Origin of the Penny Post
...This story is always told concerning the origin of the penny post in England.
Coleridge, the English poet, was one day walking through the Lake District in the north,
when he saw the postman deliver a letter to a poor woman at her cottage door. The woman
turned it over and examined it, and then returned it, saying she could not afford to pay
the postage, which was one shilling. Hearing that the letter was from her brother,
Coleridge insisted on paying the postage, in spite of evident unwillingness on the part
of the woman. As soon as the postman had ridden off, she showed Coleridge how his money
had been wasted. The sheet inside the envelope was blank. They had agreed together, that
as long as all went well with him, he should send a blank sheet once a quarter, and thus
she had tidings without the expense of postage.
Coleridge told this story to an official in the Post Office, named Rowland Hill. It struck
him at once that something must be wrong in a system, which drove a brother and sister to
cheat, in order to hear of one another. He at once worked out a scheme of reform. London
had had a penny post for years. Could this be extended to the country? Rowland Hill was
laughed at. "Of all the wild and extravagant schemes I have ever heard of, this is the
wildest and most extravagant," cried the Postmaster-General, while others denounced the
idea as "nonsense."
Rowland Hill fought on, and at last made things possible by the introduction of a cheap
stamp, since adopted throughout the civilised world. To him also thanks are due, for the
introduction of the book-post and money orders, none of which were possible, till after
the queen's accession...
Extract from : The Story of the World by M.B. Synge 1905.