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The Penny Post is any one of several postal systems in which normal letters could be sent for one penny. Five such schemes existed in the United Kingdom while the United States initiated at least three such simple fixed rate postal arrangements.
London Penny Post
Postmark and time stamps from Lime St office
In England, the postal service, from 1660 General Post Office, had developed into a monopoly, affirmed by Oliver Cromwell in 1654, for the collection and carriage of letters between post towns, however, there was no delivery system until William Dockwra and his partner Robert Murray established the London Penny Post in 1680. They set up a local post that used a uniform rate of one old penny for delivery of letters and packets weighing up to one pound within the cities of Westminster and London as well as in Southwark. Several deliveries took place a day within the city, and items were also delivered to addresses up to ten miles outside London for an extra charge of one penny. In 1683 Dockwra was forced to surrender the Penny Post to the English Monarchy for circulating what were considered seditious newsletters sharply criticizing the Duke of York, who was in charge of and directly benefited from the General Post Office.
Local Penny Post
In 1765, Parliament authorized the creation of Penny Posts in any town or city of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. The single postage rate of one penny was charged within the area, calculated by weight. By the beginning of the 19th century there were many of these, identifiable on covers, with markings such as "PP", "Py Post", or "Penny Post" along with the name of the town.
The early penny post system in Edinburgh, founded in 1773/4 by Peter Williamson, known as "Indian Peter," usefully combined it with one of the world's first street directories. He circulated mail to 17 shops in the city (effectively post offices) and employed 4 uniformed postmen. Their hats read "Penny Post" and were numbered 1,4,8 and 16 to make the business look bigger.
In 1835 Rowland Hill published a pamphlet entitled 'Post Office Reform' which led to various reforms and the introduction of the first postage stamp and convinced Parliament to implement much needed reforms in the current postal system. On 10 January 1840, the Uniform Penny Post was established throughout the UK, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap conveyance of letters, and from 6 May could be prepaid with the first postage stamp, known as the Penny Black.
Ocean Penny Post
Elihu Burritt proposed that a fixed rate of one penny be established for all mail throughout the entire British Empire as a means of facilitating international interaction and international unity. This was known as the Ocean Penny Post.[a]
Imperial Penny Post
On Christmas Day, 1898, the Imperial Penny Post extended the rate throughout the British Empire except for Australia and New Zealand, who would not benefit from it until 1905. In 1908 it was extended to America.
The Penny Post rate ended in Great Britain in 1918.
Golden, Catherine J. (2009). Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing. [University Press of Florida]. ISBN978-0-8130-3379-2.
Anon. "Peter Williamson and the Edinburgh Penny Post". Philatelic Journal of Great Britain. (November 1938).
Brumell, George. The Local Posts of London 1680-1840. Cheltenham: R. C. Alcock Ltd, 1971, 91p.
Cochrane, William P. The Glasgow Penny Post, 1800-1845. Hamilton: The Scottish Postal History Society, 2012 ISBN978-1-9081390-3-0, 238p.
Cowell, J.B. The Bangor Penny Post, 1814-1840. Gwynedd, Wales: Welsh Philatelic Society, 1977 ISBN0-904098-01-X, 20p.
Dittmann, Manfred. Die Dubliner penny post nach offiziellen unterlagen und verschiedenen samumlungen = The Dublin penny post compiled from official and historical data from collections. Munich: Forschungs- und Arbeitsgemeinschaft Irland e.V. im Bund Deutscher Philatelisten e.V., 1992, 312p.
Holyoake, Alan. Great Britain, the development and introduction of uniform penny postage (1839-1840). Gerrards Cross: the author, 2006, 15p.
Melville, Fred J. Origins Of The Penny Post. London: Philatelic Institute, 1930, 120p.
Melville, Fred J. A Penny All The Way. London: W.H. Peckitt, 1908, 48p.
Phil (A.D. Blackburn). The Penny Postage Jubilee and Philatelic History. London: Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1891, 261p.
Staff, Frank. The Penny Post, 1680-1918. London: Lutterworth Press, 1964, 219p.
Todd, Thomas. William Dockwra and the Rest of the Undertakers: The story of the London penny post, 1680-1682. Edinburgh: C. J. Cousland & Sons, 1952, 156p.
Winmill, R.B. The Evolution of Imperial Penny Postage and the postal history of the Canadian 1898 Map Stamp. Toronto: Jim A. Hennok Ltd., 1982 ISBN0-919772-00-5, 110p.