Stamp from the Stamp Act of 1765

  • -thumbnail 1
  • -thumbnail 2
Scott Catalogue Great Britain RM31a
In 1765, the British Parliament passed An Act for Granting and Applying Certain Stamp Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, commonly called "The Stamp Act of 1765." Parliament had imposed taxes through the use of embossed revenue stamps, also known as impressed duty stamps, in Britain since 1694. In addition, between 1755 and 1757, Massachusetts colony instituted a tax using embossed revenues, while New York colony imposed a similar tax between 1757 and 1760. Despite the history of taxation in the colonies, the Stamp Act generated intense opposition, in part because the taxes were imposed at higher rates in the colonies than in England. The Stamp Act required that certain court documents, contracts, and property transfers be executed on stamped paper or they would be subject to penalties and would not be enforceable.
The embossed revenue stamp could be impressed upon ordinary paper; however, it was not possible to impress the stamp on vellum. Instead, for documents prepared on vellum, the revenue stamp was impressed upon either beige or dark blue paper, which had been glued and stapled to the vellum. The back of the staple was covered with a cypher bearing the Coat of Arms of George III, probably to prevent reuse of the embossed stamp. These cyphers are thought to be the inspiration for the first adhesive postage stamps.
The 2-shilling 6-pence stamp paid the tax on a variety of contracts, leases, conveyances, protests, and bills of sale, as well as conveyances of real property of more than two hundred acres but not more than 320 acres. The 2-shilling 6- pence stamp is the most common of all of the Stamp Act revenues. There are approximately forty to fifty stamps recorded. However, all but eleven or twelve are off document. Most of the off-document examples are unused stamps on colored paper stapled to vellum. It is speculated that these may be remainders that were discovered many years after repeal of the tax.
This example is one of forty-two copies known, and one of only eleven on blue-grey paper. The remaining copies are on blue, beige, or white paper.
The stamp pictured here is in the Smithsonian National Postal Museum's permanent collection. John A. Brill of Philadelphia donated it to the National Philatelic Collection on May 25, 1889. According to the donor, the stamp was from the estate of "the Hon. Welbore Ellis, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue for Great Britain," by whom he likely meant Welbore Ellis Agar, an art collector and a commissioner of His Majesty's Customs (1776 -1805).
Koeppel, Adolph. The Stamps that Caused the American Revolution. Manhasset, New York: Town of North Hempstead American Revolution Bicentennial Committee, 1976.
See more items in
National Postal Museum Collection
Object number
Colonial Era (1607-1776)
U.S. Stamps
blue-grey paper; vellum; ink; metal
Height x Width: 1 13/16 × 1 3/4 in. (4.6 × 4.45 cm)
National Postal Museum
Postage Stamps