The Pioneering Work of Charles Whiting

Charles Whiting was the well-known printer of Beaufort House in the Savoy, London and was an early and noted advocate for Rowland Hill’s campaign for postal reform. Whiting in fact made several submissions to the Treasury Competition of 1839, using what was known as the Congreve Process, a complex method of interlocking plates that was an exceptional defence against forgery.

Whiting, having married the widow of Sir William Congreve, the original inventor, controlled the patents, and proposed this method for producing envelopes and adhesives for the prepayment of postage.

His initial proposals, made as early as 1830, we not enthusiastically received, and while designs such as the cameo presented above were never intended to be used for postal purposes, they did serve to illustrate the possibilities of the technology available through his process. Whiting’s Treasury Competition submissions, however, were looked upon more favourably, and Whiting was chosen as one of the four recipients of the prize, winning £100 – though none of his designs were, of course, ultimately chosen.

Cameo designs such as the one depicting Earl Grey were likely created for publicity purposes and to encourage business for Whiting’s firm. Other examples are known, depicting such figures as King William IV, Queen Adelaide, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Byron, and Sir Walter Scott. Their exact origins remain a mystery, though examples were known to have been distributed through the publication of the Royal Cameo Scrap Book Embossed Heads by the firm of Kendall & Son, in which the cameos were pasted to interior pages. This example, showing no adhesion damage to the back, was likely of a promotional origin.