Antigua stamps and postal history

Antigua Airmails 1931 envelope registered to England franked by 1921-29 3s cancelled by 'ST. JOHN'S/ANTIGUA c.d.s., and large cachet FROM ANTIGUA/SPECIAL FLIGHT DO-X/PAN-AMERICAN AIRWAYS/COOPERATING AS SPECIAL AGENTS

Antigua with Barbuda (q.v.) and the uninhabited island Redonda lies between 61° and 62° W and 17° and 18° N, some fifty miles east of St. Kitts. Area 108 square miles; the coast line is about 70 miles long and has fine natural harbours. The main ports being St. Johns, Falmouth and Parham.

Antigua was discovered by Christopher Columbus in November 1493 who named the island after a church in Seville. The Spaniards attempted to settle in 1520, but found the land too dry. In 1627 all the Caribbean Islands were granted, by Charles I, to the Earl of Carlisle. In 1629, a French Captain formed a settlement, but abandoned it through lack of water, and in the same year, the first English settler, Williams, formed an estate at Old Road.

In 1632, the British took formal possession of the island, it being colonised from St. Kitts by Sir Thomas Warner. From 1640 to 1654, the islands were frequently raided by the Caribs. In 1663, Charles II made a formal grant of the island to Lord Willoughby who became governor. In 1666, the island was invaded and plundered by the French but was restored to Britain by the Treaty of Breda in 1667.

Henry Falkingham was appointed Deputy Postmaster General on 10 September 1760 followed by William McDonough 3.5.1780, John McConnel 30.5.1787, Henry McConnell 9.7.1814, Mrs. McConnell, John Athill 4.5.1826, James Scotland 1847 and W. Mercer 10.5.1894. The Antigua Post Office came under local control on 1.5.1860.

It is believed that no official arrangements existed prior to 1860 for the collection and delivery of local letters throughout the island. No handstamps have been chronicled prior to 1780.

Up to 1702, letters were all carried by merchant vessels, but then the British Packet Ser¬vice started, being replaced about two years later by Edmund Dummer’s packet service. In 1705, Dummer was allowed to appoint his own postmasters, and he named Richard Bucke- redge as his postmaster in Antigua. About 1,500 letters were brought to England by each monthly packet, but only four out of each twelve arrived safely. The cost of replacing his lost ships was ruinous and Dummer gave up the service. It was not until 1755 that the British Packet service re-started, and meanwhile all mail was carried by merchant vessels.

Letters carried by merchant vessels were called “ship letters”. By the Ordinance of 1657 and the Post Office Act of 1660, ship letters were charged with inland postage. Shortly after¬ward, the Post Office offered to pay one penny for every letter brought by a private ship and handed by the Captain to the Postmaster at the port of arrival. Some letters were carried by private individuals travelling on a ship back to England, but this was unlawful.

Dummer’s packet service to the West Indies was first announced on 11 February 1702- 03. From the cessation of Dummer’s service, much mail was collected or delivered by the ships’ captains at the London coffee houses, the Antigallican Coffee House being popular with Antiguans. With renewal of the Post Office Packet Service in 1755, sailings were irregu¬lar owing to the hazards of war, piracy and weather. In 1757, Stratton and Sargent of Fal¬mouth, became the managers for the Post Office of the West Indian Packet Service. On 6 September 1768 the G.P.O. London announced that the mail for the West Indies would be made up on the first Wednesday of each month. In 1792 an experimental service saw a schooner collecting the Leeward Islands mail from the Packet Office in Barbados.

American and French privateers were a grave danger to trans-Atlantic shipping during the American revolution and the French harassment continued until the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815.

In 1799 a Ship Letter Office was opened in London, no vessel was allowed to unload its cargo until such letters as it had carried were handed in at the nearest post office.

With the introduction of steam, the packet service underwent a great change and the ships ceased to be owned by the G.P.O. and in 1818 the Crown took over as owners. This move was unsuccessful and the service reverted to private vessels who carried mail under contract. In 1840 the British Packet services to the West Indies ceased and sea mail was car¬ried on the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, except for two years from 1 July 1905 to June 1907, when the mail could be carried by any line.

