and Botswana Philately
Bechuanaland Postal History
This Page is the
Introduction to the Postal History of
British Bechuanaland, Bechuanaland Protectorate
and Botswana and includes References
to Articles and Bibliography by various
SHOSHONG BECHUANALAND - AU 21 88
Discovery of the Century for Rhodesia
& Bechuanaland, the End of a Myth
By Otto Peetoom
- Published in The
Rhodesian Philatelist No
16 April 1998
SHOSHONG BECHUANALAND - AU 21 88
Brief Background History:
A Postal Notice dated 28
July 1888 issued at Vryburg by the
Acting Postmaster General Ernest C.
Baxter announced that a mail service
between Bechuanaland and Matabeleland
was to be established shortly. A list
of postal rates accompanied the notice.
Five postal agencies along the route
would be opened. Each office along
with a postmaster would receive a
date stamp and a barred oval numeral
allocated BONC's and Postmasters were:
KANYE 677 J. Williams, MOLEPOLOLE
674 Rev. S.J. Wookey, SHOSHONG 676
C. Austin, TATI 679 Sam Edwards and
GUBULAWAYO 678 Rev. C.D. Helm.
A postal notice dated 8 August 1888
issued by the G.P.O. Cape Town, announced
that the service would commence on
August 9th. The Rev. John Smith Moffat
organized the service; he was the
Assistant Commissioner of Bechuanaland
and the British agent in Gubulawayo.
During July and August 1888 he travelled
north along the mail route and reached
Tati on the 15th.
All five handstamps for the
above agencies had BECHUANALAND
Gubulawayo Matabeleland was under
the control of Lobengula. The Tati
district was disputed territory. Seretse
Khama, the paramount Chief of the
Bechuanas regarded it as his domain.
Lobengula considered the area as his
land and had granted Mining Concessions
on it. The dispute was finally settled
by mid 1894 after Lobengula's death.
It has never been established who
was responsible for the erroneous
inclusion of the word BECHUANALAND
on the Gubulawayo and Tati datestamps.
Had the word remained in place a potentially
volatile situation could have developed.
BECHUANALAND AU 21 88: I
am not aware when this postmark was
first discovered. In his 1940 publication
Dann recorded four, by 1956 Nodder
raised the count to eight and by 1997
there were fourteen recorded.
21 AU 88: Neither of Dann’s
1940 and 1950 publications made mention
of it. Jurgens in his 1945 publication
stated that H.R. Holmes was aware
of three copies and that Robson Lowe
had sold one of them in their 15 December
1943 Auction. In 1956 Nodder stated
two examples were known and by 1997
the count had reached eight.
A Myth is Born: H.C. Dann
in his 1940 publication (page 38)
related an unauthenticated
tale that the Rev. John
Smith Moffat, upon his arrival at
Bulawayo on 21 August 1888, cancelled
the first mail dispatch with the datestamp
Gubulawayo Bechuanaland AU 21 88.
Then, in order to appease an irate
King Lobengula, Moffat allegedly chipped
the word BECHUANALAND
from the handstamp.
version of the Myth: H.R.
Holmes in his 1971 book on Bechuanaland
presented a new version of events
by including Tati 21 AU 88 in it.
According to Holmes, Lobengula had
no knowledge of the Gubulawayo Bechuanaland
datestamp. Allegedly the Rev. Helm,
not Moffat, cancelled the outgoing
mail on 21 August 1888 with the handstamp
in its original state and then quickly
removed the country name before Lobengula
became aware of its existence.
On that same day
the Rev. Helm (in Bulawayo) supposedly
persuaded Sam Edwards (in Tati) to
remove the word BECHUANALAND
from his handstamp. Still
on the same day, Sam
Edwards allegedly cancelled the mail
using his TATI BECHUANALAND
21 AU 88 datestamp and afterwards
filed the offending word away.
Thus the early stalwarts of African
Philately had informed their humble
followers that the GUBULAWAYO and
TATI datestamps with BECHUANALAND
at foot had both seen postal usage
for one day only at their respective
locations. For over forty years the
myth went unchallenged.
the Myth - A
Rhodesian Rarity or Cancelled To Order
Souvenir Colin Fraser
in an article in the June 1987 Stamp
World challenged the
myth on the basis that in each case
the Gubulawayo and Tati Bechuanaland
postmarks are clearly and centrally
struck on the stamp which would seem
unlikely to happen to stamps used
on commercial mail. Colin stated that
a more likely explanation was that
the postmarks were prepared as cancelled-to-order
souvenirs. His article was reprinted
in The Runner Post
No 8 and a brief quote from the article
appeared in Rhodesian
Study Circle Journal No
The postmarks are all on Bechuanaland
adhesives either SG 40, 41 or 42.
In addition to a central postmark
the majority of the stamps also have
one or two portions of the rim of
a cancel that has been applied to
the adjoining stamp. This is very
much in keeping with C.T.O. practice.
The End of a Myth - The Proof:
Illustrated above is a marginal strip
of five 2d Bechuanaland stamps SG
42 with five different cancels dated
AU 21 88. The five
Agencies along the new mail runner
route between Bechuanaland and Matabeleland
are arranged in the correct geographic
sequence southwards: Gubulawayo,
Tati, Shoshong, Molepolole and Kanye.
Each datestamp is inscribed BECHUANALAND
at its foot. This item I will now
refer to as The Proving
Strip. The second strip
of four 1d stamps SG 41 is cancelled
with the same date with
Gubulawayo, two Tati 's and Shoshong.
The third discovery is an irregular
marginal block of five ½d vermilion
stamps SG 40 with five cancellations
AU 21 88. This new
evidence proves that the 21 August
1888 usage of these datestamps was
undertaken to create cancelled to
order souvenirs. It is unlikely that
any of the datestamps saw correct
postal usage on the 21 August 1888.
The above items originate from the
born in London on 9 September 1877
immigrated to South Africa in 1904.
He was a well known and highly respected
Philatelist who amassed an amazing
assembly of collections. It is said
that his world collection to 1933,
at the time of his death, lacked only
a small number of stamps for completion.
In 1950 he became a founder member
of the Expert Committee of the Philatelic
Federation of Southern Africa.
In 1952 he was elected to the Roll
of Distinguished Philatelists and
in 1960 he was Chairman of UNIPEX,
the International Stamp Exhibition
held in Johannesburg. Many of Britain’s
prominent dealers knew Mr Hunt, but
none of them were aware that he possessed
the above mentioned items. John Taylor
informed me that the bulk of the Hunt
collection was acquired by Stanley
Gibbons; John recalls that the last
stamp he sold Ernest Hunt was Bulgaria
SG 1. Part of Hunt's collection which
included the Bechuanaland
AU 21 88 strips changed hands
in South Africa during late 1997.
Ernest Hunt’s Obituary appeared
in the June 1968 South African Philatelist.
arising from the proving strip:
The present day stalwarts of African
philately may perhaps have a field
day with the new evidence, but will
someone else prove them wrong in another
forty years from now? The following
opinions have been put forward by
a variety of individuals.
Where were the AU 21 88 cancels
applied and by whom? Possibly
in Vryburg prior to the handstamps
intended distribution to the North?
