Contents 1506-1759 1760-1840 1841-1867 1868-1899 1900-1919 1920-1950 1951 to the Present A Chronology of Canadian Postal History
1841-1867 - Toward Postal Reform and Self Government

1841 1842 1843 1844 1845 1846 1847 1849 1851 1852 1854 1855 1856 1857 1858 1859 1860 1861 1863 1864 1867

  Official steamboat mail service between Montréal and Québec is established in May.

  Upper and Lower Canada are united as the Province of Canada with the passing of An Act to Re-unite the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and for the Government of Canada, also known as the Act of Union (Grt. Brit. 3 & 4 Vic. [1840], c.35), effective 10 February. For administrative purposes, Upper and Lower Canada are renamed Canada West and Canada East.

  Exchange post offices to the United States are established at Woodstock, New Brunswick, Québec, Stanstead, Montréal, Prescott, Brockville, Kingston, Toronto, Queenston, Sandwich, and Niagara.

image Ignace Bourget, Bishop of Montréal from 1840 to 1876, introduces a system of printed circulars, a new technique of gathering information from the parishes in his bishopric, continuing the tradition of using the postal system established by his predecessor, Jean Jacques Lartique.
  The control of patronage appointments of Postmasters is transferred from Thomas Stayner, the Deputy Postmaster General, to the Governor General of each province.

  Daily mail service during the summer months between Montréal and Kingston is authorized.

  On 5 December, a "money letter" system is introduced in Nova Scotia. This evolves into a registration system on 6 July 1851 and, on 6 July 1852, in New Brunswick.

  Edward S. Freer is appointed Surveyor, or postal inspector, for the western division of Canada (from Kingston upward), effective 19 January.

  John Dewé is appointed Surveyor for the central postal district or division of the Province of Canada, effective 6 July. The territory is so vast that for the purposes of adequate postal administration it has to be carved up into three or more separate divisions.

  John Howe is appointed Deputy Postmaster General for New Brunswick, effective 6 July. Howe is from a prominent Nova Scotia family with longstanding ties to the post office and newspaper world. Both his father and his grandfather ran the Post Office of Nova Scotia.
  Postmasters in Canada are instructed to backstamp all letters immediately upon receipt to determine the actual date received.
  On 6 October, the forwarding system is adopted in Canada. Instead of making up several mails for each office, all mail to the same, or forwarding, office is prepared.

  Up to January, Postmasters receive free franking privileges for their personal mail as part of their emoluments. As many Postmasters are also printers, business people and newspaper publishers, free franking is a most welcome benefit of the office. However, it is frequently abused and, in January, the privilege is withdrawn from all postal officials except the Deputy Postmaster General.

  The system of rating letters according to the number of sheets is changed to rating by weight, effective 5 January.

  The United States Congress establishes uniform postal rates throughout the nation.

  In England, Lord John Russell’s government takes office in July, and immediate attention is given to the matter of the Post Office in the British North American colonies. In a sudden and complete reversal of previous policy, the new Postmaster General, Lord Clanricarde, proposes severing relations between the colonial postal system and the General Post Office of England.

  A committee of representatives from the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick meets in Montréal to discuss the postal system. Prince Edward Island does not participate although invited. In its report, the committee recommends that the Post Office department in the provinces be separate and distinct and controlled by the respective provincial governments. It also recommends one uniform rate of postage for the four provinces. No change is recommended for the rate for newspapers, parliamentary documents or other printed papers. The report also recommends that prepayment on delivery of letters remains optional, and all franking privileges are abolished. The report is approved in principle by New Brunswick in November 1847, Nova Scotia in April 1848, and by the Province of Canada in June 1848. Prince Edward Island agrees in principle in 1850.

  The United States issues its first postage stamp on 1 July.

  France issues its first postage stamp on 1 July.

image An agreement on the Post Office in the colonies is reached by the legislators in the various British North American provinces. All that remains is official approval from the Imperial, or British, Parliament. That approval is given on 28 July 1849 with the passing of An Act for Enabling Colonial Legislatures to Establish Inland Posts (Gt. Brit. 12 & 13 Vic., c.66). The legislation provides, among other things, a reduction in postage charges on all letters passing between places within the provinces or within British North America to a uniform rate of three pence per one-half ounce (14 grams). All charges for some newspapers are removed entirely.

