A Jubilee Reminiscence
By John Davies FRPSL

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In 1889 a general opinion was expressed that the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of Uniform Penny Postage in Great Britain “ought not to be allowed to pass without some indication of the feelings, which must actuate all who looked back at the great reform introduced in 1840”. Arrangements were made for various Jubilee celebrations to be held in 1890. Although a plan for a commemorative stamp was initiated, it was later abandoned.

John Davies FRPSL

The year began with a Penny Postage Jubilee Dinner on 15 January with nearly 300 gentlemen present including the Postmaster General, Henry Cecil Raikes. Other major events took place including an Exhibition at the Guildhall organised by the City Corporation of London from 16 May to 19 May, visited by over 20,000 people, and other regional exhibitions.

There was an official Post Office celebration in the form of a grand Conversazione at South Kensington Museum on 2 July when nearly 4,000 people attended. A number of innovative displays and exhibits were assembled for these events. They were important in GB philately for the introduction of the first commemorative postal stationery and the first decorative special event handstamps. The Jubilee envelope was imitated in the same way as the original Mulready envelope fifty years earlier. The events also led to the use of special event cancellations and cachets, which could also be applied by favour, thereby establishing the practice of the “philatelic souvenir”.

In addition to the Guildhall and South Kensington events, other exhibitions were held at home and abroad. These included the first British International Stamp Exhibition, organised by the London (later Royal) Philatelic Society at the Portman Rooms. This book brings together details of the events and the philatelic material related to them as well as the ephemera and other items of interest.

John Davies FCIM FRPSL is married to Anne; father of Leanne and Hayley and grandfather to Emmie, Bo, Rhys, Mali, Nia, Cameron and Beth.

He is Past President of the Great Britain Philatelic Society, a Council Member of The Royal Philatelic Society London, a member of the Executive Committee of the Association of British Philatelic Societies (ABPS), Past Chairman of the Stamp Active Network, and Secretary of Banbury Stamp Society.

John’s interest in stamps began in 1987 when his children started collecting after receiving a starter pack at Christmas. He went on to start a school stamp club and to develop and launch Stamp Active, which continues to promote stamp collecting to young people across the UK. In 2012, he received the ABPS Congress Medal for services to philately.

A visit to the UK International Exhibition, Stamp World London ’90, led to the start of a collection on the 1890 Penny Postage Jubilee celebrations, as material from those events was featured in the Court of Honour and Exhibition Souvenirs.

The collection has been exhibited nationally and internationally. It was the first exhibit to achieve Large Gold and Best in Show for an “Open Philately” exhibit at national level. It was Best in Class at the World Stamp Show 2016 and Stockholmia 2019.

Extracts of the collection have been awarded Large Gold Medals several times. The collection will be exhibited at the London 2020 International Exhibition.





Part One – Preliminary Arrangements and Events

1.1 1889 St Martin’s League Bazaar

1.2 The Jubilee Committee

1.3 The 1889 Penny Postage Jubilee Commemorative Stamp

1.4 The Conversazione at the Grosvenor Gallery, 19 June 1889

1.5 Paper Read before the Balloon Society, 8 January 1890

1.6 The Post Office Dinner, 15 January 1890

1.7 Celebration by the Relatives of Rowland Hill, 7 April 1890

Part Two – The Conversazione & Exhibition at the Guildhall

2.1 The Guildhall Committee

2.2 The Guildhall Invitation

2.3 Duties of Members of the Committee

2.4 Carriage Passes

2.5 Tickets

2.6 The Guildhall Library

2.7 The Civic Party at the Guildhall Exhibition

2.8 The Guildhall Letter Card

2.9 The Displays at the Guildhall Exhibition

2.10 Exhibit Cards

2.11 Illustrated London News of 21 May 1890

2.12 The Guildhall Proofs

2.13 Telegraph Exhibit

2.14 Edison Phonograph

2.15 Programmes of Music

2.16 Instructions for Duty

2.17 The Guildhall Handstamps

2.18 The Guildhall Circular Handstamp

2.19 Other Interesting usages of the Guildhall Handstamps

2.20 Public Post Office Business

2.21 Letter Sorting at the Guildhall

2.22 Poste Restante at the Guildhall Exhibition

2.23 Registered Items

2.24 Guildhall Money Orders

2.25 Guildhall Postal Orders

2.26 The 1790 Post Office

2.27 The Display of a British Army Post Office

2.28 The Guildhall Appreciation Card

2.29 After the Event

2.30 Guildhall Letter Card Reproduction 1966

2.31 Report of the Controller of the London Postal Service and Electrician

2.32 The Chalmers Debate

2.33 The Lord Holland “Facsimile”

Part Three – Other Exhibitions

3.1 The Edinburgh Jubilee Exhibition

3.2 The Scottish Jubilee Envelope

3.3 Other Regional Events

3.3.1 Leeds Philatelic Society

3.3.2 Birmingham Philatelic Society

3.3.3 Dundee Exhibition

3.4 The 1890 Vienna Philatelic Exposition

3.5 The 1890 London Philatelic Exhibition

3.5.1 Entry Tickets

3.5.2 Exhibition Banquet

3.5.3 Exhibitors and Awards

3.5.4 Exhibition Overprints

Part Four – The Post Office Celebration at The Conversazione at

South Kensington Museum

4.1 Introduction

4.2 The Jubilee Committee

4.3 South Kensington Museum

4.4 Officials Admission Ticket

4.5 Instructions for Postal Duty

4.6 The Displays at South Kensington Museum

4.7 Edison’s Phonograph

4.8 Public Post Office Business

4.9 Letter Sorting at South Kensington

4.10 Telegraph Exhibits

4.11 Musical Entertainments

4.12 The Electrophonoscope

4.13 The Pneumatic Tube Post

4.14 The South Kensington Jubilee Handstamps

4.15 Large Circular Handstamp Type II

4.16 Registered Mail

4.17 South Kensington Money Order

4.18 South Kensington Postal Order

4.19 South Kensington Appreciation Card

4.20 The Genesis of the Jubilee Envelope

4.21 The Alliance Assurance Company

4.22 Registered Mail

4.23 Other Interesting Usages of the Jubilee Envelope

4.24 Late Usages of the Jubilee Envelope

4.25 Usages of the Correspondence Card

4.26 The “Bungay” Forgeries

Part Five – Other

5.1 The Postmen’s Union Handbill

5.2 Postmaster’s Jubilee Breakfast

5.3 Elliot’s Imitation of the Jubilee Envelope

5.4 The Furniss Caricature

5.4.1 Colour Trials

5.4.2 Special Subscription Copies

5.4.3 First Day Use

5.4.4 Type II

5.4.5 Examples of Late Uses

5.4.6 Stamp Collectors Fortnightly 1906

5.4.7 Usage of the Furniss Design in 1971

5.5 The Matabele Jubilee Envelope

5.6 The Simoons Envelope

5.7 The Penny Postage Jubilee Committee Dinner

5.8 The Penny Postage Jubilee Dinner at Hampton Court

5.9 The 1890 Jubilee Christmas Card

5.10 The Postmaster General’s Christmas Card

5.11 The 1890 Jubilee Commemorative Medal

5.12 The Rowland Hill Benevolent Fund

5.13 Account of the Jubilee of Penny Postage 1891

5.14 Foundation Stone of G.P.O. North

5.15 Stanley Gibbons 1890 “Jubilee Edition” Catalogue

5.16 The J.W. Palmer Commemorative Medal


Appendix: Minute Book of the Post Office Jubilee Committee


Sample pages (click one to enlarge)