If applied there the most likely candidate
to carry out the work would have been
Ernest C. Baxter, the Acting Postmaster
General, who it is said to have had
an interest in philately.
Who instigated the idea?
It is believed that Baxter was a friend
of Emil Tamsen who was a keen collector
and part time dealer - See The
No 14. Tamsen frequently succeeded
in having stocks of his mint stamps
cancelled at a variety of post offices
in Southern Africa. At the time no
great value would have been attached
to the actual cancels on the stamps.
It appears that the AU 21 88 C.T.O.’s
were distributed as normal used stamps.
To this end it is quite amazing that
the above multiples have survived.
A question without resolve:
Were the cancels applied on the actual
day of 21 August? Is it possible that
the CTO souvenirs were prepared prior
to that date and that the 21 August
was chosen as the anticipated date
that the new mail service would be
Other thoughts on the AU 21
88 date: It is suggested
by E.W. (Ted) Proud that the manufacturers
of postal handstamps invariably delivered
their datestamps complete with a fitted
date setting and time code, if provided
for. Ted also thinks that whenever
the postal authorities received a
new handstamp they would insert a
date setting to ensure everything
fitted correctly. Either suggestion
may account for the AU 21
88 date fitted to all five
datestamps used on the proving strip.
In 1997 Ted published books on the
postal history of Bechuanaland and
Southern Rhodesia in which he expressed
an opinion that Gubulawayo and Tati
Bechuanaland were only used to produce
cancelled to order souvenirs.
When and where was
excised from the Gubulawayo
and Tati datestamps? The
only known date for the two handstamps
in their original state is 21
August 1888. The proving
strip suggests that neither Agency
used their date stamp with the word
The suggestions for the excising are:
Carried out at Vryburg on the assumption
that the necessary skills were available
locally. The two datestamps were returned
to the manufacturer for modification,
possibly in Cape Town. Present opinion
is that neither handstamp was sent north
in its original state. The known manuscript
cancellations applied at Tati between
15.8.88 and 27.9.88 add support to this
manuscript cancels: All on
Bechuanaland adhesives, a total of five
examples are known. Two on loose stamps
(one is undated). Two separate pieces
with two stamps per piece.
One cover addressed to Cape Town from
to his wife. The envelope has two stamps
on it with a third adhesive removed.
During transit at Mafeking the manuscript
stamps were cancelled there as well,
either with the Mafeking datestamps
or barred oval numeral 638, allocated
to that office. The manuscript Tati
cancels are dated: 15.8.88 (two examples),
8.9.88 and 27.9.88. The foregoing suggests
that between 15 August and 27 September
1888 there was no postal canceller of
any description available at Tati. For
more details of the foregoing see The
Runner Post No’s
18 & 20. Dann 1940 (page 37) and
1950 (page 36). Holmes 1971 (page 94)
and Knight & Mitchell 1984 (page
Gubulawayo and Tati Bechuanaland
- A Review: Most collectors
of Bechuanaland and Rhodesia would like
to own an example of Tati and Gubulawayo
Bechuanaland. During the past twenty
years or so the interest in postal history
and postmark collecting has increased
considerably, thus it is not surprising
that further examples of both cancels
have been discovered. If we include
the cancels on the two strips the numbers
now known are Tati eleven
and Gubulawayo sixteen.
These numbers do not suggest that either
is a major rarity when compared to the
postmarks of other offices for which
only one or two examples are known to
exist. However by the prices realized
at auction it indicates that demand
far outstrips the supply. During 1996
Christie’s in London sold three
Gubulawayo Bechuanaland strikes for
£1150, £1265 and £1840.
At the time, a Tati Bechuanaland
cancel sold for a staggering £2760.
Kanye, Molepolole and Shoshong
Bechuanaland: By comparison
to Tati and Gubulawayo these three cancels
are not considered as major rarities,
thus there is no active search going
on for very early dates. I am informed
that besides the irregular block of
five ½d SG 40 cancelled SHOSHONG
AU 21 88 that I reported
in this article, only two examples of
AU 21 88 on SG 40 and
SG 42 are known.
The anticipated publicity that the proving
strip should create may well prompt
the Bechuanaland collectors to take
a much closer look at the material in
Earliest recorded dates other
than AU 21 88: Kanye 26 Aug
1890, Molepolole 27 Apr 1889 and Shoshong
12 Oct 1888.
With the word BECHUANALAND
removed: Tati 21 Apr 1889 and
Gubulawayo 10 Nov 1888. Considering
the need to modify these two datestamps
it is possible that their first usage
occurred at a later date than the three
Agencies in Bechuanaland.
Molepolole and Tati dates reported in
The Runner Post No’s
20 and 21. Remaining dates supplied
by E.W. Proud. Readers please report
any earlier dates you are aware of,
please advise your source.
Fact or Fiction?
Gubulawayo Bechuanaland on Cover:
The London Philatelist
March 1974 page 78 reported that at
the Royal Philatelic Society in London
on 13 December 1973 Geof Lovejoy gave
a display of his Rhodesian collection.
It is alleged that Geof showed a cover
cancelled Gubulawayo Bechuanaland
AU 21 88. I recently discussed
this twenty five year old report with
Mr. Lovejoy. Geof said his recall
was no longer as good as he would
like it and could not comment with
certainty whether or not he had ever
owned such an item. If he did Geof
said it was likely that he had obtained
it from John Taylor. Geof sold his
collection to Argyll Etkin and understood
that most of it had been acquired
by Bryan de Robeck. I investigated
the matter further. John Taylor said
- Never seen or heard
of such a cover, I do not believe
it exists. Ian Shapiro
at Argyll Etkin wrote Unfortunately
we have no record of the full collection
- but I can find no trace of the Gubulawayo
cover you mention. I doubt that it
The De Robeck collection
was auctioned by Sotheby Parke Bernet
South Africa on 11 November 1981,
needless to say the alleged Gubulawayo
cover was not in this sale. At the
time Harry Birkhead was an active
collector of Rhodesia and if a Gubulawayo
Bechuanaland cover had appeared on
the market I doubt that Harry would
have passed up the opportunity to
acquire such an item.
In conclusion, except for the London
Philatelist report in 1974, there
appears to be nothing available to
substantiate the existence of the
alleged cover. If it does exist how
can such an important item fade into
obscurity? Thus is it
Fact or Fiction?
The Late E.K. Wright:
Kenneth Wright was fascinated by Gubulawayo
and Tati. He recorded all the known
examples of both cancels inscribed
Bechuanaland and noted past and present
owners. Kenneth also recorded the
sale of each cancellation at auction.
In September 1979 he published a 33
page paper on The Early
Bulawayo Posts and Postmarks
issued as a supplement with Rhodesian
Study Circle Journal
No 108. In March 1987 he presented
a display on Tati to the Bechuanaland
Study Circle in London which was reported
in The Runner Post
No 7 followed in 1988 by an article
on Tati in Rhodesian Study
Circle Journal No's
141 and 142.
Colin Fraser’s June 1987 article
(see my ref on page 243) drew a response
from Jim Catterall in The
Runner Post No.9 (December
All the known AU 21 88 cancels occur
on ½d, 1d and 2d adhesives.
Considering the letter rate out of
Matabeleland started at 4d, if the
stamps in question had been postally
used, then why would every sender
resort to using multiples of low values?
