Notes from the Past

Tobago's First Stamps - Part I

In April, 1858, British stamps were brought into use in several islands of the West Indies, including Tobago.  At that time the island's postal arrangements were controlled by the General Post Office in London.  Stamps were needed only for use on letters leaving Tobago.  There was no internal postal system.

The stamps used were the 1d. red, watermarked large crown with crosses in the upper corners, the 4d. rose, watermarked large garter, the 6d. lilac, and 1s. green, both without check letters in the corners.  An oval-of-bars obliterator with A14 was assigned to Scarborough, the capital of Tobago.

The decision to transfer control of the post offices from the General Post Office to the colonies involved a continuing wrangle because of the losses incurred in operating the colonial posts.  Further, the General Post Office desired to avoid the problems of operating such remote activities.  Finally, on May 1, 1860, the post offices were transferred to colonial control.  In Tobago there were no stamps available to take the place of the British stamps in use so prepayment of letters was now made in cash.  Tobago used a crowned circle mark inscribed 'Paid at Tobago' that had been first used in 1851.

At a Legislative Council meeting March 12, 1861, the Governor proposed several postal reforms including the use of postage stamps.  He provided estimates of the cost of dies and plates and the cost of printing and perforating stamps.  The cost of making a plate of 60 stamps was estimated at £63, 120 stamps £80, and 240 stamps £120.  Stamp printing and perforating per 1000 for 60 stamps per sheet was 2/3, 120 stamps per sheet 1/9, and 240 stamps per sheet 1/-.  The estimates probably were provided by De la Rue & Co.

Although the proposals were approved a week later, for some reason the matter was dropped.  Seventeen years elapsed before any further steps were taken to introduce stamps.

To be Continued

Posted November 26, 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.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.