Postage stamps and postal history of the Straits Settlements
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Early postal arrangements
Stamps of British India and Burma
Service was regularised by the Indian Post Office Act of 1837, by which the East India Company was granted a monopoly of the mail services. All private vessels were required to carry letters at prescribed rates for postage. Handstamps were applied to preadhesive ship letters. Postage stamps of India were used from 1854, the Settlements being considered part of the "Bengal circle", then from 1861 they became part of the "Burma circle". The cancellations used were B/109 at Malacca, B/147 at Penang, and B/172 at Singapore.
When the Settlements became a crown colony in 1867, they began issuing their own stamps, not least because they adopted a currency based on 96 cents to a silver dollar. Beginning on 1 September 1867, nine types in the existing stocks of Indian stamps were overprinted with a crown and a new value in cents. Then, stamps printed by De La Rue for the Settlements started arriving in December; they are notable for a prominent white frame around the profile of Victoria, inscribed "STRAITS SETTLEMENTS POSTAGE". The set of nine values, 2c to 96c, appeared gradually, with the 30c value not being issued until 1872.
Shortages from 1879 through 1882 forced the production of various surcharges, until new 5c and 10c stamps arrived in January 1882. This was not the end of difficulties, and additional surcharges appear regularly until the end of the century.
In 1892, key plate stamps went on sale, a number of them printed in two colours. A notable feature of this issue is the $5 stamp issued in 1898. The accession of King Edward VII necessitated new stamps in 1902, still in a key plate design, supplemented in 1903 with a design using oval vignette.
In 1907, the remainder of the stamps of Labuan were overprinted "STRAITS SETTLEMENTS.", some with new denominations, and in 1910 new large-format stamps appeared with values of $25 and $500 (although available for postage, their more usual use was fiscal). George V replaced his father on stamps beginning in 1912, reusing the frames and replacing only the vignettes. These stamps were overprinted in 1922 to mark the Malaya-Borneo Exhibition. The Straits Settlements also joined in the Silver Jubilee for George V in 1935. The last issue of the Straits Settlements was for George VI beginning in 1937. The first cancelling machine was supplied in 1914, probably a Robertson machine from New Zealand.
World War II
In March 1942, Japan issued stamps for their occupation, made by overprinting existing stamps with Japanese inscriptions. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the British military administration issued provisionals by overprinting Straits Settlements stamps with "BMA / MALAYA". These were available throughout Malaya, and used till regular postage stamps were produced for each state, the last being Kelantan in 1951.
References and sources
- Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue: Commonwealth and British Empire Stamps 1840-1970. 111th edition. London: Stanley Gibbons, 2009, p. 365. ISBN 0852596839
- Acts of the government of India from 1834 to 1838 inclusive: Ordered to be ... pp.65-6. On line.
- AskPhil – Glossary of Stamp Collecting Terms
- Encyclopaedia of Postal History
- Lowe, Robson. (1951) The Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps Volume III. London: Robson Lowe, pp. 296–321.
- Rossiter, Stuart & John Flower. (1986) The Stamp Atlas. London: Macdonald. ISBN 0-356-10862-7
- British Malaya Security Markings: Firm Chops, PERFINS, Forwarding Agents Chops etc.
- Francis E. Wood, "Straits Settlements and native protected states with special reference to stamps of doubtful catalogue status" in The London Philatelist, Feb/Mar 1939.
- Francis E. Wood, Straits Settlements postage stamps. Betws-y-Coed: 1945 or 1948. (Reprinted: Kuala Lumpur, Malaya, Selangor Stamp Club, 1961.)
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