Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Certified Mail

Certified Mail service was introduced by the United States Postal Service in 1955, and by Canada Post almost twenty years later in 1973. This article describes the systems introduced by both countries.

United States Certified Mail : 1955

Certified Mail was a proof-of-mailing service for first class mail, where the sender could receive a receipt of mailing at the time of posting.  If the sender wanted proof-of-delivery, a Return Receipt could be purchased for an additional fee. The service was available at less cost than registered mail. Certified mail service is still offered by the United States Postal Service.

The original Certified Mail form ( POD Form 3800 April 1955)  consisted of a numbered "Receipt for Certified Mail" to which was attached a gummed stub with the same number as on the receipt.

Receipt for Certified Mail + gummed stub (detached from right side of form)

Senders were provided the following instructions on the back of the receipt:
1. Stick postage stamps to your letter to pay:
  • 15-cent certified mail fee
  • First-class of air mail postage
  • Either return receipt fee (optional)
  • Special-delivery fee (optional)
2. If you want this receipt postmarled, stick the gummed stub on the address side leaving the receipt attached, and present the letter to a postal employee.

3. If you do not want this receipt postmarked, stick the gummed stub on the address side of the letter, detach and retain the receipt, and mail the letter.

4. If you want a return receipt, write the certified-mail number and your name and address on a return receipt card and attach it to the back of the letter.

5. Save this receipt and present it if you make an inquiry.

Certified Mail Stamp

 On June 6, 1955, the Postal Service issued a 15-cent Certified Mail stamp. George B. Sloan wrote the following in his July 2, 1955 Stamps column:
I think we may well assume that the recent 15c Certified Mail stamp was an issue never intended for permanency and that within a comparatively short time, perhaps a year or so, it will be discontinued as unnecessary. It was intended only to promote public participation in a new service. ...use of the stamp is not mandatory and many Certified letters now in the mail are franked with ordinary postage in payment of the special fee.
Sloan was correct. The 1955 stamp was the only certified mail stamp issued.

First Day Cover

Commercial Certified Mail

Teaneck, N.J., to New York, July 18, 1955
3c first class surface letter rate + 15c Certified Mail fee

New York to Hartford, May 22,1956
6c first class air mail letter rate + 15c Certified Mail Fee

Return Receipt Requested

Columbus, April 16, 1956
6c letter rate (2 oz.) + 15c Certified Mail Fee + 7c Return Receipt Request fee

Canada Certified Mail : 1973

Canada Post introduced its version of certified mail in 1973, differing from the U.S. service in that it was a proof-of-delivery service. U.S. certified mail was a proof-of- mailing service with the option of paying an additional Return Receipt fee.

Certified Mail Kits

Customers wishing the service purchased kits which consisted of a three part form:

1. The Canada Post record card which was kept on file for 18 months
2. The Proof-of-Delivery card which was mailed to the sender
3. The addressee's copy.

Two kinds of kits were available. The "letter kit" included an envelope for correspondence while the "multipurpose kit" consisted of a label which could be attached to oversized packages or parcels. When first introduced, the certified mail fee was 40 cents.

Letter Kit

Letter kit enclosure
40 cent value

 Postage was to be paid on the Certified Mail envelope
Kapuskasing, 10 cents meter, January 7, 1977

Multipurpose Kit

Proof of Delivery Card

Upon receipt of the Certified Mail, the addressee signed the proof of delivery card, a copy of which was kept in Post Office records for 18 months. The card was mailed to the sender, providing proof-of-delivery.

 Kapuskasing, November 10, 1973

Post-1973 Kits

The 1973 forms showed the value, 40 cents. Post-1973 forms did not show the value. Rates for Certified Mail service increased over time.

Letter Kit

No value on the form

 Large envelope (266 x 140 mm) introduced in 1977
Belleville, October 10, 1978, 14 cents letter rate
The Certified Mail fee was 75 cents at this time

Multi-Purpose Kit

The Certified Mail label below was  probably affixed to a package mailed in 1980.I am assuming that the enclosed form did not have a value.

 L'Annonciation, P.Q. to Quebec City, May 8, 1980
Certified Mail Fee for kit + 85 cents postage

1987 Certified Mail Cover

Hamilton, April 25, 1987

1991 Contract Certified Issue

 St. Laurent to Montreal, March 31, 1993

The Certified Mail envelope has "Paid Paye" on the upper right side.

A self-adhesive AR (Acknowledgment of Receipt) label with matching red serial number at the upper left of the envelope:

The AR label was not removed and affixed to the AR card because the letter was returned to the sender.

Certified Mail service is no longer provided by Canada Post.