Our most recent meeting of the New York Chapter USPCS took place on December 14, when Roger Brody gave his presentation on the “Stamp Act of 1765 – Instructions for the Distributors.” While Roger is well known for his award-winning exhibits on early 20th century stamps and covers, this presentation showed his deep knowledge of U.S. Colonial history.
Roger first discussed the use of embossed stamps for taxation purposes and then reviewed the Stamp Act of 1765, famously known as one of the causes of the Revolutionary War. Interestingly, this act was in effect for less than a year, before it was repealed. Roger described how these embossed stamped papers of various denominations were distributed to various prominent individuals in North America, Bermuda and the British West Indies. with the plan to collect taxes for England. Due to the violence among the citizenry in reaction to this tax, relatively little of this embossed paper was used, with most of it destroyed or returned to England.
Roger also described a fascinating document found in the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania that provided detailed instructions to those who would collect these taxes. The pamphlet of instructions was the property of John Hughes, the stamp distributor for Pennsylvania. Roger reviewed these instructions and noted that most of these “distributors” decided to forgo the collection of taxes in order to remain alive! Of the 23 distributors appointed, Hughes’ copy of the instructions appears to be the only one known to survive. He also illustrated the only two known examples in private hands used in what is now the United States. One from West Florida, the other from East Florida, territory Britain obtained from Spain at the end of the French and Indian (Nine Year’s) War. Roger’s talk gave all of us a better understanding of this infamous tax act and a good sense of the rarity of this material.