Contents 1506-1759 1760-1840 1841-1867 1868-1899 1900-1919 1920-1950 1951 to the Present A Chronology of Canadian Postal History
1760-1840 - Planting the Imperial Postal System in British North America

1760 1763 1765 1774 1775 1783 1784 1785 1787 1788 1789 1791 1792 1798 1799 1803 1805 1811 1812 1816 1817 1820 1826 1827 1831 1833 1834 1835 1836 1838 1839 1840

  Sir Jeffery Amherst, Commander-in-Chief of the British forces, issues new commissions to the maîtres de poste between Québec and Montréal, and establishes the rate at which they should be paid for their services.

  Following the Treaty of Paris of 1763, in which Canada is ceded to Great Britain, Benjamin Franklin and John Foxcroft, joint Deputy Postmasters General, appoint Hugh Finlay the first Postmaster at Québec on 10 June. Arrangements are also made for the establishment of postal service between Québec, Trois-Rivières and Montréal and between those cities and New York.

  The earliest known postmarked cover is dated 26 August and is sent by Aaron Hart, the Postmaster at Trois Rivières, to a merchant in Montréal.

image The Post Office establishes a regular postal courier service between Québec, Montréal and New York. This route becomes known as the New York Route. The courier operates twice a month in summer and monthly in winter from 1764 at least. Service is increased to once a week year-round in 1771.

  One of the first mail vehicles—a calèche—is used in British North America and hails an era of postal service during the British regime, 1765-1827.

  The British Post Office Act of 1710 is amended (5 Geo. III, [1765], c.25) to provide for changes in postal rates in British North America. Henceforth, routes will be measured and the new rates will be determined by the distance and the number of sheets of paper rather than by a fixed flat fee for delivery between two points. In addition, cargo on vessels entering any port in the British colonies may not be removed until all mail matter has been removed and delivered to the local Postmaster at that port.

  On 31 January, Benjamin Franklin is dismissed as Deputy Postmaster General because of his writings and other activities associated with the American Revolution. Hugh Finlay is appointed in his place to co-manage, with John Foxcroft, postal affairs in British North America.

  Beginning in January, a weekly mail service is established between Québec and New York via Montréal and Lake George.

  A Post Office is established at Saint John, New Brunswick, and a service is established between Saint John and Halifax, Nova Scotia.

  In England, experiments are undertaken for delivering mail between London and Bristol. A system of light, horse-drawn vehicles is used on designated post roads. The system permits speedy delivery, is secure against threats of highway robbery, and enables vehicles to transport people and the mail at the same time.

  During the American Revolution, postal service between the new British colonies and the 13 colonies to the south is at first disrupted and finally severed. Recognition of American Independence by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783 does not bring about an immediate resumption of postal ties. Hugh Finlay attempts to re-establish former postal routes, and finds that while the United States is prepared to permit mail from Canada to pass over its territory to New York, compensation will be taken in the form of toll charges. The Montréal/Albany/New York route is a natural postal corridor and couriers can make the journey in about 10 days. However, the introduction of mail toll charges by the new United States postal service causes Finlay and others in the British colonies to search for an alternative route. They decide on a route from Québec to Halifax via Lake Temiscouata, a distance of about 827 km (627 miles). The first trip, commencing 11 January, is undertaken by Pierre Durand. He arrives in Halifax on 29 February and returns to Québec on 24 April. The round trip takes 105 days and, aside from being a very long and dangerous journey, it is not a financial success, costing about £120 and realizing only £75 in revenue.

  Hugh Finlay is appointed Deputy Postmaster General of the Province of Canada in North America on 7 July.

  A Post Office is established in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

  A mail service is established between Saint John and Fredericton, New Brunswick.

  Hugh Finlay is directed to establish a monthly service from Québec to Fredericton, New Brunswick.

  In September, the first Post Office in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, is established and a Postmaster is appointed.

image The first official overland mail route between Halifax and Québec is established, and is commonly known as the Témiscouta route. This courier service operates every two weeks in the summer and monthly in winter.

