The Penny Post: 170 Years Young


By Erin Blasco, Public Programs Coordinator

The Postal Museum celebrated the 170th anniversary of the Penny Post with a lecture by Dr. Catherine Golden, author of Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing. The Penny Post, which made correspondence within the UK affordable and quick, had a profound effect on Victorian culture.

Dr. Catherine Golden speaking at a podium.
Dr. Catherine Golden

Video on YouTube

On January 10, 1840, those who previously hesitated to write and accept letters because of the expense found the means of communication within their reach. They wrote an extraordinary amount of letters, received numerous daily mail deliveries loaded with letters as well as spam, purchased beautiful writing desks (perfect for squirreling away secret letters), referred to correspondence etiquette guides, and crushed each other to get that last letter into the mail before post offices closed at 6 p.m. The Penny Post created a network that today’s internet users would probably find familiar.

Fittingly, Dr. Golden’s lecture was broadcast live online to viewers around the world. 4,356 viewers tuned in at different points throughout the talk, with many staying engaged from start to finish. Viewers submitted questions via Twitter and e-mail while others posted comments on the museum’s Facebook page. If you missed the talk, watch the YouTube video below.

Future museum programs will be broadcast live online, such as a lecture about the St. Lawrence Seaway commemorative stamps on February 6, 2010.