1879, "instrument for stamping by hand with ink, having letters or numbers cast in vulcanized rubber," from rubber (n.1) + stamp (n.). The figurative sense of "thing or institution whose power is formal but not real" is by 1901 (on the notion of rubber-stamping "approved" or some such thing on everything given to it by the real powers). The verb is by 1889; in the figurative sense by 1912. As an adjective by 1931. Related: Rubber-stamped; rubber-stamping.
late 14c., "power, efficacy," from Medieval Latin actualitatem (nominative actualitas), from Late Latin actualis "pertaining to action," from Latin actus "a doing" (from PIE root *ag- "to drive, draw out or forth, move"). A Latin loan-translation of Greek energeia "activity, action, operation" (see energy). Meaning "state of being real" is from 1670s (actualities "existing conditions" is from 1660s).
Mod. use of actuality in the sense of realism, contact with the contemporary, is due to Fr. actualité, from actuel, which does not mean actual, real, but now existing, up to date. [Weekley]