Recent Articles:

The Airmail Postal History of Antigua

Antigua 1931 Airmails envelope registered to England, large cachet FROM ANTIGUA/SPECIAL FLIGHT DO-X/PAN-AMERICAN AIRWAYS/COOPERATING AS SPECIAL AGENTS

On 22nd September 1929 a flight left St. Johns for Paramaribo in Dutch Guiana stopping at Castries - St. Lucia, Port of Spain, - Trinidad on the same day, Georgetown - British Guiana on the 23rd, arriving on the 24th. Mail is known addressed to St. Kitts, presumably forwarded from St. Lucia and bearing U.S. 28c postage.

26th September 1929 St. Johns to Miami U.S.A. with three line cachet FIRST AIR MAIL/ANTIGUA - U.S.A. - SEPTEMBER 1929. The stages were St. Thomas - Virgin Islands, San Juan - Puerto Rico and San Domingo - Dominican Republic, on the same day.

Antigua King George VI Stamps: 1938-51

The definitive set for the new reign was entrusted to Messrs Waterlow and Sons. Initially it consisted of ten denominations, ranging from ½d to 5/- but later, on 1st April 1938, two further denominations, the 10/- and £1, were added.

The stamps were printed by recess-engraving on the normal paper for Colonial issues, watermarked with multiple crowns and script CAs.

Antigua Stamps: Double Medallion Issues 1921-1929

Antigua 1922 One Pound stamp (SG. 61)

The Crown Agents for the Colonies announced in their Bulletin, July-September, 1920, an issue for Antigua in an entirely new design.

The new stamps were of the normal small postage stamp size, which must have come to the Antiguan business community as a boon after eighteen years of the large stamps. The oval medallion with the profile of King George V. is fringed with pearls, and has the crown at top; this occupies the upper left portion of the design, and it impinges on the shield containing the device of the Antiguan Seal which occupies the lower right portion of the stamp design.

Antigua War Stamps 1916-1919

Antigua Specimen War Stamp 1918 1½d. orange, a vertical strip of three

From September 1st, 1916, an additional tax on letters originating in the Colony and posted to places in the British Empire was imposed, and this was extended as from February 1st, 1917, to letters posted to the United States. The first supply of 1/2d. stamps overprinted "war stamp" in one line in black, were of a deep blue-green shade, on paper of medium thickness, and reached the colony in time for the coming into operation of Rule I. as quoted above on September 1st, 1916. The overprint in even sans serif capitals was printed from a stereotyped plate cast from a setting of sixty repetitions of the words in printer's type. A second printing in circulation in October was on appreciably thicker paper, with a dull thin gum, instead of the colourless shiny gum of the first printing.

Antigua Stamps: Queen Victoria De la Rue Key Plates

Antigua 1879 Wmk CC, perf 14, 4d. blue, SG. 20 in a mint block of four stamps

On March, 1866, an Act had reduced the rate to be charged for each registered letter from sixpence to fourpence, such sum to be divided in equal portions between the Imperial Government and the Antiguan Post Office. No stamp of the appropriate denomination was issued however until 1879, when Antigua having been admitted (July 1st) to the Universal Postal Union, new stamps of the denominations 21/2d. and 4d. were produced. Copies of the 1d. bisected, and used with whole stamps to prepay a 21/2d. rate exist, but were never authorised or indeed permitted so to be used.

First Issues of Antigua Stamps 1862-1876

Antigua: 1872 watermark Crown CC perf. 121/2 1d. (4) and 6d., used on 1873 (Jan. 11) envelope to U.S.A., all tied by barred oval ''AO2'', with ''NEW YORK STEAMSHIP'' c.d.s., on reverse has Antigua and St. Thomas transit marks, very rare. SG. 13, 15.

First stamps of Antigua printed by Perkins-Bacon

Antigua's philatelic history commences with an engraved stamp from the house of Perkins, Bacon and Co., London. This firm engraved and produced the first adhesive postage stamps of Great Britain in 1840, stamps, the simple beauty and utility of which have never been surpassed by any other methods of manufacture. There was a family resemblance about most of the early Perkins-Bacon stamps, in the mounting of a simple profile of Queen Victoria on a ground of finely reticulated lines. The head dies used for the Colonial stamps were different from those used for the English stamps, but in a few cases the general treatment of the stamp as a whole brings the design into somewhat close approximation to the English stamp.