The British Act is followed in the Province of Canada by an Act to Provide for the Transfer of the Management of the Inland Posts to the Provincial Government, and for the Regulation of the Said Department (SC13 & 14 Vic., c.17), which becomes law on 10 August 1850. Similar legislation is passed in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, and control of the Post Office passes to the provincial governments in 1851.

image In preparation for the transfer of the management of the Post Office, James Morris is appointed to the Executive Council of the Baldwin-Lafontaine government on 22 February. Morris proves to be an energetic and able administrator, who, within days of his appointment, visits Washington to negotiate a new postal treaty with the United States, and arranges for Sandford Fleming to design and engrave the first Canadian postage stamp, the Three Penny Beaver. On 5 April, the management of the Post Office is formally transferred to the Province of Canada, and Morris is appointed the first Postmaster General.

Thomas Allen Stayner resigns as Deputy Postmaster General and is succeeded by William Henry Griffin.

image The first Canadian stamp, the Three Penny Beaver, is designed by Sir Sandford Fleming. It is one of the world’s earliest examples of a pictorial stamp, as opposed to the customary portrait of the reigning monarch, a statesman, geometric design, or coat-of-arms. Postage stamps are issued in the Province of Canada on 23 April, in Nova Scotia on 1 September, and in New Brunswick on 5 September. In the Province of Canada, the first stamps are prepared on unperforated sheets to be cut by Postmasters. In 1857, the Post Office department takes steps to obtain perforated sheets of postage stamps to facilitate the separation of a single stamp, and, in 1858, the first perforated stamp, the half-penny rose, is issued.

  An organized inland postal system for the colony of Newfoundland is established.

  In July, Nova Scotia introduces a Registration System whereby a receipt is given to the sender of a registered letter. The letter is also signed for upon receipt by the addressee. A similar system follows in New Brunswick in 1852.

  The "drop letter" system is established in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A letter mailed within the city for delivery within the same boundaries is liable to a charge of one penny (1d) per one-half ounce. On 1 March 1854, the penny drop-letter rate is extended throughout Nova Scotia.

  Free home letter carrier delivery service exists in Halifax and, from 1854, in all other post towns in Nova Scotia.

image Sandford Fleming designs the first three postage stamps of the Province of Canada in 1851. The Six-Pence Consort, issued 17 May 1851, is the second in this first series.

image In July, Nova Scotia is given control of its Post Office and releases its first stamps on July 26. New Brunswick’s first stamps go on sale on September 5.

  Newfoundland takes over the management of its Post Office on April 5, 1852.

  The first Canadian government mail steamer contract is signed. The contract calls for fortnightly service to Québec in summer and monthly service to Portland, Maine, in winter.

  "For the better accommodation of such portions of the Cities of Québec, Montréal, and Toronto, as lie more or less remote from the Post Office in each City respectively, Receiving Offices have been established in each City, at convenient points from whence letters are taken at certain stated hours, and conveyed, without charge, to the City Post Office, by Carriers employed by the Department." (Annual Report 1851-52, p. 9.).

image Installation of the first mail cars aboard trains. The railway mail service is finally abandoned in 1971.

  Postage rates on newspapers are abolished but are reinstated in 1859.

  Free franking is extended to the Legislature and government departments of the Province of Canada.

image On 1 May, a system of Registered Mail is introduced in the Province of Canada.

  The Money Order Branch of the Post Office (Province of Canada), authorized in 1854, commences operation on 1 February.

  In October, a registration system for letters passing between Canada and the United States is applied, as outlined in an agreement with the U.S. Post Office.

  The Grand Trunk Railway between Brockville and Toronto is completed and, in 1857, delivery of mail between Québec and Windsor is reduced to 49 hours from 10½ days in 1853.

image Newfoundland issues its first postage stamps on 1 January.

  On 1 August, a half-penny stamp is introduced as the medium for prepaid transient newspapers not exceeding three ounces. A transient newspaper is a newspaper posted by individuals other than the publisher.

  W. T. Ballou’s Pioneer Fraser River Express is established in British Columbia in June. This is the first mainland express service the people could rely on for their mail.

  Wells Fargo & Co. begins an express service in July from San Francisco and the East to Victoria, British Columbia. The company enjoys a virtual monopoly on the shipment of gold and mail. At the time, the lower Fraser Valley is experiencing a gold rush. As many as 25 000 men come and leave the area in this year alone.

