“The Origins, Birth and International Reach of the Postage Stamp through 1847”
James L. Grimwood-Taylor, M.A., R. D. P.
The origins of the postage stamp can be traced to a time long before the 19th century. The talk – illustrated with a selection of items from Grimwood-Taylor’s collections – will briefly cover the origins of writing and of postal rates, before tracing the origins of postage stamps from their roots in the very first (Revenue) stamps of the 17th century. The ancient Sumerians, the Italian merchants of the 14th to 16th centuries, the 17th-century Anglo-Dutch revenue authorities, and the 18th-century Colonial American local Revenue stamps will all be included. The explosion of postal rates in the 18th and 19th centuries, fueled by the wartime-raising of taxes in Britain and its American colonies, and later the United States, lasted long after peace was declared. It led reformers, such as Rowland Hill and others, to campaign for the introduction of cheap postage and to study how such a dramatic change could be made financially and administratively viable; they turned for an answer to revenue stamps for a postage prepayment model. The talk will conclude with a look at First Issue covers of the U.S., Switzerland, Brazil, Finland, Indonesia, Russia, and Trinidad in order to take the story up to July 1847.
James Grimwood-Taylor began collecting stamps at the age of three and, as a teenager, developed an interest in prestamp covers and why certain countries introduced stamps earlier than others. After graduating from university, he began his first job in philately in the Postal History Department of a renowned London dealership. After almost ten years with that same London firm, he decided to become an auctioneer; in 1988 he took over and became the principal postal history describer at Cavendish Philatelic Auctions in Derby, his hometown. He sold the firm in 2017 and now works one day a week doing valuations of postal history. During this long philatelic career, he has developed postal history expertise in most areas of the world.
He is a member of numerous British and overseas societies, including the Collectors’ Club of New York and the Postal History Societies (US & UK). He is past President of the Great Britain Philatelic Society and the Society of Postal Historians, and he joined the Royal Philatelic Society London when professional philatelists were first admitted in 2005. He was elected a Fellow in 2008 and chosen in 2020 to sign the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists.
Grimwood-Taylor has been an accredited national judge since the 1980s and is a renowned international exhibitor with 5 International Gold Medals, including an International Large Gold medal won at ‘New York 2016’ for his “Postal Reforms” exhibit. He has authored over 200 research articles, three books and a novel. His two-volume International Postal Reforms won the 2021 Great Britain Philatelic Society President’s Prize and the Crawford Medal from the Royal Philatelic Society London for the most valuable and original contribution to the study and knowledge of philately published in book form.
He has recently been working on a new 500-page display to be presented soon to the Royal Philatelic Society in London (entitled “The Postal History of the World, c. 3000 BC to 1940 AD” and covering 125 countries from Afghanistan to Zululand), as well as censuses of the earliest letters from various countries in private hands.
For information on this lecture series, visit https://postalmuseum.si.edu/maynard-sundman-lecture-series