Introduction: Cuba’s Postal History
The Island of Cuba, from an 1855
map published by J.H. Colton & Co., New York.
In the days before postage stamps were invented, people
could send their letters either prepaid or unpaid. Most
sent their letters unpaid, leaving it up to the recipient
to pay the postage. Either way, generally, one had to
take his letter to the post office for mailing. There
were no mail collection boxes in most towns and villages.
If prepaid, the post office clerk determined the rate
of postage by weight and distance, and one paid him across
the counter. The clerk marked the letter “Paid”
or “Franco,” indicating prepayment, applied
his town marking or datestamp and put it in the appropriate
mail bag for its journey.
If unpaid, upon receipt, the clerk applied his town marking
or datestamp and placed it in its appropriate mail bag.
The letter would be rated for postage charges by a clerk
in the receiving post office. When the addressee called
at the receiving post office for his mail, he paid the
postage due marked on the front of the letter.
This system began to change when Great Britain first
issued postage stamps on May 1, 1840. Now people had an
opportunity to prepay their postage with stamps. In those
cities and towns with mail collection boxes, they could
simply drop their stamped letters into a convenient mailbox,
and would not have to travel to the post office to post
a prepaid letter. Spain issued its first postage stamps
on January 1, 1850. In Cuba, the first postage stamps
were placed on sale on April 24, 1855.