mail service developed in the geographic area of their study, when it begun, routes organized and rates levied.

They would then be interested in who ran specific post offices, dates of opening and closing. and every detail of the handling of a piece of mail from the time of its deposit into the mail stream to the instant of delivery at its destination.

Not Always A Cancel

Postal historians are especially interested in the postal markings applied to mail and the different types used on various classifications of mail, be it registered, special delivery, air mail, ship letters, etc.

It might be appropriate to note a point of terminology that often is contusing because of the imprecise usage of which most of us are guilty at one time or another.

Any marking applied by a postal official to a piece of mail, whether by handstamp, machine, or manuscript, is a postal marking.  Such postal marking becomes a cancellation only when it is used to deface the stamp used to frank the mail.

This may range from a 196 century decorative cork cancel to a clear and readable modern machine cancel or handstamp, or a ballpoint pen squiggle.

So, let us use the phrase "postal marking" to refer to something applied to a piece of mail and reserve the term "cancellation" solely to describe the marking that actually defaces the stamp or indicium on postal stationery.

The word "indicium" refers to the imprinted 'stamp' on a piece of postal stationery. Its plural form is "indicia."

Study The Whys

When we become involved in postal history the operative word is "study" rather than "collect.-'and that is exactly what is done.

We want to know the whys rather than merely accumulate the what’s

We seek the explanation for the marking on a cover, why a particular route was instituted and why it have been discontinued, or why mail was carried in a certain fashion.

We want to know the significance of a manuscript rate marking of, when adhesive stamps came along, why a certain denomination was used.

Knowledge Is the Key

In the beginning one should decide what aspect of postal history appeals most and then read, read, and read.

The attraction of postal history is that is tends to relate strictly postal affairs to the general society of which they are a part. Thus postal history can over flow the philatelic cup and merge into the story of man. In truth, the postal historian’s cup can be said to runneth over!

A classic example in the Pony Express and the early stage lines which played such a pat in the westward expansion of the USA. If you find romance in the old west try the postal history that was a part of that era.

Thus , we should be familiar with the general history of our postal history period or the geographic area we have selected. When we apply such knowledge to our postal subject, things that were puzzling before may now become clear.

It is possible to make a period in history, a particular county, or a more limited geographic area.

Don’t Overextend

One thing that should be stressed is that there is always a danger of overextending oneself in terms of the difficulty and expense of taking on too large and area or period.

One can always expand one’s coverage when the time comes. But only disappointment can result from the realization that has bitten off more than can be chewed.

The postal historian who in on the spot can call on local sources for information and will find out much about a community in the course of researching the necessary information.

But it should be remembered that the actual postal material may not be as easy to find locally as might be imagined. much mail needed to illustrate specific aspects of a town's postal will have been outward bound to distandt places.

In this case the nearest large city might be the most fruitful source as it will be the most likely destination for much of the mail out of a locality.


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