Note: None of the letter
rates required a ½d.
The foregoing set Kenneth off on a
complete rethink on the Tati and Gubulawayo
Bechuanaland question. Alan Drysdall
recalls having long discussions with
Kenneth on the subject. Kenneth became
convinced that neither cancel in its
original state ever saw genuine postal
service. Kenneth wrote a three page
draft dated 25 January 1988 in which
he debated the C.T.O. theory; he marked
his paper Confidential
- not for Publication.
As far as I know he only sent a copy
to Alan MacGregor and Jim Catterall.
The draft article indicates that Kenneth
thought that Emil Tamsen had an involvement
with the CTO’s. He was also
under the impression that the Tati
and Gubulawayo Bechuanaland datestamps
had been sent to their respective
destinations. It appears that this
belief raised several questions for
Kenneth but I got the feeling that
the possible answers available to
him at the time were not to his satisfaction.
At the close of his article he wrote
In the absence of contemporary records
no final verdict is possible.
It is with a note of sadness that
Kenneth did not live long enough to
see the proving strip that would have
provided the necessary proof for him
to write a concluding chapter on Tati
and Gubulawayo Bechuanaland.
following is not part of the above
article and is purely for information
of the two strips:
Believed to have originated
from Emil Tamsen and sold to Ernest
In 1997 a South African dealer John
Peter Wharton - Hood acquired these
pieces and sold them to Alan MacGregor.
Both pieces were lent to me for research
and above article was the result.
At the 1998 Johannesburg S.A.P.D.A.
show, both pieces were sold to a collector
Des Highland, he in turn put the strip
of five in his collection and sold
the strip of four to Richard Knight.
Des Highland sold
his collection, I don’t have
these details, but Alan MacGregor
should know. The strip of five ended
up in David Wessely’s Bechuanaland
collection. David lives in America.
He sold his collection last year through
Argyll Etkin. The strip featured on
the front cover of their 20 May 2010
sale as lot 654 estimated at £3200
I don’t know how much it sold
for or for or who the buyer was.
The late Richard Knight’s collection
was sold by Spink, not Stephan Welz
as per someone elses' write up.
The strip of four featured in Spink’s
20 - 21 March 2003 sale as lot 513
estimated at £2000 - 2500
I don’t know how much it sold
for or for or who the buyer was, it
the Barry’s from Cape Town bought
It ought to be appreciated that the
above article was write seventeen
years ago and opinions ventured were
the thoughts in 1998. I recall seeing
something in an old edition of The
South African Philatelist that
Ernest Hunt was a friend of Emil Tamsen
and that Hunt had bought an outstanding
World Collection from Tamsen. The
foregoing points to the original owner
of the strips as being none other
than Tamsen, who more than likely
arranged through a Postmaster to manufacture
a number of C.T.O. cancels of the
five Offices -
All dated AU 21 88!
BECHUANALAND AU 21 88
Item currently features on Alan MacGregor's
Several single circle datestamps struck on left
marginal block of four of a
½d Vermilion overprinted Protectorate
- A very rare block. SG 40
Note: The datestamps for Kanye,
Molepolole, Shoshong, Tati and Gubulawayo with
Bechuanaland at base are recorded used
together se-tenant dated 21st August 1888,
proving the datestamps had not been delivered
to their respective agencies at this date.
This item was therefore not cancelled at Shoshong
but more likely at Vryburg.
The stamps have full gum and are unmounted mint
proving the datestamps 'by favour' or CTO status.
Stamps bearing Kanye, Molepolole and Shoshong
datestamps for 21 August appear to be as rare
as the Tati / Bechuanaland and Gubulawayo /
By Peter Thy
The following four Instalments
published in Forerunners
1997 and 2002 in
Journals No 30, 32, 34 &
The Bibliography quoted is
more than likely a repetition
what has already been quoted
- A General
The large inland tract north
of the Orange and Vaal Rivers offers
numerous challenges and reward for
the philatelic collector and postal
historian. It is more than justified
to dedicate this regular column to
the study of the postal history and
philately of the former territories
of Stellaland, British Bechuanaland,
and Bechuanaland Protectorate, as
well as present-day Botswana. The
complex and varied postal history
of these territories will assure that
we will never lack an interesting
subject to discuss and share.
The earliest postal
activity in this vast area was organized
by the pioneering missionaries and
travelers of the London Missionary
Society with important missions opened
at Kuruman in 1816 and lnyati (Bulawayo)
in 1861. The expansion of the Transvaal
Boers northward led to the proclamation
in 1882 of the independent Boer republics
of Stellaland and Goshen. Of these,
Stellaland issued the first postal
and revenue stamps of the “Bechuanalands”
in 1884. These republics and the establishment
of a German protectorate of South
West Africa the same year led immediately
to British military intervention.
A British expeditionary
force under command of General Charles
Warren arrived the same year in Cape
Town and marched toward Vryburg (Stellaland)
and Mafeking (Goshen). This military
action resulted in the collapse of
the two republics and a British proclamation
in September 1885 of sovereignty over
the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland,
north of the Cape of Good Hope and
south of the Molopo River. In addition,
British protection was proclaimed
over the area south of the 22nd latitude,
later known as Bechuanaland Protectorate.
The Warren expedition
maintained a military postal and telegraph
service and issued telegraph stamps.
Shortly after the proclamation a postal
convention was signed between the
Cape Colony and British Bechuanaland.
This was the inauguration of the British
Bechuanaland postal services and resulted
in the appearance of the first regular
postal stamps issued for British Bechuanaland
in the form of overprinted Cape of
Good Hope adhesives.
A few years later,
in 1888, the missionary mail routes
toward the north were, at the insistence
of Assistant-Commissioner John Moffat,
taken over by the British Bechuanaland
postal service, thereby linking Mafeking
with Bulawayo by a 500 mile relay
runner post service across the Bechuanaland
Protectorate. This was the birth of
the Protectorate postal service that
saw postal offices and postmasters
appointed at several locations along
the mail route. For accounting purposes,
British Bechuanaland stamps were overprinted
for usage in the Protectorate. The
runner post was replaced the following
year by a mule drawn cart service
between the rail head at Vryburg and
Shoshong (Palapye) in the Protectorate.
Figure 1. Sketch map
of the ‘Bechuanalands’
from John Mackenzie,
Austral Africa, first published in
The next chapter in
the postal history of the Bechuanalands
is related to the occupation of Mashonland
organized by Cecil Rhodes’ Royal
Chartered South Africa Company. In
preparation for the raid, a telegraph
line was erected north of Mafeking
and reached Macioutsie and Tuli near
Shashi River in 1891, where the occupation
force camped prior to crossing into
Mashonaland. After the successful
occupation, an increased mail and
passenger service between Mafeking
and Salisbury necessitated and required
a reorganization and extension of
the previous services.
During early 1893,
the Cape Colony took over responsibility
for the British Bechuanaland postal
service and also for the Mashonaland
mail. As part of a contract renewal
with the mail carrier, the end-station
of the Bechuanaland mail was shifted
from Macloutsie and Tuli to Bulawayo.
This move was most likely politically
determined in an attempt to avoid
the more direct route via Pretoria
and the Transvaal. In 1895, the Crown
Colony of British Bechuanaland was
annexed by the Cape of Good Hope.
