Tag Archives: postal stationery

Christmas air letters

In the lead-up to Christmas we are sharing with you 12 Posters of Christmas, a dozen classic postal posters from the Royal Mail Archive. Today’s is…

Poster advertising Christmas greetings stationery; featuring two air letters; one with a nativity scene and one with a pear tree, October 1967. (POST 110/1544)

Poster advertising Christmas greetings stationery; featuring two air letters; one with a nativity scene and one with a pear tree, October 1967. (POST 110/1544)

Like the Airgraph the air letter came about during the Second World War. It was developed to provide soldiers with an easy method of sending letters by air that weighed little and therefore required less fuel to transport. In the post-war era decorative air letters became available in post offices, with special Christmas air letters first issued in the 1960s.

This poster advertises 1967’s Christmas air letter designs. It was decided to issue one seasonal and one religious-themed air letter in that year, and the chosen designs were a nativity scene by Eric Fraser and Clive Abbott’s ‘partridge in a pear tree’. Michael and Sylvia Goamans designed the printed ‘stamp’ used on both air letters.

While Eric Fraser (1902-83) is less well known in the field of stamp and postal stationery design than Abbott or the Goamans, he submitted a number of designs on various occasions during the 1950s and 1960s, and had previously undertaken poster design work for the Post Office. You can see several of Fraser’s poster designs on our Flickr site.

Valued volunteer and postal historian retires

Recently one of our most highly valued volunteers, Mike Bament, retired, hanging up his tweezers for the last time. Mike has been volunteering at the BPMA for more than 20 years and is also a well-known postal historian.

This is the earliest recorded example of a mileage mark, 65 ARUNDEL, struck on a letter sent to Horsham in Sussex on 1st October 1784. The BB stands for By-Bag.

This is the earliest recorded example of a mileage mark, 65 ARUNDEL, struck on a letter sent to Horsham in Sussex on 1st October 1784. The BB stands for By-Bag.

The study of postal markings is often called “postal history”. Postal markings include datestamps, rate markings and indications of the origin, route and arrival of mail. With more modern mail they also show evidence of automatic cancelling and sorting. The BPMA’s extensive collections cover all these, as well as more than 200 albums dating from before and after the introduction of the first adhesive postage stamp in 1840, including entire letters, covers, envelopes, postcards and postal stationery.

Before the advent of airmail all British mail going abroad, and coming from abroad, had to travel by sea. The earliest known handstamps were not recorded until early in the eighteenth century when the first handstruck stamps were issued by the General Post Office indicating that mail had arrived by sea.

A letter sent from Liverpool to New York in 1841

A letter sent “pr Britannia” from Liverpool to New York on 19th April 1841. The postage was ‘PAID AT / LIVERPOOL’ where the BCC type 60 framed handstamp with chamfered corners and dated was struck in red. This type of handstamp is found on some maritime mail from about 1840 to 1850.

One of Mike Bament’s recent projects has been to compile postal history material, which have then been digitised for the BPMA website, making them accessible to more people.

The latest listings went online recently and consist of four postal reform listings: Ship Letters, India Letters, ‘Paid at’ Stamps and Postal Reform. This is a continuation of the project which saw postal history items for the listings Penny Posts (including 5th Clause Posts), Mileage Marks and Missent Marks go online early last year.

Mike Bament has contributed invaluable work to the BPMA throughout the years, and he will be greatly missed. His work has and will continue to increase access to BPMA’s unique collections, and will be of great benefit to postal historians researching these subjects.

Would you like to volunteer at the BPMA? Visit http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/support/volunteer/ to find out more.

BPMA aids author

Every week many people to come to the BPMA to use our Archive Search Room. Whether it’s family historians finding out about their ancestors, historians interested in communications or philatelists furthering their knowledge, all are welcome.

Len Stanway, author of the Malaya Study Group’s new book Malaysia and the Federation of Malaya – Their Stamps and Postal Stationery, has expressed his thanks to BPMA staff for filling a gap in the available information on the printing of postal stationery for Malaya.

