The Stamp Collector's Magazine for August, 1868, contained an interesting article on the history of the Canadian Post-office, largely compiled from information given in the “Canadian Postal Guide,” which we cannot do better than quote in full.
The earliest records of the administration of the post-office in Canada, are dated 1750, at which period the celebrated Benjamin Franklin was Deputy Postmaster-General of North America. At the time of
In the evidence given by Franklin before the House of Commons in the year 1766, in regard to the extent of the post-office accommodation in North America, he made the following statement:—
The posts generally travel along the sea coasts, and only in a few cases do they go back into the country. Between Quebec and Montreal there is only one post per month. The inhabitants live so scattered and remote from each other in that vast country, that the posts cannot be supported amongst them. The English colonies, too, along the frontier, are very thinly settled.
In 1774, Franklin was recalled, and the following year the War of Independence broke out, and the office was filled by Mr. Hugh Finlay, who had, under his predecessor, been postmaster at Quebec.
Canada is divided into Upper and Lower. From a Quebec almanack of 1796, we glean that there were seven offices in the former and five in the latter. Mr. Finlay is designated as “Deputy Postmaster-General of His Majesty's Province of Canada.”
At that time mails were dispatched monthly to England, and semi-weekly between Quebec and Montreal, or Halifax. At Baie des Chaleurs the visits of the postman must, we conclude, have been few and far between, as they were only favored with a mail “as occasion offered”.
In 1800, Mr. George Heriot succeeded Mr. Finlay. At this time Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, were all under the authority of the Canadian administration.
The following is taken from the advertising column of the Upper Quebec Gazette, printed in 1807:—
The mail for Upper Canada will be dispatched from the post-office at Montreal, on the following days, to wit:
Monday, 14th January.
Monday, 12th February.
Monday, 12th March.
Monday, 7th April—the last trip.
A courier from Kingston may be looked for here in 14 or 15 days from the above periods, where he will remain 2 or 3 days, and then return to Kingston.
Another courier will proceed from this with the Niagara mail, via Messrs. Hatts', where the Sandwich (co. Essex) letters will be left, both from Niagara and this 'till the courier comes from there to return with them.
Letters put into the post-office will be forwarded any time by
Acting Deputy Postmaster.
Mr. Heriot resigned in 1816, and was succeeded by Mr. D. Sutherland, who, on his accession to office, found Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island wholly withdrawn from the Canada charge. New Brunswick, however, continued to be included in it. This appears also to have been withdrawn in 1824, so that from that date until just lately, we have to do with Canada proper.
In 1827 there were 101 post-offices, and 2,368 miles of established post-route. The number of miles of mail-travel was 455,000. The letters that year were estimated at 340,000, and newspapers, 400,000. From the Canadian Postmaster-General's report for 1865, now lying before us, we find the number of letters had increased to 12,000,000; the miles of annual mail-travel was 6,350,000, the mails being carried regularly over 1,931 miles of railway route.
The following extract from the Quebec Mercury, published on July 18, 1829, conveys some idea of the postal communication with England at that period:
No later advices have been received from Europe since our last. Some further extracts from the London papers, to 31st May, inclusive, brought to New York by the Corinthian, will be found in another part of this number.
In the Montreal Courant, dated September 2nd, 1829, was the following paragraph, showing the improvement which had been effected in the communication between Prescott and that city:—
Expeditious Travelling.—On Saturday last, the Upper Canada line of stages performed the journey from Prescott to this city in about 17 hours, leaving the former place at a little before 3 a.m., and arriving here a few minutes before 8 in the evening. Not many years ago this journey occupied two, and sometimes three days, but owing to the great improvements made by Mr. Dickinson, the enterprising proprietor, by putting steamboats on the lakes St. Francis and St. Louis, and keeping his horses in excellent condition, it is now performed in little more than one-third of the time.
Even so late as 1833, newspaper proprietors found it (particularly in the Upper Province) better to employ their own couriers. As a proof of this we transcribe from the Queenston (Niagara) Colonial Advocate, of that year the following advertisement:—
Post-rider Wanted Immediately.
The proprietor of this newspaper wishes to contract with a steady man (who can find and uphold his own horse) to deliver it to the subscribers once a week during the winter, on the route between York and Niagara, via Ancaster.
Mr. Thomas A. Stayner was postmaster in 1841, and through his recommendation a uniform rate of 1s 2d sterling, per half ounce, was adopted between any place in Canada and the mother country. About this time regular steam communication across the Atlantic was established.