The remaining stock of stamps and
postal stationery was used in the
Protectorate without being overprinted.
The most important
factor shaping the modern postal history
of the Bechuanalands was no doubt
the construction of the railway that
reached Vryburg in December 1890.
Three years later, in October 1894,
the line between Vryburg and Mafeking
was officially opened. In 1897, Bulawayo
was finally reached and the rail then
transected Bechuanaland Protectorate
linking the Cape with Rhodesia. The
telegraph line was relocated to the
rail line as this was constructed.
The rail soon became the main artery
for mail transport and the economic
development of Bechuanaland Protectorate.
Only a few main towns were located
far off the rail line (Serowe, Molepolole)
and connected to the rail by other
means of transportation. Although
airmail service was offered as early
as 1932, the mail was normally transported
by rail to Johannesburg. The first
direct and permanent airmail service
was offered as late as 1966 between
Gaberones and Johannesburg.
All stamps and most
postal stationery issued up until
1932 were overprinted Cape and Great
Britain issues. In 1932, the first
stamps inscribed “Bechuanaland”
appeared and showed a design with
baobab trees and drinking cattle.
This design was to be used during
the regency of three different monarchs
until it was finally replaced in 1961
by the QEII second definitive issue.
The postwar period has seen steady
growth with a marked increase in postal
offices, agencies, and services provided,
e.g., postal and money orders, savings
bank, airmail services. This development
has, in particular, accelerated since
independence of Botswana in 1966.
In 1962, the Bechuanaland government
finally took over full responsibility
for its own postal services that,
since 1893, had been administered
by the South African postal services
(first the Cape and then the Union).
II - Bechuanaland Literature
The following list includes
the most important books and journal
articles with relevance to the Bechuanalands.
An attempt has been made to include
the various time periods as well as
the major researchers and writers.
Also included are the most important
catalogues and auction sales. We will
appreciate your additions and corrections.
1983. The Early Postal History of
the Griqualands and the Bechuanalands.
Occasional Paper No. 6
Postmark and Postal History Society
of Southern Africa.
Bullivant, P.N., 1962. The Shelley
Catalogue of the Decimal Surcharges
on the Stamps of Basutoland, Bechuanaland,
Stamp Collecting, London.
Drysdall, A., 1992.
A postal history of Stellaland. London
Philatelist, vol. 101, p.54-66, p.
Drysdall, A., 1993. Postage rates
prior to 1900. Runner Post, no. 34,
Drysdall, A., 1998-1999. Stellaland
revisited - again. Runner Post, no.
51, p. 1278-1286.
Drysdall, A. and Collis, D., 1990.
Mashonaland. A Postal History 1890-96.
Rhodesian Study Circle and Christie’s
Robson Lowe, London.
Drysdall, A. and Catterall, J., 1995.
The Sitwell Correspondence and Bechuanaland
Postage and Mashonaland Postage Rates,
Memoir 1, Rhodesian Study Circle.
Finlay, D.W., 1993. Crocodile
Pools Siding - occupation by Imperial
and Boer forces October 1899 to May
1900 and postal agency.
Runner Post, no. 33, p. 683-685.
Finlay, D.W., 1994. The rarer stamps
of British Bechuanaland and Bechuanaland
Protectorate. Runner Post, no. 36,
Frescura, F. and Nethersole, M., 1991.
The Postal Cancellers of the Cape
of Good Hope. Volume 1. The Barred
Oval Numeral Canceller of 1864.
Philatelic Federation of Southern
1937-1938. The Bechuanalands. South
African Philatelist, vols. 13 and
Holmes, H.H., 1956. The post offices
and postmarks of British Bechuanaland.
London Philatelist, vol. 65, p. 49-53.
Holmes, H.H., 1957. The postal history
of the Tati district. London Philatelist,
vol. 66, p. 106-108.
Holmes, H.H., 1971. The Postage Stamps,
Postal Stationery, and the Postmarks
of the Bechuanalands. Royal Philatelic
Society London, London.
Inglefield-Watson, J., 1996.
The Bechuanalands: - GB stamps overprinted
by De La Rue: printings and quantities.
Runner Post, no. 44, p. 1046-1049.
Inglefield-Watson, J., 1997. Forged
overprints and surcharges on stamps
of the Bechuanalands. Runner Post,
no. 47, p. 1161-1163.
Jacobson, L., International
Reply Coupons of Bechuanaland/Botswana.
Runner Post 56, 1371-1374.
Jurgens, A.A., 1945. The Bechuanalands.
A Brief History of the Countries and
their Postal Services to 1895. Royal
Philatelic Society London, London.
Lodoen, P., 2002.
Philatelic Atlas of the Bechuanalands
and Botswana. Bay Publishing, Gaborone,
May, B., 1923. The
stamps of Bechuanaland. South African
Philatelist, vol. 1, p. 110-111, p.
120-122, p. 131-132.
Midwood, N. and Trotter, B., 2002.
Revenues of Southern Africa. Part
1. The Bechuanalands. N. Midwood,
Milton Keynes, U.K.
Munk, H., 1937. The Bechuanalands
(Kohl’s Handbook, translated
by Rich, S.G.). Collectors Club Philatelist,
vol. 16, p. 65-70, p. 124-134.
1895. The Postage Stamps, Envelopes,
Wrappers, Post Cards, and Telegraph
Stamps of the British Colonies, Possessions
and Protectorates in Africa, Part
1. Philatelic Society London, London.
Poole, B.W.H., 1908. The postage stamps
of Stellaland. Stanley Gibbons Monthly
Journal, vol. 18, p. 206-208, p. 249-252.
Proud, E.B., 1996. The Postal History
of Basutoland & Bechuanaland Protectorate.
Putzel, R.F., 1986-1990. The Encyclopaedia
of South African Post Offices and
Postal Agencies. Ralph F. Putzel,
Tokai, South Africa (4 volumes ).
Putzel, R.F., 1992-2000. The Postmarks
of South Africa and Former States
& Colonies. Ralph F. Putzel, Tokai,
South Africa (7 volumes published
in 2000, series still not completed).
Robson Lowe, 1949.
The Encyclopaedia of British Empire
Postage Stamps. Volume II. The Empire
in Africa. Robson Lowe, London.
Seligmann, K., 2000.
Early postal rates: a few comments.
Runner Post, no. 52, p. 1299-1305.
Symons, J.E., 2002. The Macloutsie
Post Office and its Postmaster, Bechuanaland
Protectorate, 1892. Krone Publications,
Tamsen, E., 1927-1928.
Stellaland and its stamps. South African
Philatelist, vol. 4, p. 116-117, vol.
5, p. 4-7, p. 21-22.
Thy, P., 1994. The Introduction and
Usage of Postal Orders in Bechuanaland
Protectorate. Krone Publications,
Thy, P. (ed.), 2001. The Northern
Mails and Telegraphs: Bechuanaland
and Rhodesia in the Annual
Reports of the Postmaster-General,
Cape of Good Hope, 1885-1909. Krone
Publications, Davis. U.S.A.
Thy, P. and Inglefield-Watson, J.,
2003. The Postal Stationery of the
Bechuanalands and Botswana. British
Philatelic Trust, in press.
