Program at Bristol Historical Society will delve into city's postal history

Published on Friday, 22 October 2021 13:28


BRISTOL – Recently there has been a movement to preserve postal history beyond just stamp collecting, says Steve Vastola, who will present a program on this subject Oct. 28 at the Bristol Historical Society.

Vastola’s program, “Some Postal History of Bristol, CT,” will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at the Bristol Historical Society at 98 Summer St. It will provide an overview of postal history from the mid-1800s until the present day.

Vastola compared preserving only a stamp, without the envelopes or postal cancelation rubber stamps, to if someone dug up a piece of pottery and sold it to a collector who kept it on their shelf without knowing where it came from. That context, she said, would then be lost.

“That is essentially what happened during the first century of stamp collection,” Vastola said. “There is now a newfound focus on preserving envelops and postal cancelation stamps. It has become a much bigger part of the stamp collecting hobby now. People didn’t understand the value of these items before.”

Vastola said postage stamps weren’t used until 1847. He will be bringing “stamp-less covers” from this period to the discussion for people to examine.

After postage stamps were introduced, Vastola said, steps were taken to ensure the stamps could not be re-used. He will be bringing some examples of cancelation stamps for people to see as well.

“They often carved intricate geometric patterns in corks,” he said. “These were called ‘fancy cancels.’ People try to collect as many of them as they can find. Because corks eventually wear out, people later started carving cancelation stamps using hard wood. Later, they started to standardize them using machine cancelations.”

Bristol and Forestville, Vastola said, at one point each had their own postal branch with their own cancelation stamps.

Another trend Vastola will cover is advertisements used on envelopes.

“People started to realize that the extra space is good for things like advertising their business,” he said. “So, they started to put advertisements on left side of the envelope.”

Postcards, Vastola said, were also used to collect autographs. Vastola will bring a postcard signed by Nathan L. Birge, the owner of a local knitwear mill on Pond Street, N. L. Birge & Sons Company. Birge Pond is named after him.

Vastola will also be bringing postcards sent as correspondence with soldiers who served during World War II to the program.

Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Friday, 22 October 2021 13:28. Updated: Friday, 22 October 2021 13:31.