Just a month prior to the Royal Assent of the Postal Reform Act on August 17, 1839, Rowland Hill was introduced to the firm of Perkins, Bacon & Petch by a mutual friend, Mr. J. E. D. Bethune. That July he called upon the firm to inspect their machinery and also see the various processes the firm employed to produce and safeguard the banknotes currently being printed for a number of banks. Nothing further seems to have come directly from this first meeting.

In planning for the new uniform rate of postage, a competition was arranged by the government, seeking the best suggestions for a Postage Stamp design. Some 2,600 communications (entries) were received by the Treasury, and the original prizes of 200 and 100 Pounds were altered to permit 4 awards of 100 Pounds each. According to a Treasury minute of January 4th, 1840 the awardees were: Messrs. Bogardus and Coffin, Mr. Cheverton, Mr. Cole, and Mr. Whiting.


None of the individual submissions completely satisfied the Treasury, but R. Hill thought "Several of the communications display much ingenuity and contain many useful suggestions; still I am not aware that any plan has been prepared which, however excellent, is, as a whole, fit for adoption. I hope to be able, however by combining the suggestions of many, to propose a plan....". Although Perkins, Bacon & Petch had neither submitted suggestions in the competition, nor applied for the business of the printing, H. Cole (assistant to Mr. Hill) chose to consult the firm on December 2, 1839. As a result of the conversation, Mr. Bacon could later answer the 1852 Select Committee on Postage Label Stamps' question: "Being first rate copper-plate engravers, you came in contact with this business first, when it was first introduced?" with the following reply. "I will tell you how; we were not among any of the 200 or 300 applicants for the prizes, and for the work of the Government. So far from favouritism towards us, we did not even apply, and had never dreamt of having the work to do; but after the whole of the plans had been investigated, and from some cause or other, not being found to answer, then a gentlemen, Mr. Cole, came to us and said, `Why did you not put in for the contract?' I answered, `We cannot put in, the probability is that the Government wants some cheap kind of thing that copper-plate cannot compete with, and your size is too large.' I said, `You want envelopes, and steel plates could not be made at the price that the Government would give.' He said, `Oh you are quite deceived; an inch would do for us.' Then I replied, `We can compete,' and we took a little time, when we promised to give him everything he wanted. We made drawings that were approved of, and from that hour to this, we have done everything that we pledged ourselves to do."

The day following their December 2nd. meeting with Mr. Cole, Perkins, Bacon & Petch proposed supplying the stamps for 8 d. per 1,000 labels, exclusive of paper. The die and plates to be supplied by the firm, and an estimate of 41,600 labels per day, per press at work.

Updated: 30th September, 2017