James Chalmers

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Postage stamps, the little bits of paper gummed on one side and issued by the government, was the means of popularizing the sending of articles beyond anything else in the way of contribution, and an Englishman, James Chalmers, is responsible for having first conceived the idea.

Chalmers was born at Ardroath in 1782 and at an early age become a bookseller in Dundee and was later the printer and publisher of the Dundee Chronicle.  In the year 1825 he applied himself to the acceleration of the mails and mainly through his efforts the travelling time on mails between Dundee and London was reduced a day each way.

Then Chalmers turned his attention to reforms in the post office system.  He first suggested a minimum rate of postage.  He first drew a sample of a stamp and set it up in type and then printed a few gummed copies.  These he exhibited to Dundee merchants in August, 1834.

These merchants thought so much of the scheme that it gave Chalmers courage to approach Robert Wallace, a member of the Parliament, who was interested in Post Office reform, and later took up the matter with Roland Hill, one of the leading men of the day in Britain.

England was quick to adopt the idea once its value was shown.  An Act of December 21st, 1839, authorized the issuing of the stamps and they were issued for the first time for the convenience of the letter writing public May 6th, 1840.  Later Brazil, Switzerland, a couple Italian States, the United States with other countries adopted the new invention.

Chalmer’s idea was appreciated at home.  The townspeople presented him with a silver claret mug, a salver, and a purse of fifty guineas as a reward for this effort.

The Dominion was rather tardy in adopting the adhesive paper, they not putting it into use until the spring of 1851.

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