Notes from the Past

Barbados' First Stamps

Barbados was one of the first British Colonies to inaugurate postal arrangements.  Almost as soon as the original settlement took place in 1624, mail service with England was organized.  Early mails were irregular but by the 1700s service became more frequent.  In 1842 the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., was awarded a contract to convey mail to and from the islands.

Unlike several other British Colonies in the West Indies, Barbados did not use British stamps.  In accordance with the Post Office Act of 1851, the inland postal service was placed in the hands of the local government who ordered a supply of stamps from London.

Postage rates were fixed for inland letters at 1d. for each ½ oz.  Newspapers and periodicals published in Barbados were delivered post free.  Other newspapers were ½d.  Other books and magazines not exceeding 8 oz. were charged 1d.

The stamp order was combined with the orders for stamps from Mauritius and Trinidad to save die expense.  Each colony used the 'Britannia' stamps with different inscriptions.  The plate contained 110 impressions in 11 horizontal rows of 10.  The reason for this plate arrangement is unknown as it must have created accounting problems.

The stamps were printed on unwatermarked white paper.  The paper became bluish as a result of the moistening which occurred during printing and caused precipitation of the prussiate of potassium present in the paper as an impurity.  Sheets were imperforate.

The first stamp order consisting of 10,000 green ½d. and 50,000 blue 1d. was dispatched on December 30, 1851, by Perkins, Bacon & Petch.  The consignment was shipped aboard the Amazon but failed to reach the colony as the vessel was lost at sea.

On January 15, 1852, further supplies were sent.  Two stamps were delivered - the 1d. blue and one other, the denomination of which is uncertain due to records which indicate a purple stamp.  It was likely the stamp was the little-used 2d. grayish slate.  The replacements went on sale to the public on Thursday, April 15, 1852.

Posted August 18, 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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