The transfer of the Canadian post-office from the control of the imperial authorities to the Colonial government, was effected April 6th, 1851. Mr. Stayner then resigned, and the office was filled by the Hon. James Morris, who was the first Postmaster-General. This may be termed the red-letter year of the Canadian post-office. In the first place, the postage, which had hitherto been according to distance and had averaged 15 cents on each letter, was reduced to a uniform rate of 5 cents per half ounce. The newspaper charge was also considerably reduced. Within a year after, the number of letters transmitted through the post had increased 75 per cent. The operation of the department was greatly extended, and last, but most decidedly not least, was the introduction of postage stamps. In February, 1855, the money-order system was first begun, and has within the last few years been greatly extended. Letters seem to have been first registered in 1856. In October of that year the Grand Trunk Railway was completed as far as Toronto so that, in connection with the Great Western, an unbroken line of postal communication was established between Quebec in the east and Windsor in the west.
The decimal system of coinage was introduced in 1859; this, of course, as is well known, necessitated a new issue of postal labels.
We now arrive at the issue of labels for the new Dominion. The post-office act was passed on the 21st of December, 1867, and came into operation the 1st of April last. The internal rate is reduced from 5 cents to 3 cents the half ounce; but the postage to this country remains unchanged.
The following is the order for the issue of the new labels:—
To enable the public to prepay conveniently by postage stamp the foregoing rates, the following denominations of postage stamps for use throughout the Dominion, have been prepared, and will be supplied to postmasters for sale:—
Half-cent stamps, one-cent ditto, two-cent ditto, three-cent ditto, six-cent ditto, twelve-and-a-half-cent ditto, fifteen-cent ditto, all bearing as a device the effigy of Her Majesty.
The postage stamps now in use in the several provinces may be accepted, as at present, in prepayment of letters, etc., for a reasonable time after the 1st of April; but from and after that date all issues and sales to the public will be of the new denomination.
Continuing the postal history from where the article in the Stamp Collector's Magazine concludes we find that in 1869 the color of the 1c value was changed to yellow as it was found that the brown-red color was too easily confused with the red of the 3c. Early in the following year the 3c denomination appeared in a reduced size to be followed about April by the 1c and it was, naturally, presumed that the whole set would appear in this form. Two years elapsed, however, before further additions were made for it was not until 1872 that the 2c and 6c values appeared.
In 1874, an entirely new value—10 cents—was issued and in 1875 a 5c stamp made its appearance in the large size of the 1868 series. Mr. C. A. Howes, in his admirable monograph on the stamps of Canada, explains the belated appearance of this label as follows:—“The die of this large 5 cent stamp had been engraved in 1867 with the other values of the first Dominion series, but as there were no rates requiring such a denomination in the set, it was not issued. When in 1875 the need for a 5 cent value arose, the unused die was employed to make a plate for temporary use, until a new die conforming in size and design with the small stamps could be prepared.” This large 5 cent stamp had a short life of about four months when it was superseded by the 5c value in the same size as the other denominations of 1869-73.
In 1882, the ½c value was reduced in size so that this stamp, as in the case of its predecessor of 1868, was smaller than the other denominations. From that date until 1892 no further changes were made so far as new designs or values were concerned though some striking alterations in shade took place, notably in the case of the 6c and 10c values.
In 1892, 20c and 50c stamps were issued for use on heavy packages. These not only differed in design from the other stamps of the series then current but were also very much larger. In 1893 an 8c stamp was issued which was used for prepayment of postage and the registration fee and upon its advent the special registration stamps ceased to be printed though existing stocks were, presumably, used up. In 1897, the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was celebrated by the issue of a special series of stamps comprising no less than sixteen values ranging all the way from ½c to $5. As to the utility, to say nothing of the necessity, of some of the higher denominations perhaps the less said the better for before and since Canada has managed to get along very well with a highest regular denomination of 50c.
In the latter months of the same year, and early in 1898 a new set was issued in a uniform design showing the jubilee portrait of the Queen. This is known as the maple leaf issue from the fact that the lower angles are ornamented with maple leaves and in contradistinction to a modified design which almost immediately replaced it which had numerals in the lower corners.
The Christmas of 1898 was marked by the issuance of the celebrated 2c map stamp with its proud motto “We hold a vaster Empire than has been”. This stamp was issued to mark the introduction of Imperial Penny Postage, and one consequence of the reduction in the postal rate was so to reduce the demand for the 3c value that in order to use up existing supplies more quickly they were overprinted “2 cents”.
In 1899, the color of the 2c stamp was changed from purple to carmine, thus conforming to Postal Union regulations, in December, 1900, a 20c stamp of the type of 1898 was issued on the final exhaustion of the stock of the 1893 type; and in 1902 a 7c value was issued in place of the 8c for combined use in payment of registration and postage.
In 1903, 1c, 2c, 5c, 7c, and 10c values were issued bearing King Edward's portrait, a year later the 20c value in the same type was placed on sale, and in 1908, the stock of the old 50c stamps of 1893 having at last been used up, a King Edward stamp of that value was issued. In the same year the three hundredth anniversary of the founding of Quebec by Champlain was celebrated by the issue of a special set of stamps these being of the same large size as the Jubilee series of 1897, but with a different design for each denomination, while in 1912 a new series bearing the portrait of King George V made its bow and this completes Canada's postal history to date.