  Following a trip through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Hugh Finlay, at the request of Lord Dorchester, Governor of Quebec, reports on the state of the roads and postal service between Québec and Halifax. He discovers that the principal impediment to an efficient service lies in the divided responsibilities between the provinces for the maintenance of the postal service. The system in one province is independent of the other; hence Finlay finds that the Deputy Postmasters General for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia argue constantly over the issue of responsibility for the deficiencies in the postal service. He concludes that a successful postal service has to be directed by one person, and that correspondence between the provinces is not of sufficient volume to meet expenses. Unless frequent mails are exchanged at Halifax, the service between Halifax and Québec will have to be discontinued. Dorchester accepts Finlay’s proposals and forwards them to England. On 5 April 1788, Finlay is rewarded with a new commission appointing him Deputy Postmaster General of the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and, beginning in March 1788, the General Post Office arranges for packet boats running between Falmouth, England, and New York to stop at Halifax.

  In the years immediately following the American Revolution, British North America experiences an influx of disbanded soldiers and others loyal and sympathetic to the British cause. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the eastern townships of what is shortly to become Lower Canada, the eastern counties of the future Upper Canada along the St. Lawrence River, and the Niagara area are quickly settled. The population soon petitions for postal services in and to their areas. The Québec Gazette reports that "a post will be dispatched every four weeks" to post offices opened along the St. Lawrence River at "La Chine, Cedars, Coteau du Lac, Charlottenburg, Cornwall, New Johnstown, Lancaster, Oznaburg, Matilda, Williamsburg, Edwardsburg, Oswegatché, Augusta, Elizabethtown, and Kingstown." While regular service ends at Kingston, occasional mail trips are made to Niagara, Detroit and Michilimackinac.

image A Montréal lawyer, Arthur Davidson, writes to his London tailor, John Chalmers, asking that he cancel Davidson’s subscription to a London newspaper that has been sent to him previously through the Post Office by the packet mail via Halifax or New York, depending on the season. Instead, he hopes that Chalmers will arrange to have a paper sent to him from time to time via the regular, commercial shipping to Quebec. His action typifies widespread mail customs and conventions of the time.

  By the Constitutional Act of 1791 of the British Parliament (31 Geo.III [1791], c.31), the Province of Quebec is divided into Upper Canada and Lower Canada. This division continues until 1841, when the Union Act unites the two provinces as the Province of Canada.

  On 17 March, Timothy Pickering, Postmaster General of the United States, proposes to Hugh Finlay the terms for the first postal convention between the Canadas and the United States. This convention is also recognized as the first attempt to facilitate the international handling of mail whereby one country accepts the prepaid correspondence of another. By the terms of the convention, mail from Great Britain destined for the colonies will be routed through New York City to Burlington, Vermont, and then on to Montréal. Conversely, mail from colonies destined for Great Britain is shipped from New York City. The proposal is accepted and the agreement continues until 1794. Although its terms remain in force during subsequent years there is no immediate new agreement.

British mail received at New York for the Canadas is sent in sealed bags by the New York Postmaster to Burlington, Vermont, where it is met by the Canadian courier who brings it to Montréal. Service is every 14 days.

image A stagecoach serves Newark (Niagara) and Chippawa three times a week. The coach transports not only passengers but mail as well.

image Hugh Finlay is dismissed from the Post Office on 18 October for accounting irregularities and indebtedness. He is immediately replaced by George Heriot as "Deputy Postmaster General for the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in North America and other dependencies." Heriot assumes office in April 1800. Frustrated by inflexible postal regulations, Heriot improves and expands service to the isolated and rapidly expanding southwestern section of Upper Canada. Beginning in December 1800, Heriot increases winter service to Niagara from one delivery during the entire season to one delivery per month; additional couriers are placed on the Montréal-Kingston route.

image The Howe family oversees the development of the postal system in the Maritimes for many years. On 5 July 1803, John Howe succeeds John Brittain as Deputy Postmaster General for Nova Scotia. His jurisdiction at the time is not only the province of Nova Scotia, but also New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. He later leaves this office in 1818 in favour of his son, John Howe Jr., who fills it until 1843.

  The first Post Office in Newfoundland is established at St. John’s with Simon Solomon as the first Postmaster. The British General Post Office does not include Newfoundland in the British postal system, but officials agree informally to forward to St. John’s all letters addressed to Newfoundland, by the first outgoing vessels.

  Postal service to Upper Canada is such that "a courier between Montréal and Kingston, U.C., is dispatched once a fortnight throughout the year" and "a courier between Kingston and York [Toronto] is dispatched once a fortnight during the close of the navigation on Lake Ontario."