Trotter, B., 1995. Bechuanaland and
Botswana. Postal Marking Classification
(Typology). Bechuanalands and Botswana
Trotter, B., 2001. Tati Concession
revenue stamps. Journal Rhodesian
Study Circle, vol 51 (no. 2), p. 59-71.
van der Molen. P.,
1992. The Bechuanaland 1961 QE2 2c
postal card. Runner Post, no. 28,
van der Molen, P., 1992. The Bechuanaland
QE2 aerogrammes. Runner Post, no.
van der Molen, P., 1993. The 1961
decimal 1c on 1d surcharges. Runner
Post, no. 31, p. 631-635.
van der Molen, P., 1996. Bechuanaland
Protectorate definitive registration
envelopes. Runner Post, no. 42, p.
van der Walt, A., 1986. Mafeking.
A Study of the Development of the
Postal History of the Mafeking from
1881 to 1910. Occasional Paper No.
Postmark and Postal History Society
of Southern Africa.
Ramsay, J., Morton, B., and Morton,
F., 1996. Historical Dictonary of
Botswana. Third Edition. Scarecrow
Press, Lanham, MD.
Shillington, K., 1985. The Colonisation
of the Southern Tswana, 1870-1900.
Ravan Press, Braamfontein, South Africa.
Sillery, A., 1952. The Bechuanaland
Protectorate. Oxford University Press,
Sillery, A., 1965. Founding a Protectorate.
History of Bechuanaland, 1885-1895.
Stevens, P., 1947. Bechuanaland Bibliography.
University of Capetown, Capetown.
Tlou, T., 1985. History of Ngamiland
- 1750 to 1906 - The Formation of
an African State. Macmillan, Gaborone,
Tlou, T. and Campbell, A., 1984. History
of Botswana. Macmillan, Gaborone,
Wylie, D., 1990. A Little God. The
Twilight of Patriarchy in a Southern
African Chiefdom. Witwatersrand University
Press, Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Runner Post. The Bechuanalands
and Botswana Society. Editor is Neville
Forerunners. The Philatelic Society
for Greater Southern Africa.
Editor is Peter Thy.
British Commonwealth Revenues. Barefoot,
London (current edition).
Higgins and Gage Postal Stationery
Catalogue (section 2). Classic Philatelics,
Huntington Beach, U.S.A.
South African Stamp Colour Catalogue.
International Philatelic Services,
Johannesburg, South Africa (current
Stanley Gibbons. British Commonwealth
Stamp Catalogue, volume 1 (current
Stanley Gibbons. Elizabethan Catalogue
of Modern Commonwealth Stamps (1983
Christie’s Robson Lowe, London,
12 June 1991 (Haskins Collection).
Christie’s Robson Lowe, London,
13 December 1994 (Campbell Collection).
Christie’s Robson Lowe, London,
19 November 1996 (Weiss Collection).
Grosvenor, London, 23 May 2001 (Catterall
Harmers, London, 29 October 1981 (Holmes
Harmers, London, 24 June 1986 (Barkaway
Harmers, London, 31 October 1995 (George
Postal History Auctions, London, 19
March 1999 (Proud Collection).
Robson Lowe, London, 16 June 1971
Robson Lowe, London, 15 June 1983.
Sources of Philatelic Information
There exist a surprising
large literature covering the various
aspects of the philately and postal
history of the Bechuanalands. This
vast amount of written information
and studies attests to the popularity
of the area and the excitement felt
by it’s students. Because of
this, the biggest obstacle facing
a newcomer to collecting the Bechuanalands
is where and how to obtain the basic
information. Here we give a brief
introduction to the most important
sources of philatelic information
for the collector that for the first
time specializes in the Bechuanalands.
Subsequent columns will cover the
postal history aspects as well as
more specialized subjects.
Several English language general catalogues
include the Bechuanalands. The most
important of these is the STANLEY
GIBBONS BRITISH COMMONWEALTH CATALOGUE
that in it’s last edition (2002)
lists together Stellaland, British
Bechuanaland, Bechuanaland Protectorate,
and Botswana in volume 1. Because
many of the early Bechuanland issues
were overprinted on Cape of Good Hope
and Great Britain issues, the listings
of these areas will constantly be
of interest to the Bechuanaland collector.
Unfortunately, only Great Britain
is listed in volume 1 of the Commonwealth
The Cape of Good Hope is listed with
South Africa in volume 2. For this
reason, most Bechuanaland collectors
will require both volumes of the catalogue.
The British Commonwealth Catalogue
is the most detailed and accurate
listing available and should not be
ignored by the serious collector of
the Bechuanalands. Nevertheless, it
is important to consider that the
listings are not of a specialized
In 2003, Stanley Gibbons
discontinued its general Commonwealth
catalogue and replaced it with a ‘classic’
period catalogue listing only stamps
issued until 1952 (COMMONWEALTH
& BRITISH EMPIRE STAMPS 1840-1952).
The last edition of the comprehensive
Commonwealth catalogue is thus the
2002 edition. It is the plan to release
occasional one-contry catalogues including
the modern stamps in a digital format.
The Bechuanaland/Botswana one-country
catalogue has not yet been released.
In the mean time, the content of the
general Commonwealth catalogue appears
to be available on http://www.allworldstamps.com.
However, to take full advantage of
this listing an annual fee is required.
Another Stanley Gibbons option is
the simplified Commonwealth catalogue
that was issued in 2003 in full color
as well as the KING GEORGE
VI STAMP CATALOGUE last issued
STANDARD POSTAGE STAMP CATALOGUE
includes a simplified general listing
of the Bechuanalands and Botswana
(last edition is 2004). This catalogue
is widely used in North America and,
therefore, is an important tool for
communicating with collectors and
dealers in particular the USA. Because
of the simplified nature of the listing,
it is not recommended that specialized
Bechuanaland collections are being
build based on the Scott catalogue.
However, it should be noted that the
SCOTT editors are committed to improve
the Scott listings.
AFRICAN STAMP COLOUR CATALOGUE
includes the Bechuanalands. The editor
has over the years expanded the catalogue
to include all of pre-independence
Southern Africa The last edition is
available from L. Heffermann, P.O.
Box 567, Johannesburg 2000, South
Africa. This catalogue is highly recommended
and is far superior to
the Scott catalogue.
FIVE REIGNS POSTAGE STAMP CATALOGUE
contains very useful information and
is an important additional source.
The 1980 edition was published by
Bridger & Kay, but later editions
may exist. A relatively similar catalogue
covering a more limited area is the
COMMONWEALTH KGVI CATALOGUE
also originally published by Bridger
& Kay. This catalogue is now out
in it’s 18th edition published
by Murray and Payne (P.O. Box 1135,
Axbridge, Somerset, BS26 2EW, UK).
GIBBONS ELIZABETHAN II STAMP CATALOGUE
(or related titles) contains a slightly
expanded general listing of QEII stamps.
This catalogue has had a long publication
history (1965-85) but is no longer
THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BRITISH EMPIRE
POSTAGE STAMPS, VOLUME II, THE EMPIRE
IN AFRICA was published in
1949. This work belongs on any serious
students bookshelf, but its stamp
listing is now outdated.
