Notes from the Past

Trinidad's First Stamps - Part II

The proposal to share in the cost of the die between Trinidad and Mauritius was accepted.  The printers, who had quoted 75 guineas for the die and 9d. per 1,000 for producing the stamps, proceeded with the work.  A water color sketch was prepared by Edward Corbould for the engraver.  This sketch is now in the Royal collection.

The design shows Britannia seated, holding a spear in her right hand with her left arm resting on a shield with a sailing ship in the distance to the right.  The original design from which this was taken had been brought to England from the U.S.A. in 1819 by Jacob Perkins.

The die was believed to have been engraved by Charles Henry Jeens.  Die and plate proofs were made in black.  It is believed that two series of color trials, one in purple and another in green were submitted to the Agent-General who, on 4 October, 1848, asked the printers to produce 25,000 stamps in blue and a similar quantity in lilac for use in Trinidad.  The stamps were printed on blued paper and were imperforate.  The consignment was complete on December 21 and left England on R.M.S.P. Severn 12 days later and arrived in Trinidad at the end of January, 1849.

Meanwhile negotiations between the Governor and the Postmaster-General over the postal system had become deadlocked.  Finally, in September, 1849, Lord Harris decided to go ahead with his own plan and in the spring of 1850, the Council voted £800 for establishing the now long overdue local post.  An ordinance was drawn up, read three times, approved and sent to England for approval.

In August, 1850, Lord Harris ordered a further supply of stamps in anticipation of the approval of the ordinance. Authorities in England though sent only 10,000 as they thought that the island already had a large stock as a result of the first shipment.  However the earlier shipment had faded badly and were considered unsuitable for use.  The purple color had in fact faded to a dull grayish shade.

The ordinance finally passed on April 4, 1851, and a week later on April 11, 1851, the stamps were issued, although the local posts did not begin operations until April 14.  The new supply of stamps was used at first, but this supply was soon exhausted and the old faded stamps had to be used.  They were in use until new supplies arrived from England in 1852.

Posted August 11, 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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