  In November, arrangements are completed for mail service every fortnight between Fredericton, New Brunswick, and Québec.

  The mail moves between Québec and Montréal every day except Sunday; between Québec and Halifax, fortnightly; Montréal and Kingston, twice weekly; Kingston and York, once a week; York and Niagara, once a week; and, York, Sandwich and Amherstburgh, fortnightly.

  The government of Prince Edward Island arranges for a schooner to run between Charlottetown and Pictou, Nova Scotia.

  George Heriot resigns as Deputy Postmaster General for Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, and is succeeded by Daniel Sutherland as Deputy Postmaster on 25 April.

  The mails run between Québec and Montréal every weekday except Sunday and Friday; between Québec and Halifax once a fortnight; between Québec and Upper Canada twice a week; between Kingston and York once a week; between York and Niagara once a week; between York and Amherstburgh once a fortnight; and, between Québec and the United States once a week.

  There are 23 offices in Lower Canada, 19 offices in Upper Canada; 6 in Nova Scotia, 3 in New Brunswick, and 1 in Prince Edward Island.

  The Governor, Sir Thomas Cochrane, appeals to the Postmaster General in London to establish a regular post office at St. John’s, Newfoundland.

image Daniel Sutherland resigns on 19 November and is replaced by his son-in-law, Thomas Allen Stayner, on 5 April 1828.

  Mail service between Montréal and Niagara, known as the Grand Route, increases to five times a week, effective 6 January.

  In England, the Liverpool-Manchester railway line is the first to carry mail.

image The Royal William crosses the Atlantic and becomes the first ocean-going steamship bearing the British Ensign to land at an American port.

image An Act of the British Parliament (4 Wm. IV, c.7) stipulates that surplus revenue will no longer be sent to London but is to be divided among the provinces.

  Edwin James King is appointed the first accountant of the Post Office in the Canadas. He resides in Québec.

image Two postal officials, Surveyors (later called Inspectors), are appointed: William Henry Griffin (later to become Deputy Postmaster General) for Lower Canada, and Charles Berczy (later Postmaster for Toronto) for Upper Canada. The population of Upper and Lower Canada is simply too large for a single surveyor.

  When Canada’s first railway line, the Champlain and St. Lawrence, is inaugurated on 21 July, the Montréal Morning Courier refers to it as a "new and admirable mode of communication." The inaugural trip between La Prairie on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River opposite Montréal and St. John [Saint-Jean] takes about an hour to cover a distance of about 23 km (14.5 miles). The trip is a momentous occasion in Canadian transportation annals for it heralds a new era in immigration, agriculture and communication, and especially postal service.

One of the first advantages of the railway for postal service is that the mail is dispatched more quickly. Within a week of the opening, it is announced that the time to convey mail between New York and Montréal has been reduced by about five hours to 64 hours.

  In the United States, Congress declares that railway lines are postal routes and wherever possible or necessary must carry the mail.

  In Lord Durham’s famous report, Report of the Affairs of British North America, he writes that "the control and revenue of the Post Office should be given up to the Colony" and that "the Post Office is at the present moment under the management of the same Imperial establishment. If, in compliance with the reasonable demands of the Colonies, the regulation of a matter so entirely of internal concern and the revenue derived from it, were placed under the control of the provincial legislatures, it would still be advisable that the management of the Post Office throughout the whole of British North America should be conducted by one general establishment."

image In England, Rowland Hill introduces postal reforms. The most significant change is that the cost of postage will be calculated on basis of weight only. A uniform rate of postage will apply to the entire country. Postage stamps are introduced.

  In England, the world’s first government-stamped envelope and letter sheet are introduced.

  On 4 July, the first of Samuel Cunard’s new steamers, Britannia, sails from Liverpool and arrives at Halifax on 17 July. In 1839, Cunard had signed a contract for the first steam packet service between Britain and North America. Cunard’s company, the British and North American Royal Mail Steamship Company, later to become the Cunard Line, provides a service between Liverpool and Halifax and then to Boston. Although the Britannia was the first steamer to carry mail under contract, the first steamer to convey mail across the Atlantic was the Quebec-built Royal William in 1833.

  Newfoundland is officially incorporated into the British Imperial postal system.

image The postal reform of 1840 leads to the appearance of stamp boxes for storing the postage stamps now necessary for the posting of mail.