The new transatlantic penny post: From the archive, 2 October 1908

Rush on mail as the cost of sending post between the UK and US is reduced to a penny per ounce

Penny post between the United Kingdom and the United States came into operation yesterday, and on both sides of the Atlantic the Post-office officials found the bulk of the mail matter suddenly swollen. The increase in this country was not huge, and the officials anticipate no difficulty in dealing with it. The first mail from Britain under the new conditions will be despatched tomorrow by the Lusitania; the first mail from America is expected to arrive next Wednesday.

The penny-an-ounce rate came into force on the stroke of midnight, but it seems that many over-eager people put penny packets in the boxes on Wednesday.

The Assistant Controller at the General Post-office in London stated yesterday that thousands of people in America will find their letters surcharged when the first penny mail is delivered; “and,” he added, “I have very little doubt there will be much the same thing at this end when the American mail arrives on Wednesday.

“Particularly in Scotland and the North of England a great many letters bearing a penny stamp were posted last night some hours before the new regulation came into force. The people wanted to take the earliest opportunity of benefiting, but all the letters which bear last evening’s provincial post-mark will, in the ordinary way, be subject to double the unpaid postage on delivery.

“But we have not drawn the line too rigidly, for in all cases where the letters bear this morning’s postmark, although they might have been dropped into the boxes before midnight, just after the last evening mail was cleared, we have passed them with the penny stamp. The gentleman who waited outside the G.P.O. last night until he heard the clock strike twelve in order that he might be the first to post a penny letter to America was on the right side, of course. But we did not clear the boxes on the stroke of midnight, nor were any instructions given to provincial offices to do so.”

The man who was so eager to lead the way was an elderly tradesman from Leyton, who has a son in business in New York. He arrived outside the General Post-office about half-past eleven, and suspiciously watched all corners after that time. As the Cathedral clock boomed out the hour he made a dive towards the letter-box, “and,” said a postal official who saw the incident, “he was only just in time, for two gentlemen drove up in a taxi-cab as the clock finished striking, each with a letter for New York.”

The officials have noticed the posting of between 4,000 and 5,000 letters by the Philatelic Society in celebration of the reduction of the postage.

A telegram from Washington states that Postmaster General Meyer received a cable despatch from Mr. Sydney Buxton, the British Postmaster General, expressing his gratification at the starting of the new rate. Mr. Meyer responded:- “May the penny post between the United States and Great Britain lead to still closer relations between the two nations.” © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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