Specialized catalogues for the Bechuanalands
and Botswana do not exist. It may
be of interest briefly to consider
the reasons. Specialized catalogues
are the result of two important factors.
First of all it requires a contemporaneous
and active group of local collectors
that carefully monitor the activities
of the postal services and it’s
postal offices and record on paper
their findings. Secondly, it requires
that the postal services and philatelic
bureaus make available detailed information
of new issues including printings
and printers, release and withdrawal
dates, amounts printed and destroyed.
None of these conditions have fully
existed in Bechuanaland or exist today
in Botswana. The collectors of these
areas, therefore, will largely have
to reconstruct the story based on
the available stamps, erratic hearsay,
and archival information. Ironically,
this may exactly be what makes collecting
the Bechuanalands and Botswana such
an exciting and rewarding enterprise.
Information on printings,
plate numbers, withdrawal dates, and
errors may be found for the QEII area
in various editions of the
STANLEY GIBBONS ELIZABETHAN STAMP
CATALOGUE of which the 1983
edition appears to be particular useful
(other editions may be equally useful).
catalogue is the SHELLY CATALOGUE
OF THE DECIMAL SURCHARGES ON THE STAMPS
OF BASUTOLAND, BECHUANALAND AND SWAZILAND
The specialist will
also frequently need to consult the
latest editions of STANLEY
GIBBONS SPECIALIZED STAMP CATALOGUE,
VOLUME 1 (QUEEN VICTORIA) & VOLUME
2 (KING EDWARD VII TO KING GEORGE
VI) for information on the
British stamps overprinted for use
in the Bechuanalands. A similar source
on the overprinted Cape of Good Hope
stamps do not exist.
Monographs and Major Journal Articles
There exist three important monographs
dealing with the stamps of the Bechuanalands.
The earliest of these is the POSTAGE
STAMPS, ENVELOPES, WRAPPERS, POST
CARDS, AND TELEGRAPH STAMPS OF THE
BRITISH COLONIES, POSSESSIONS AND
PROTECTORATES IN AFRICA.
Part 1 of this work includes British
Bechuanaland and the Cape of Good
Hope. Part 2 includes Stellaland.
This monograph is often referred to
as “AFRICA” and was published
by the Philatelic Society of London
in 1895 (Part 1). This is the most
important source of detailed information
of the early period and is the foundation
for all later studies and catalogues.
In 1945 the Royal
Philatelic Society of London published
A.A. Jurgens’ THE BECHUANALANDS.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COUNTRIES AND
THEIR POSTAL SERVICES TO 1895.
This work mainly covers the postal
history, but also includes information
on stamps and an extensive discussion
of forgeries, specimens, revenue stamps,
and essays (when using this latter
discussion, reference to more recent
opinions may be essential).
The most recent monograph
is H.R. Holmes’ THE
POSTAGE STAMPS, POSTAL STATIONERY,
AND POSTMARKS OF THE BECHUANALANDS.
This was published in 1971 by the
Royal Philatelic Society of London
and contains detailed discussions
and check lists of the stamps and
stationery up to 1964. This monograph
is a must and cannot be avoided by
Revenue stamps are
listed in Barfoot’s BRITISH
COMMONWEALTH REVENUES latest
released in 2000. A comprehensiveand
detailed listing can be found in Trotter
and Midwood’s REVENUES
OF SOUTHERN AFRICA. PART 1. THE BECHUANALANDS
from 2002 (N. Midwood, 69
Porlock Lane, Furzton, Milton Keynes,
MK4 1JY, UK).
is listed in Holmes’ book. A
more detailed work is to be published
by the British Philatelic Trust (Thy
and Inglefield-Watson POSTAL
STATIONERY OF THE BECHUANALANDS AND
There exist several
earlier studies of the stamps of the
Bechuanalands. To mention a few: (1)
B.W.H. Poole’s “The Postage
Stamps of Stellaland” in Stanley
Gibbons Monthly Journal (1908, vol.
18). This work still stands out as
the authoritative study of the Stellaland
stamps. (2) The Bechuanaland chapter
of Kohl’s Handbook has been
translated by S.G. Rich and is published
in the Collectors Club Philatelist
(1937, vol. 16). (3) B. May’s
“The Stamps of Bechuanaland”
in South African Philatelist (1923,
vol. 1). (4) W.J. Harrington’s
“The Bechuanalands” in
South African Philatelist (1938, vols.
13 and 14).
There exist several specialist societies
devoted to the study of the Southern
Africa area. However, there is only
one society devoted to the study of
the philately and postal history of
the Bechuanalands and Botswana. This
is the UK based BECHUANALANDS AND
BOTSWANA SOCIETY (BBS) who publish
the very important and highly respected
journal THE RUNNER POST. This newsletter
has appeared since 1984 and its pages
contain an indispensable source of
information and more recent studies
by society members (an occasional
index is included). Information about
BBS and membership forms can be obtained
from the membership secretary (Neville
Midwood, 69 Porlock Lane, Furzton,
Milton Keynes, Bucke, MK4 1JY, UK).
Needless to say, no student of the
Bechuanalands and Botswana can be
without the Runner Post.
Most of the current catalogues discussed
here can be obtained from well-assorted
stamp dealers. The monographs now
out of print can fairly easily be
found in the stock of many used philatelic
book dealers. The American Philatelic
Research Library can assist with some
of the journal articles, but may not
own copies of the early issues of
the South African Philatelist. APRL
can be reached by writing to P.O.
Box 8000, State College, PA 16803
(web site address is www.stamps.org).
Complete runs of the Runner Post only
occasionally appear on the market.
APRL do not own the Runner Post, but
UK based philatelic libraries may
be able to assist with photocopies
Sources of Postal History Information
This installment will continue
our survey of important sources of
information for the collector of the
Bechuanalands and Botswana. We will
first focus on postal history monographs
and will present our findings in the
form of an annotated bibliography.
Again we do not claim that the discussion
is complete. Finally, some important
primary sources and their availability
to the North American collector will
Several of the monographs mentioned
in our previous discussion of philatelic
sources also contain important postal
history information. In particular,
this is the case for Jurgen’s
and Holmes’ monographs that
both are indispensable. Another generalized
monograph is E.B. Proud’s THE
POSTAL HISTORY OF BASUTOLAND ANDBECHUANALAND
PROTECTORATE which is a postal history
source book. As implied by the title
it does not include British Bechuanaland.
Despite this shortcoming, the main
problem is the book’s disjointed
and disconnected assemblage of available
information obtained form many sources.
No attempt is made to tell the complete
story and to fill out the gaps. Further,
it is very unfortunate that Proud
choose not to add sources and references
to his assemblage of information.
This limits the usefulness of the
Of a more limit scope
is Ken Baker’s THE EARLY POSTAL
HISTORY OF THE GRIQUALANDS AND THE
BECHUANALANDS (The Postmark and Postal
History Society of Southern Africa,
1983) that discusses the early missionary
mails. Another specialized study,
from 1986 by the same publisher, is
Andries van der Walt’s MAFEKING.
A STUDY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE
POSTAL HISTORY OF MAFEKING FROM 1881
TO 1910. Other detailed studies can
be found in the Runner Post and other
monumental series’ THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA
OF SOUTH AFRICAN POST OFFICES AND
POSTAL AGENCIES and THE POSTMARKS
OF SOUTH AFRICA AND FORMER STATES
& COLONIES cannot be avoided.
