William Bennet Perot, Postmaster of Hamilton from 1818 to 1862, spent much of his time his garden, which is now the Queen Elisabeth Park in Hamilton. When he was required in his post office, his friend Mr. James Bell Heyl, the American proprietor of the Apothecaries Hall next door to the post office, would call Mr. Perot from the garden. Customers would then hand him their letter together with one penny for the postage.

For the convenience of others who wished to mail their letters after closing hours, Mr.Perot also provided a box outside the post office where people could leave their letters and pennies. Unfortunately, however, there were often more letters than pennies in the box, which was particularly annoying as those pennies were supposed to augment Mr. Perot’s salary!

To solve the problem, Mr. Heyl suggested that his friend issue adhesive labels with a distinctive mark, such as his postmark. The idea was that letters could still be prepaid with cash during the day, however, anyone wishing to mail letters later, would buy stamps ahead of time and any unstamped letters found in the box would thereafter be treated as unpaid mail.

To produce his ‘stamps’, Mr. Perot removed the date plugs from his postmark, leaving only HAMILTON BERMUDA and the year date. He then struck this postmark several times on a sheet of paper, wrote ‘One Penny’ above the year, signed each stamp below the year date and gummed the back of the paper. Little did he know that he was creating some of the greatest philatelic rarities in the world.

It is uncertain when Mr. Perot made his first stamps, but it was probably not before 1848. The first stamps he made were struck in black ink, however, around June 1849 he changed the colour to red.

For nearly 50 years the Perot stamps were unknown, the first three examples being discovered in 1897 by Mr. Louis Mowbray of St. George’s. He sent one, struck in red and dated 1854, to a London stamp dealer who did not consider it a proper stamp because it was not cancelled. Shortly after that Mr. Mowbray sold one of his stamps for £20. In 1898 another example was discovered, dated 1849 and struck in black. This example changed hands twelve years later for £150.

By 1957 a Perot stamp fetched £1,500 and more recently it is not unusual for one to change hands for over $100,000. Today the catalogue value of the eleven known examples, three of which are in the Royal Collection, ranges up to £275,000.

An early official letter sent in 1857 from Hamilton to St. George’s, shows
William Perot’s famous postmark.
The Perot Post Office on Queen Street in Hamilton in the mid-1800’s.

Rambling Notes of a Bermuda Philatelist published in December 2023 and is available at bookstores island-wide.