Congreve and Whiting - from red rockets glare to stamps


This exhibit charts the progress of the Whiting and Congreve printing business from newspaper printing to security printing. It also explores the significant role of Charles Whiting in postal reform and the introduction of postal stationery.

Sir William Congreve (2nd Bt) was the son of Sir William Congreve the controller of the Royal Arsenal. He developed the Congreve military rocket that caused the "Rockets red Glare" of the USA anthem.

As an equerry to the Prince Regent he was responsible for the fireworks at the celebration of the victory of 1814 and the Coronation in 1821. He had started a newspaper in 1799 with James Whiting which closed after they were successfully sued for accusing Admiral Berkeley of cowardice.

Amongst the many patents William Congreve filed was a patent for separating, inking and reassembling multiple interlocking printing plates and another for a sandwich of different coloured papers for security printing. In 1818 as an MP he was involved in finding a more secure method of printing Bank of England banknotes. Even though he was a judge on the panel he employed Robert Branston to produce an entry. A very capable submission was provided by Jacob Perkins. Neither won the competition (there is a suggestion that Congreve used dubious means to discredit the Perkins entry).

In 1828 he died in France having been found guilty by the Parliamentary authorities of fraud.


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Perkins and Fairman's report to the Bank of England, 1819
  3. Congreve's submission to the Bank of England, 1820
  4. Coronation of George IV Procession ticket, 1821
  5. Coronation of George IV Congreve printed ticket for Westminster Abbey, 1821
  6. Coronation of George IV Congreve printed ticket for Westminster Hall, 1821
  7. Firm of Whiting and Branston was formed, 1825
  8. Whiting produced banknote designs, 1820's and 1830's
  9. Whiting Royal scrapbook Duke of Wellington portrait, 1833
  10. London District Post 1d (one ounce) wrapper and envelope essays, 1837
  11. London District post 2d essay, 1837
  12. Whiting prints sent to Select Committee on Postage, 1838
  13. Whiting prints for Mercantile Committee on Postage, 1838
  14. The Treasury Competition
  15. Whiting and Wyon essays for postal stationery, 1841
  16. Whiting contracts to produce stamps, 1860