Notes from the Past

Cyprus' First Stamps - Part I

The Turks appear to have established a postal service in Cyprus in the 1860s, however, little is known about the details of its operation.  At least as early as 1868, mail was carried between the island and the Smyrna on vessels of the Asia Minor Steamship Company, the Elpitha and the Fortuna.  The company issued stamps in that year for the letters.  One and two piastre values were printed in black on green glazed paper for this usage.  The rarity of these stamps suggests that little mail was handled.  Mail distribution within Cyprus was primitive.

At about the same time an Austrian Post Office was opened at Larnaca.  Mail was carried abroad by Austro-Hungarian Lloyd steamers.  Stamps of the 1867 issue of Austria are sometimes found with a circular dated postmark inscribed 'Larnacca di Cipro.'

On June 4, 1878, Britain took over the occupation and administration of Cyprus as a result of a treaty with the Sultan of Turkey.  Previously, the British Consul acted as a mail agent.  Letters arriving at Larnaca and destined for delivery in Nicosia were sent over a rough and dusty road with mail often suffering from rough handling.  The signing of the treaty was expected to lead to an increase in tourist traffic.  This was apparently a consideration in the decision of the Postmaster-General in London to send Mr. R. S. French to establish a British Post Office in Larnaca.  He did this with the help of Sir Garner Wolseley, the newly-appointed High Commissioner.

A contract was let to establish daily cart service between Larnaca and Nicosia.  It required that the mails be carried at a minimum speed of 6 miles per hour provided the roads were put into and kept in proper repair.

To Be Continued.

Posted August 16, 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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