They both contains a wealth of information
on Bechuanaland postal offices and
postmarks, but it should be remembered
that they are based on official records
in South Africa that may not always
be accurate. The encyclopedia was
published in 4 volumes between 1986
and 1990. The postmark study is in
the process of completion with Vol.
1 appearing in 1992 and Vol. 9, containing
the letters R and S, appearing in
2002. Both series are available from
well assorted philatelic literature
dealers or directly from Alex Visser
(212 Ross St., Meyerspark, 0184 South
Africa). Another important survey
of the postmarks has been published
by Brian Trotter in the Runner Post.
A typology of postal markings is available
from the Bechuanaland Society (B.
Trotter BECHUANALANDS AND BOTSWANA.
POSTAL MARKING CLASSIFICATION (TYPOLOGY),
1995). The listing of postmarks in
Proud’s Bechuanaland book is
to high extend based on Trotter’s
work. An additional valuable source
of information on town and village
names is the REPORTS OF THE PLACE
NAMES COMMISSION of Botswana of which
the third report was published in
The postal rates of
both the Bechuanalands and Botswana
have been treated in a series of studies
published in the Runner Post, but
still awaits much needed revisions
and updating. The postal rates of
the early period are covered in Alan
Drysdall and Jim Catterall’s
THE SITWELL CORRESPONDENCE AND BECHUANALAND
PROTECTORATE AND MASHONALAND POSTAGE
RATES 1890-92 (Rhodesian Study Circle,
Monograph 1, 1995). There is at present
no detailed study available giving
details of opening/closing of postal
offices and the postal routes of the
Bechuanalands. The available information
can be extracted from Putzel’s
and Proud’s monographs, but
otherwise require archival work and
access to primary sources. Peter Lodoen’s
PHILATELIC ATLAS OF THE BECHUANALANDS
AND BOTSWANA, 2002, Bay Publishing,
Gaborone, Botswana (available from
Krone Publications, P.O. Box 73112,
Davis, CA 95616).
The Postal Services
publish two booklets that may be useful.
One is the rate tariffs that is published
at each new rate revision and can
be obtained for a small fee. The other
is the postal guide, which may still
be available (last edition seen is
There is one important
fact that any student of the Bechuanalands
sooner or later will realize. This
is that it is nearly impossible to
understand the history (and postal
history) of the Bechuanalands without
a detailed knowledge of the surrounding
states and territories. Just to mention
a few, the books by Richard Knight
and Dave Mitchell (THE POSTMARKS,
POSTAL ROUTES AND PRINCIPAL POSTAL
RATES OF SOUTHERN RHODESIA to 1924,
published by the authors, 1984), Robert
Goldblatt (POSTMARKS OF THE CAPE OF
GOOD HOPE, Reijger Publishing, 1984),
Richard Smith (RHODESIA. A POSTAL
HISTORY - ITS STAMPS, POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS,
published by the author, 1967), and
Eric Rosenthal and Eliezer Blum (RUNNER
& MAILCOACH, Purnell, Cape Town,
1969) will soon clutter the bookshelf
of the interested collector. Philip
Cattell’s THE UNION CASTLE OCEAN
POST OFFICES (Proud-Bailey) contains
the sailing lists of the mail packets
between Cape Town and Southampton
that can be used to determine departure
and arrival of mail to and from Southern
With the risk of overlooking
something important, we will close
this brief survey of the Bechuanaland
literature with Alan Drysdall and
Dave Collis’ MASHONALAND. A
POSTAL HISTORY 1890-96 (The Rhodesian
Study Circle and Christie’s
Robson Lowe, 1990). This monograph
covers the early period and development
of the postal services related to
the pioneer column and the invasion
of Mashonaland. Because the pioneer
column passed through Bechuanaland,
the monograph also presents the single-most
important study of the development
of the postal services in Bechuanaland
prior to the arrival of the rail road.
This book will likely be the first
acquired by the student of Bechuanaland
postal history. The reason is not
only the factual content of the book,
but also because it by any measure
is the best researched, written, and
presented book on the postal history
of southern Africa. To show us how
it should be done, this book will
be on our bookshelves.
We will continue with a summary of
some of the most important primary
sources that may be available to the
postal history collector. Most important
of these is the various government
gazettes or official newsletters.
The BRITISH BECHUANALAND GOVERNMENT
GAZETTE was published in 9 volumes
until 1895. So far we have only been
able to inspect volume 4 to 9 (1890-1895).
This gazette contains detailed information
on postal tenders, regulations, rates,
postal routes, and notices on opening
an closing of postal offices.
Next is the OFFICIAL
GAZETTE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR
BASUTOLAND, THE BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE
AND SWAZILAND which we have so far
only seen from 1951 (or as the BECHUANALAND
PROTECTORARTE EDITION of the same
gazette). The BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE
GOVERNMENT GAZETTE first appears in
1963 and after Independence is replaced
REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA GOVERNMENT GAZETTE
that still is published by the Government
Printer in Gaborone. A source for
the early history of the area is CAPE
OF GOOD HOPE GOVERNMENT GAZETTE that
was published until 1910. Collections
of the most important acts and notices
were regularly published in the book
form and still is published today
on a yearly basis by the Government
Printer, Gaborone. It should also
be noted that the various editions
of the Laws of Bechuanaland and Botswana
contains the detailed postal regulations
(last edition in 1987).
The ANNUAL COLONIAL
REPORTS FOR BRITISH BECHUANALAND and
later BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE often
contain useful postal service summary
sections. These reports were in various
forms published until Independence,
latest by the Commonwealth Relations
Office. The postal guides of the Cape
of Good Hope and later the Union (and
Republic?) of South Africa contains
listings of postal offices and postal
route maps of neighboring territories,
including Bechuanaland. Other listings
of postal offices and rates appear
in the Telephone Directories of Bechuanaland
and later Botswana until 1980. The
various official year books (‘blue
books’) from the Cape of Good
Hope and the Union of South Africa
may be another valuable source to
the development of the Bechuanaland
(these includes the UNION-CASTLE YEAR
BOOK & GUIDE). Annual reports
were made by the Postmaster-General
of the Cape of Good Hope (and later
the Union) to the Bechuanaland Protectorate
administration. These are not published,
but deposited in the National Archives
We will finish this
survey by mention some general historical
interest books that will be useful.
Most important is Anthony Sillery’s
FOUNDING A PROTECTORATE (Mouton, 1965).
Other titles are J. M. Chirenje A
HISTORY OF NORTHERN BOTSWANA 1850-1910
(Associated University Press, 1977),
K. Shillington THE COLONISATION OF
THE SOUTHERN TSWANA Ravan Press, 1985),
T. Tlou A HISTORY OF NGAMILAND - 1750-1906
(MacMillan Botswana, 1985), and T.
Tlou and A. Campbell HISTORY OF BOTSWANA
(MacMillan Botswana, 1984). For an
relaxing hour Bosman’s JURIE
STEYN’S POST OFFICE (Human &
Rousseau, 1991 or other editions)
The monographs mentioned are widely
available from most philatelic literature
dealers and literature auctions. But
they can also be obtained from APRL.
