Notes from the Past

Palestine's First Stamps

At dawn on December 8, 1917, three British divisions under General Allenby began an intensive assault on the Turks in Jerusalem.  It was so effective that at the end of the day the Turks abandoned the city under of cover of darkness.  Allenby formally entered the holy city two days later.

Suddenly the army post offices became responsible for handling the mail for the bulk of the Palestinian population.  The need for stamps to prepay postage soon became apparent to replace the Turkish stamps previously used in Palestine.

The Director of the Army Postal Service sent a request for stamps to the Survey of Egypt.  The selected design was quite unornamental, containing the words 'Postage Paid' and the Arabic equivalent in the center and the value in words down each and in figures in each corner.  The letters E.E.F., standing for Egyptian Expeditionary force, were on the top and bottom of the design.

The stamps were produced by photo-lithography at the Typographic Department of the Survey of Egypt.  Each sheet contained 120 stamps in ten rows of twelve.  The margins had a surrounding line and a control number A18 beside the next to last row.  The paper was the same used for then current low values in Great Britain, watermarked with the Royal Cipher in columns, supplied by Somerset House.  The sheets were ungummed.  Perforating machines were unavailable so the stamps were rouletted 20.

The 1 piastre in indigo (and several shades as well) was the only stamp in this issue.  The first printing was made January 15, 1918, in deep indigo.  The first printing was 1,948 sheets, or 233,760 stamps.  The issue took place on February 10, but stamps were not sold at the post office counter, instead they were affixed to letters requiring them by postal clerks.  As a result many people were unaware of the stamps for several months after they had been put in use.

Posted August 6, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.

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