Scarce 1¢ Eagle Carrier Stamp
In 1851, the U.S. Congress made major changes to postage rates which required new stamps. The price to mail a letter dropped from 5¢ to 3¢ and only 1¢ for newspapers, circulars, and drop letters. New stamps were designed and printed by the Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co Security printers. Six new stamps were issued, followed by the 1¢ Eagle Carrier stamp in late 1851.
In the 1850’s the U.S Post Office was where people got their mail and deposited mail. If you mailed a letter from one town to another, you bought a 3¢ stamp and dropped your letter at the post office. The recipient picked the letter up at their post office. City delivery, at no added cost, started during the civil war and only in large cities.
In 1851 some cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and New Orleans, offered Carrier service for an additional fee, 1¢ or 2¢. When the new stamps were issued in 1851, a special “Carrier” stamp was included. The first Carrier Stamp was strange because it had no denomination or value and resembled #11, the 3¢ Washington. It was quickly replaced by the 1¢ Eagle Carrier stamp in fall of 1851. The new stamp looked different making it easy to distinguish. It’s a different shape and has the 1¢ price printed on the stamp.
The carrier worked for the Postmaster and picked up mail from collection boxes or individuals on his route. He then took the letter to the post office, or delivered to the address, if on his route. The Postmaster charged 1¢ or 2¢ for the service at his discretion.
Most collectors don’t know about Carrier stamps for a few reasons. The Scott Catalogue doesn’t include Carrier stamps with the other 1851 issues. Instead, they’re listed in the Scott Specialized Catalogue like Airmails, Special Delivery, and Postage Due stamps.
The Post Office Department wanted different stamp categories for accounting and tracking. The Carrier service fee was kept separate from postal receipts.
The 1¢ Eagle Carrier stamp is quite beautiful. John Luff, stamp historian and early editor of the Scott Catalog wrote “Picture of an eagle on the branch of a tree, poised for flight, looking to the left, on an oval disk, partly filled with clouds and sunrays. Around this disk is a solid band, separated on the right and left sides by a lined panel, and bearing above the words “U.S.P.O DESPATCH”, and below the words “PRE-PAID ONE CENT” all in white capitals. Above and below the band, and forming corners to the stamp, are laurel and oak leaves, oak to the left and laurel to the right. Color indigo blue. This stamp, unlike all others in the series, is of less height than width.”