  In April, the principle of prepayment is applied by the British Post Office to correspondence between the United Kingdom and the colonies, including the Province of Canada. Letters between the Province of Canada and the United Kingdom, when posted unpaid, are liable to a fine of six pence (6d) Sterling on delivery in addition to the ordinary postage rate.

image Parcel post service is introduced in January, beginning with the Province of Canada, and is later extended to parcels passing between Canada and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. In 1865, the uniform rate for parcels throughout British North America is 25 cents per pound (.45 kg).

  Street boxes for the day and night reception of letters are first introduced in Toronto. In 1864, letterboxes are erected in the city of Halifax and six "pillar boxes" are in use on the principal thoroughfare of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for the reception and delivery of letters. Street letterboxes are introduced to Montréal for the reception of letters in 1865.

  The first decimal postage stamps are issued on 1 July. With the conversion to the decimal system, the letter rate becomes five cents per one-half ounce (14 grams), instead of three pence. The same designs as are used for the pence issues are used for decimal stamps but the decimal stamps are denominated in cents. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia choose completely new designs and a new printer, the American Bank Note Company, for their decimal stamps. New Brunswick’s stamps are put on sale in June and July 1860, while Nova Scotia’s are not offered to the public until October 1860. Newfoundland changes to decimal postage stamps in January 1865. Separate decimal issues are prepared for Vancouver Island (issued 19 September 1865) and British Columbia
(issued 1 November 1865).

  To encourage the habit of paying for postage before sending a letter, the Province of Canada introduces pre-stamped envelopes known as "Nesbitts" after their American printer-inventor. These envelopes bear medallion-shaped imprints of the values of five and ten cents, respectively.

  Arrangements are made with Hugh Allan, a Montréal financier and shipowner, for his steamers to transport mail between Europe and Canada. Mail clerks accompany the mails and sort the letters on board. Six marine mail clerks are appointed on a recommendation from the Postmaster General. In 1887, correspondence sorting by marine mail officers aboard mail steamers between the Province of Canada and the United Kingdom is discontinued and the ocean mail service component of the Post Office is disbanded. Thereafter, mail is prepared before it goes aboard ship.
  British Columbia and Vancouver Island issue their first postage stamps on 30 July. The early history of the post is tied to the Hudson’s Bay Company, the United States and many express companies that plied their services on the West coast. The first stamp is a joint issue of the two distinct colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia and bears the names of both colonies. It is issued in a denomination of two-and-one-half pence and is printed by the London firm of Thomas de la Rue and Company. They supply 981 sheets of 240 subjects, perforated 14, at a cost of £104. The stamps, shipped from London on 29 December 1859, are received in the colony some time in February or March 1860 and are put on sale shortly thereafter.

  Prince Edward Island issues its first postage stamps on 1 January and issues them until it joins Confederation in 1871. Prince Edward Island is the only British North American colony that does not issue stamps in pence and shillings. It is highly likely that some kind of unofficial postal system existed during the regime of the French when the island was named Saint Jean. Historical documents note the appointment of a Postmaster, Captain William Allanby in 1775, but nothing is known of his tenure. The first post office was established when James Robertson was appointed Postmaster for the whole colony in 1787. In 1799, the island’s name was changed to Prince Edward Island in honour of Queen Victoria’s father, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent. Beginning in 1840, iceboats are used to carry the mail across the straits to the mainland; summer service is in the hands of small contractors until 1832 when the Cunard Steamship Company takes over.

image John Dewé, Post Office Inspector for the Province of Canada, compiles the first Canadian Postal Guide containing the chief regulations of the Post Office. Issued in January, it replaces post office lists that contain much less information. Later, the Guide becomes a good source of information for postal historians and philatelists.

  A form of letter carrier delivery service (penny delivery) is established at St. John’s, Newfoundland.

  In the United States, railway mail service is established.

  Regular conveyance of the mail by steamboats on Lake Huron and Lake Superior is established. On Lake Huron, the trips between Collingwood and Sault Ste. Marie are weekly. On Lake Superior between Sault Ste. Marie and Fort William, the trips are every fortnight.

image On 1 July, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada form the Dominion of Canada. Postal systems from Halifax to Fort William on Lake Superior are amalgamated. As of 1 July, there are 2333 post offices in Ontario and Quebec, 85 post offices and 545 way offices in Nova Scotia, and 46 post offices and 392 way offices in New Brunswick.