From the earliest adoption of adhesive postage stamps, postmarks have been used as an indication that the postage costs have been paid. Once postmarked, the postage stamp was ‘cancelled’ and could not therefore be reused. The use of postmarks to convey messages and slogans was initially reserved for the use of national institutions such as Government and the Post Office itself. Slogan postmarks continue to be used in the 21st century and are very collectable in their own right.
Even before adhesive postage stamps were introduced, handstamps were used to indicate that the postage had been paid and often included an identification of where (either by a code or place name) and when (by date) a post had been processed. Various designs were used including the recognisable Maltese cross that was used to cancel Penny Black postage, first with black, Indian ink and later with a red ink. Later, the postmark would again identify where and when the the post had been processed.
One of the earliest uses of a slogan in the postmark was in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Silver Jubilee in 1887. It was another 20 years before the Government started to use slogans – this included the 1918 slogan ‘BUY NATIONAL WAR BONDS NOW’, an attempt to generate funds towards the World War I effort.
In 1926, the post-war recession prompted Government postmark slogans such as ‘BRITISH GOODS ARE BEST’. With the increased use of the telephone (at the time, operated by the British Post Office), the 1930s prompted postmark slogans such as ‘SHOP BY TELEPHONE’ and ‘THE TELEPHONE SAVES TIME AND MONEY’, as well as ‘YOU ARE WANTED ON THE PHONE’.
In the early 20th century, the volume of UK post demanded several collections each day and therefore the time was also added to the postmark. It was not uncommon for post collected early in the morning post to be delivered to its destination the same day if the the mail was only required to travel relatively short distances. Customers were therefore encouraged to ‘POST EARLY IN THE DAY’.
At the end of World War II, slogans became more symbolic. A large ‘V’ with two bells proclaimed victory in a 1944/45 cancellation. This was a time of austerity and a 1946 slogan demanded ‘DON’T WASTE BREAD – OTHERS NEED IT’ (featured image). Acknowledging the increasing volume of motor vehicles on the highway, another announced ‘TAKE NO CHANCES – KEEP DEATH OFF THE ROAD’. A year later, the slogan was once again represented by symbols including a bow and bells embracing the letters ‘E’ and ‘P’ commemorating the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, later to become Queen Elizabeth II and Duke of Edinburgh.
By the 1950s the slogans began promoting the the place where the mail had been posted. Seaside resorts were very much to the fore in this regard as well as places of historic interest. Other slogans promoted groups, anniversaries or even individuals; the list became almost endless. Slogans continue to be used on cancellations to this day including the 2021 example ‘CONGRATULATIONS EMMA RADUCANU 2021 US OPEN WOMEN’S CHAMPION – A FIRST CLASS PERFORMANCE’.
To view postal issues, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.