1860s Life

Communications


The Mail: Present 1860 - 1866

Now that the mail is carried by the Grand Trunk Railway, delivery is quicker to all major centers. From the railway station to the local Post Offices special couriers ensure delivery either on foot or by horse covered cart or wagon (painted scarlet) depending on the volume of mail which has to be moved. Stage coaches also carry the mail on certain runs. Advertisements in newspapers invite reliable people to tender on a four-year contract to collect and distribute the mail between post offices on a daily or tri-weekly basis.

The post offices are conspicuously identified by a sign in every town. They are usually at a store but can also be found in some private homes. The postmaster is available for business between 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., or there is a box provided on the outside of the building for letters.

There is still confusion over the use of stamps. Some people buy stamps or pay in advance. Then the letter is stamped 'paid' in red. Others forgetting, mail the letter expecting the receiver to pay the price of delivery. The postmaster complains about this old practice as it is inconvenient to stamp the letters (in black) and collect the money from whoever comes in for it. Lists of uncollected mail appears frequently in the newspapers. In either case you have to go to the post Office to Pick up or send off the mail.

The post office is encouraging everyone to buy stamps and prepay. It costs 5 cents for a letter of less than 1/2 oz. but if you collect an unpaid letter you have to pay 7 cents for the same weight. When you purchase a stamp at the wicket you have to put glue provided by the post office on the back of the stamp and then stick it to the letter. It is often easier to pay and get the Postmaster to stamp the letter 'paid' as then no stamp or glue is required on the envelope.

Postage Stamps

Postage stamps of l, 5, 10, 12-1/2, 7 have been issued and are offered for sale to the public.

The Mail System Background 1860 - 1866

In 1850 the management of the Post Office was transferred from the colonial government to the provincial legislatures. By this act a uniform rate of postage was adopted regardless of the distance within the province that the mail had to travel and pre-payment in cash or in the purchase of a stamp became optional. All revenue from postage was hence forth to become part of the provincial revenue and all expenses for the management of the post office (salaries and expenses) were to be covered by the province. The post office was given the exclusive right to convey, receive, collect and deliver all letters.

Following the passage of the act the post office expanded rapidly. Cheap and uniform postal rates encouraged private correspondence and increased business transactions. Even in remote areas rural residents had an opportunity to correspond regularly. Merchants too could maintain contact with their suppliers, order new goods and settle their business more swiftly. New post offices could be established in rural and frontier areas without reference to the colonial government and without a guarantee that expenses could be met from local revenues.

Postage stamps were introduced in 1851 for the first time. Hitherto only hand stamps had been used. The first stamp was known as the 3d Beaver due to its beaver motif. Subsequent issues of stamps carried the head of Queen Victoria. In 1857 stamps became perforated for easy separation but continued to require pasting with glue to the envelope. Initially only about 10% of letters received stamps and their use was generally unpopular. However, during the 1860s their use became an accepted practice so that in 1866 $480,000 worth of stamps were sold in the province of Canada.

In 1855 the money order system was introduced. By this means money could be transferred by means of the mail without the risk of sending cash. Initially 10 was the limit but this was raised to 100 in 1857. By 1863 a regular system of fees for money orders was in place. This post office service became widely used and popular since there was little risk or expense attached to it. Parcel post was established in 1859. The charge was set 1/3 or 25 cents per lb. for a parcel. The maximum weight allowable was 3 lb. All postal charges had to be prepaid.

Street letter boxes were first introduced in 1859 in Toronto. Their use was then extended to Montreal and Quebec City by the Confederation in 1867. Letter boxes attached to the exterior of post office buildings were more widely used so that the mailing of letters could take place outside business hours at most post offices.

Conveying the Mail

In the early years the mail was conveyed exclusively by land, on foot, on a horse or by horse and wagon. It was only in 1840 with the establishment of regular and reliable steamboat service that limited use was made of steamers to convey the mail during the navigation season. A post office conductor took the mail on and off the steamers, making frequent stops between Montreal, Kingston and Toronto. Sorting of mail continued at the post offices on land. During the navigation season this was a vastly superior way of distributing the mail to the most important towns situated along the front.

With the completion of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Great Western in 1856 the situation changed completely. The railways displaced the steamers as conveyers of provincial mail and necessitated a reorganization of the land delivery system to focus on those post offices served by railway connections. The sorting of mail was conducted onboard the trains by postal officials. Special cars or carriage sections were set apart for this purpose.

The Telegraph: Present 1860 - 1866

The presence of the telegraph lines can be identified by the row of telegraph poles with a single wire strung between them. Usually the poles run beside the main roads such as the Montreal or Kingston Road. The railway had set up its own lines along the track so that railway officials can discover trouble on the track more quickly. Now all the lines are merged under the Montreal Telegraph Company.

In the newspapers reference is often made to the telegraph for it is by this means that headline news is sent across the country. Details follow weeks later. Currently (1866) the success of the S.S. Great Eastern in laying a transAtlantic cable is very much in the news. This will tie North America to Europe forever, and will make up for the failure of the cable laid in 1858, on which the messages of Queen Victoria and President Buchanan were first transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean.

Tariff - 25 Cents for 10 Words and 1 Cent for Additional Words.

The Telegraph - Background

The telegraph was a quite revolutionary mode of communication, and one which had a considerable effect on the speed of conveying information. Messages could be transmitted by electrical impulses on wires. Samuel Morse and others developed the code by which the messages could be transmitted in the form of dots and dashes produced a simple key board.

The first telegraph lines were run between Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and London in 1847. Over the next few years most of the major centers including Perth, Ottawa, Peterborough, etc. had been connected into the system which spanned continental North America.

This technological advance in communications allowed messages to be transmitted almost instantaneously between two inland points. No longer was the message dependent on the movement of a messenger or written message carried by the fastest available transportation system of horse, train or steamboats.

This advance was particularly useful in the transmittance of news for newspapers. For example, during the Crimean War correspondents could transmit a blow by blow description of action at the front to their London offices. The same news received by ship at Montreal, Quebec City or New York could be telegraphed across the continent. No longer were the news correspondents dependent on the physical exchange of the newspapers to obtain information about current events in some other region or city.

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