Record

CodeNA7309
Dates1782-1853
Person NameChalmers; James (1782-1853); Arbroath
SurnameChalmers
ForenamesJames
EpithetArbroath
ActivityJames Chalmers was the second son of a family of hand loom weavers in Arbroath. His father also had a business in Dundee, in Castle Street, selling books and writing materials and doing book binding. Initially William, the eldest son, ran the book business, but when he died, James took over the shop. He put books out on hire and began what must have been one of the first circulating libraries.James loved to invent and experiment and began to focus on improving the mail. The post was very expensive. James worked out a way for transport of mail from London to Edinburgh to be cut down by one day. In August 1834, after twelve years of research into how the mail could be improved, James invented the postage stamp as a means of proving that postage costs had been paid, the original of what is used today all over the world. A public competition for ideas for a Penny Post was proposed by the Treasury in London. The prize was £200. James' scheme was the favourite as the public liked buying a black stamp for a penny or a different-coloured one for twopence. Rowland Hill put forward the Penny Postage Bill and let people think the invention of the postage stamp had been his idea. Although Dundee honoured him, James Chalmers never received the prize money or general public recognition for his ideas.
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