Contents 1506-1759 1760-1840 1841-1867 1868-1899 1900-1919 1920-1950 1951 to the Present A Chronology of Canadian Postal History
1506-1759 - New France or the French Foundation

1506 1516 1619 1635 1639 1657 1660 1677 1680 1693 1704 1711 1721 1723 1732 1737 1753 1754 1759

image Franz von Taxis is named the Hapsburg Empire’s Postmaster General and is given exclusive right to deliver the royal mail. In 1506, the Taxis family begins delivering mail for paying customers.

  Early in the reign of Henry VIII, by around 1516, a Master of the Posts is appointed. Brian Tuke is the first to hold the title.

  In England, Mathew de Quester and his son become "the first and permanent Postmasters of England for Forraine [Foreign] Parts."

  In July, an English Royal Proclamation "for the settling of the Letter-Office of England and Scotland" is issued and decrees that the Royal Posts are open to the public. While the public has been using the mail system for some time, this proclamation makes such use official.

image Marie de l’Incarnation arrives in New France where she founds the Ursuline congregation.
  In England, An Act for the Settling of the Postage of England, Scotland, and Ireland is passed and provides for establishment of a single General Post Office for the distribution of domestic and foreign mails and is to be headed by one Postmaster General.

  An Act for Erecting and Establishing a Post Office (12 Charles II [1660], c.35) is passed by the British Parliament. It establishes rates and requires ship captains to hand over letters to the General Post Office for delivery.

  On May 23, 17 merchants in Boston petition the General Court of Massachusetts Bay to stop people from snooping through their mail. The "sundry merchants" appeal to the court to protect correspondence from meddling competitors and nosy customers who freely open and read letters not intended for them. Bemoaning a lack of privacy, the businessmen also complain that many letters were stolen: "…several of us being sensible of the loss of letters; whereby Merchants especially, with their friends and employers in forraigne parts are greatly damnified; many times the letters imposted and throwne upon the Exchange so that who will may take them up." The merchants ask the Court to hire "some meet person to take in and convey Letters" and "to sett the prices on letters." The court selects John Hayward, "the Scrivener," to accept mail and direct it to the intended recipients.

image In England, on 1 April, William Dockwra, a London merchant, establishes a "penny post" service for London and Westminster.

image During the administration of Intendants Talon, Boutroue, Duchesneau, Demeulle, Champigny, and Beauharnois, a courier system is used for government dispatches. While no organized postal service exists to serve the general population, early records show that, in 1693, Pedro Dasilva, a Portuguese citizen living in Québec, is paid for transporting a packet of letters between Montréal and Québec. On 23 December 1705, Intendant Raudot commissions him to convey official dispatches as well as those of private persons within the colony of New France. Dasilva continues this service until his death in 1717 when he is eventually succeeded by his son-in-law, Jean Moran.

image Publication of the book Le secrétaire des demoiselles; contenant des billets galans avec leurs réponses sur divers sujets. Letter writing is a way to combat solitude in a colonial environment, but it is also perceived as an art to be cultivated. The art of letter writing has certain rules that must be respected.

image In June 1711, the British Parliament reorganizes the Post Office then serving England, Scotland, and Ireland. The legislation, An Act for Establishing a General Post Office for All Her Majesty’s Dominions (9 Anne [1710], c.10), calls for uniting the Post Offices of England and Scotland and for the establishment of a General Post Office in Ireland and in the colonies of North America and the West Indies. The new General Post Offices are to have a monopoly on mail handling. Fixed rates for delivery within England, Scotland and Ireland are introduced, and, for the first time, postage rates are established between London and the British Dominions in North America. In North America, mail couriers are exempted from ferry fees.

  In January, Sieur Nicolas Lanoullier is granted the exclusive right to establish a postal system between Montréal and Québec. Lanoullier proposes to open post offices at Québec, Trois-Rivières, and Montréal, and to maintain messageries, or an express service, and a line of post houses under the authority of a maître de poste.

  By 1723, regular communications with France are established and letters are sent free from Québec to La Rochelle, France. Letters to and from Paris are carried via La Rochelle on payment of seven sols. Letters destined elsewhere in New France or to France are delivered by private arrangement. The service is irregular because it depends on the ships calling at Québec and La Rochelle.

image Intendant Hocquart of New France issues an order prohibiting anyone from boarding ships in the harbour at Québec before the mail has been taken ashore.

image Completion of construction of the King’s Road along the St. Lawrence River between Montréal and Québec. Jean-Eustache Lanoullier de Boisclerc, the chief road commissioner of the colony from 1731, gives the final impetus for a project that has progressed very slowly since its initiation in 1706.

image Benjamin Franklin and William Hunter are appointed the first Deputy Postmasters General in North America, effective 10 August. They find the Post Office in the British North American colonies poorly operated, plagued by slow deliveries and deeply in debt. The two new deputies reorganize the service and, by 1761, deliveries improve markedly. For the first time, a surplus is transmitted to the General Post Office in London. William Hunter dies on 12 August 1761 and is succeeded by John Foxcroft as joint Deputy Postmaster General with Benjamin Franklin.

  In April, a notice appears in the Halifax Gazette announcing the establishment of a post office outside the South Gate. This unofficial post office is considered the first post office in Canadian history. An official post office is established the next year.

  New France falls to the British invasion and the colony is under military rule until the Treaty of Paris in 1763. A rudimentary military postal system is established between Québec and Montréal and between Montréal and Albany until the creation of a civil government in 1763. The system accepts private, mainly merchant mail, but is quite haphazard. The service is supposed to operate fortnightly but it is inconsistent because its efficiency and timeliness depend on the vagaries of the weather, the freezing over of Lake Champlain and messengers who travel on foot or by birchbark canoe.