Notes from the Past

Jamaica's First Stamps - Part I

Jamaican postal history begins shortly after 1655 when the island became a British possession and a post office was established there under the control of the Postmaster-General in London.  In 1671, a local postmaster, Gabriel Martin, was appointed.  Twelve years later he was succeeded by James Wale, a captain of a ship captured by a French privateer.  Wale's methods of running the postal service did not satisfy the Jamaicans and a few years afterwards he was virtually deprived of his office.  In 1696, the Postmaster of New York was put in charge of the post offices of the West Indies.

It was not until the second half of the eighteenth century that Jamaican letters were impressed with postal markings.  The earliest marks consist of the name of the colony in a straight line, sometimes with a date below.  About 1805, the 'fleuron' type of mark was introduced and used concurrently with other circular markings containing the name of the colony, the date, and the word 'Paid.'

In 1847, it was suggested in London that Jamaica, along with other colonies in the West Indies, should take control of its own Post Office.  The colonies objected because of the losses which the post offices consistently ran.  The proposal was shelved and another ten years passed before the question was considered again.

Prepayment of postage on letters from Jamaica to Great Britain became compulsory on April 1, 1858.  Several weeks later, British stamps were made available for this purpose.  Current 1d., 4d., and 6d. stamps and new obliterators with an oval of bars and an identifier of a letter and two numbers were put into use.  There are over 50 of these obliterators, ranging from A01 to A78, each assigned to a different Jamaican town.  The obliterators were not put into use at the same time.  Some were only used a short time before Jamaican stamps replaced the British stamps in 1860.

Finally, the decision was made that Jamaica should take control of its Post Offices on May 1, 1860.  The ratification of the Act for the Transference of the Post Office was delayed, and the actual transfer did not take place until August 1.

The use of British stamps continued until Jamaican stamps became available.  By mid-September, a supply of definitive stamps was being produced in London.

To be Continued

Posted November 24, 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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