The author explained “When Messrs. McCorquodale took over the printing of envelopes and aerogrammes for Malaya from Messrs. De La Rue, the data on shipments was not fed back to the Crown Agents ledgers which are now held by the British Library. A Fiji researcher, John Ray, drew my attention to the existence of a BPMA file, POST 52/704, which contained reports from Post Office inspectors who were based at McCorquodale in the late 1950s and early 1960s to examine British issues and who handled Commonwealth shipments on behalf on Crown Agents in their spare time. This filled many of the gaps in the available information. You do not have to be a collector of Great Britain to find the BPMA a valuable resource.”

A registration envelope printed by McCorquodale for the Malayan state of Selangor

A registration envelope printed by McCorquodale for the Malayan state of Selangor

The Federation of Malaya came into existence in 1948, became independent of the United Kingdom in 1957 and was incorporated in an enlarged Malaysia in 1963. Len Stanway’s book explores the stamps and postal stationery issued during that period, including, where known, all printing orders and varieties. The postage due stamps of the Malayan Postal Union were in use throughout the period, so their full story from 1935 is described, as are the state and federal revenue stamps issued during the Federation period. Philatelic and political background information is covered in introductory chapters, together with brief biographies of the rulers and other eminent persons connected with the stamps.

Volume 1, covering the 1948 to 1963 period, was published this month and is available from the Malaya Study Group’s website: www.malayastudygroup.com. Volume Two will cover the 1963 to 1994 period and all Malaysia postage due stamps, while Volume 3 will cover 1995 to 2009. Supplementary information for 2010 onwards will initially be provided through the columns of The Malayan Philatelist, the journal of The Malaya Study Group.

A McCorquodale aerogramme for Singapore used by fan to ask Miss Doris Day for the words of "Deadwood Stage".

A McCorquodale aerogramme for Singapore used by fan to ask Miss Doris Day for the words of "Deadwood Stage".

Len Stanway’s interest in philately began at the age of 6 and he has been a member of the Malaya Study Group for 30 years. He is also a member of Singapore Stamp Club and the Sarawak Specialists’ Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Philatelic Society London. He holds various posts in local, regional and national philatelic societies, and has written extensively for various society publications and stamp magazines.

If you are interested in conducting philatelic research at the BPMA please see our website for further information on what records we hold and how we can assist you. The Archive Search Room is open every weekday from 10am to 5pm, except Thursdays when we are open until 7pm. The Search Room will also be open on six Saturdays throughout 2010; see the What’s On section of our website for details.

Update to the BPMA’s online catalogue

by Martin Devereux, Deputy Catalogue Manager

The BPMA’s online catalogue was updated on Friday 27th February. This update didn’t include huge amounts of material, just an extra 765 records, bringing the total available to 74,426. It did include some significant additions, however.

The first significant addition is a record for the Postal History Collection. The term Postal History is often applied to the study of postal markings and the collection includes approximately 200 albums of material, comprising letters, covers, envelopes, postcards and postal stationery, dating from before and after the introduction of the first adhesive postage stamp in 1840. The collection has prompted significant amounts of research and this has been compiled into detailed lists which we’re making into downloadable pdfs. The pdfs can be found by following the hyperlinks on the catalogue record for the Postal History Collection. The lists are being loaded onto the website in tranches; the first four available are for provincial penny post, 5th clause, mileage and missent and misdirected mail marks. This represents a considerable amount of work from our dedicated group of volunteers who give freely both their time and their knowledge, for which we are grateful.

British Empire Exhibition 1925: 1½d letterpress die

We’ve also added photographs to the records of dies, plates and rollers found in our philatelic holdings of King George V Commemorative issues. For the first time, members of the public can see the original printing objects that were manufactured to create these stamps.

Additionally, new members of our cataloguing team have been busy cataloguing Christmas cards and material returned from loan by the Museum of London, and we also have some additional public records from The Royal Mail Archive available in the form of POST 73: Regional Administration and Operations and POST 122: Post Office: Registered Files: Minuted and Decentralised Registry Papers.

Catalogue updates can often take several hours to process and sometimes things go wrong. Last week’s update included the unintended addition of approximately 30 blank war memorial records. These will be taken off at the next update. In the meantime, if you spot anything unusual or that you think is an error then please get in touch with us directly. There is a feedback button on the catalogue for you to contact us.