Notes from the Past

Uruguay's First Stamps

The first stamps of Uruguay feature the sun surrounded by rays and a chubby face.  They are often referred to as 'Montevideo Suns' as they were issued in that city.

The stamps bear the inscription 'Diligencia' to note that mail franked with the stamps would be carried by the diligencias which were the coaches which carried mail and passengers throughout the countryside.

The first notice relating to the use of stamps appeared on October 14, 1856, two weeks after the stamps had been issued on October 1.  The notice of the newly appointed Postmaster General, Senor Atanasio Lapido, advised that, in order to avoid loss of time and other difficulties, letters sent to the provinces by diligencias should be properly checked at the agencies or the head office.

There were three values of stamps in the first issue: 60 centavos blue, 80 centavos green, and 1 real red.  The stamps were lithographed by Mege & Williams in Montevideo.  Only one stone was used for printing all three denominations.  In each case the sheets contained thirty-five stamps in seven horizontal rows of five.

The first value to be printed was the 60 centavos.  When a sufficient quantity had been printed (probably only a few thousands), the figures of value at the foot of each design were erased and replaced by '80.'  Although this difficult task was done carefully it is possible to see the joint between the figures and the rest of the stamp on most positions.  The same technique was used for the 1 real except that the whole tablet was erased and replaced.

Most of the stamps were pen cancelled although some remained uncancelled when used.  Cancelling devices had not been issued to the receiving offices.  A very few are known with genuine red or black postmarks.  The circumstances which led to this variety of cancellation is not known.

Posted November 1, 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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