British schoolteacher Rowland Hill sought to create a more efficient system for the postal service. He explored a variety of methods starting in 1826, and a year later he released a pamphlet called Post Office reform: Its Importance and Practicability. Within the pamphlet he recommended using a form of prepayment described as, “A bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamps showing that tax had been paid, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash which the bringer of the letter might, by applying a little moisture, attach to the back.” His ingenious idea did not receive universal acceptance at its origin but was put into use by 1839 with the British Postal Reform Act. Hill became Advisor to the Treasury where he could put his idea into action.
Hill revolutionized the postal industry. The stamps we know and love today are based on his original idea. Before Hill, early postal methods would deliver to the recipient without any sort of deposit. Payment wasn’t required until the delivery was complete. As such, there was never any guarantee of payment (on the recipient’s end), which created a lot of risk and losses for the postal service. The introduction of the stamp shifted the tax payment from the recipient to the sender, ensuring that messages would be delivered and the workers would be paid. This opened up many doors for the postal service industry.
Suddenly you didn’t have to be in government, military, or be wealthy to send a letter or parcel. The shifts in the postal service industry responded to the demands brought by commerce. Companies and clients could begin mailing each other, and with the postage stamp being affordable, nearly anyone could use the service.