Many of the official gazettes are
available on microfilm, although we
so far have been unable to locate
the British Bechuanaland Gazette and
the High Commission Gazettes between
1895 and 1951 in North American libraries.
It is very likely that these exist
in South African and British libraries
and may be available via interlibrary
loan. The annual colonial reports
may be available in British libraries,
but sporadic copies may appear in
many North American libraries. The
Post Office guides of the Cape and
the Union is probably best located
in South African libraries and archives.
To locate a long looked for document
and publication are like finally finding
the unique cover that is missing in
your collection. You may not have
to travel to London, Cape Town, and
Johannesburg to find it. Please join
us in the hunt.
Northern Mails and Telegraphs
Bechuanaland and Rhodesia in
the Annual Reports of the Postmaster-General,
Cape of Good Hope, 1885 - 1909
and Published by Peter Thy
reports were submitted
annually to the Cape
of Good Hope Parliament.
The reports contained
and statistics over
the postal and telegraph
activities for the
past calendar year.
They included information
on postal regulations,
postal rates, post
postal routes, telegraph
revenues, and many
other subjects. Of
to the Postmaster-General
was the development
and unification of
the postal and telegraph
regulations of the
southern African region,
the maintenance of
the British Mail Packets,
regulations such as
the Universal Postal
Union. The Postmaster-General,
with rights, considered
himself and the Cape
Postal and Telegraph
Department as being
the leading forces
behind the development
of the postal and
of southern Africa.
Modernization of these
was equated with social
and economic development.
The progress toward
this goal is recorded
in the reports, which
include in surprising
details the history
of what here is referred
to as the ‘Northern
Mails and Telegraphs.’
These frontier areas
included, to various
extents, British Bechuanaland,
British South Africa
Rhodesia, and British
Central Africa. The
reports are thus important
sources for the postal
historian, not only
of the Cape of Good
Hope, but of the southern
African region at
Map of South Africa
South of the Zambesi
showing principal railways
and telegraph lines
in 1896. From Hamiton
Telegraphs, St Martin's-Le-Grand,
Volume VI pages 320
- 329 1896.
Telegraphs were also
located along the railways.
H. H. Flowers was Postmaster
The story narrated by
begins in 1885 shortly
after General Warren's
and the establishment
of the Crown Colony
of British Bechuanaland.
Within a few years,
from perhaps around
1889 until the turn
of the century, the
postal and telegraph
of the vast regions
towards the north of
the Cape Colony were
established and fast
developed. This allowed
settlers to communicate
with other southern
African States and Republics,
and thereby, gave them
access to the British
Mail Packets maintained
by the Cape Colony.
Cape Department played
a central role in these
developments. For this
reason, the early postal
history of the Bechuanalands
and Rhodesians is closely
intertwined with that
of the Cape of Good
Hope. In 1882, the postal
laws and regulations
of the Cape Colony were
consolidated and modernized
into one single Government
Act that the following
year formed the background
for a new contract for
the conveyance of the
mails between the United
Kingdom and the Cape
Colony. A postal convention
between the Cape Colony
and British Bechuanaland
was signed in 1885,
shortly after the establishment
of the Crown Colony,
and extended the Cape
postal system northward.
It was also the same
year that the Cape Postal
and Telegraph Services
were amalgamated directly
under the control of
thus laying the ground
for an aggressive expansion
of the telegraph systems,
internally as well as
toward the northern
frontiers. In 1888,
the first mail service
toward the north was
established as the well
known Runner Post between
and locations in the
The same year, reduced
rates of ocean postage
came into effect following
the new Ocean Mail Contract
signed by the Cape Government
in October. Consequently,
the following years
saw a systematic drop
in the inland and overseas
rates. The Cape letter
rate dropped fast between
1888 and 1892 from 6d
to 2½d as a result
of a systematic policy
of reducing postal rates.
It was the Postmaster-General’s
view that reduced rates
resulted in an expansion
in the mail volumes
and ultimately in an
increase in revenues.
The colonization of
Mashonaland by the British
South African Company
soon led to the establishment
of a weekly service
between Tuli and Salisbury
in 1892, connecting
with the Bechuanaland
service. A postal services
to, and within, British
Central Africa was inaugurated
already in 1893, again
with the active involvement
of the Cape Department.
The firm Cape control
over the frontier mails
was further consolidated
by the transfer of the
administration of the
Bechuanaland Posts and
Telegraphs to the Cape
Post Office the same
year. British Bechuanaland
was annexed to the Cape
Colony in 1895, and
the local Postmaster-General's
office in Vryburg ceased
The Cape Colony entered the Universal
Postal Union in 1895 despite widespread
European concern that admitting
the Cape would strengthen the
influence of Great Britain on
The entrance into the Union also
had been delayed because of concern
in the Cape Parliament and Postal
Department about the organization
and the effects on the British
Mail Packets of reduced international
ocean rates. The South African
Postal Union came into effect
in 1898, the next year the Imperial
Penny Postage to the Empire was
adopted by the Cape Colony. In
1899, an agreement was finally
signed between the United Kingdom,
the Cape Colony, and the States
and Colonies of Southern Africa
with the purpose of sharing on
a more equal basis the expenses
for the Packet Mails to and from
the United Kingdom (and connecting
to the European and North American
This final settlement in a long
controversy stabilized the postal
developments in Southern Africa.
The telegraph had already entered
southern Africa in 1860, but
expansion of the lines first
escalated after 1873 when the
Government took over the existing
private owned systems. Soon,
the telegraph extended throughout
South Africa and branched out
toward the frontiers in the
wake of colonization. Soon the
telegraph was as important,
if not more important, than
the conventional mail system.
The first Bechuanaland telegraph
line was erected from Barkly
West to Kanye by the Imperial
Government in 1885 during the
Warren Expedition. This line
was taken over by the Bechuanaland
Government to Mafeking and rebuilt
with iron poles in 1886.
The British South Africa Company
extended the line to Tuli, at
the Matabele border, and the
following year all the way to
Salisbury. This early telegraph
construction was mostly done
by the Cape Post and Telegraph
Department or under its supervision.
In 1893, the workings and maintenance
of the Bechuanaland and the
British South Africa Company's
telegraphs were taken over by
the Cape Department that now
controlled the complete line
to Salisbury through the Protectorate.
The construction of a telegraph
line from Palapye, via Tati
and Mangwe, to Bulawayo was
initiated in 1893, and further
pushed on to reach Charter in
1894. The following year, a
direct line between Macloutsie
and Mangwe was constructed and
latter replaced the Palapye-Tati
line. This way, Salisbury was
connected to the south by two
lines either via Victoria or
Bulawayo, thus allowing for
increased traffic, but also
to provide some security in
case of native uprisings. Within
Rhodesia, the telegraph lines
were rapidly expanding southward
toward Umtali that finally was
reached in 1895. Duplex workings
were introduced 1895-6 doubling
the traffic on the existing
The Trans-Continental Telegraph
Company and the Cape Department
started construction of a line
from Salisbury via Mazoe and
Tete to Blantyre in 1895. This
line was connected to the Portuguese
East Africa telegraph system
at Tshiromo with connection
to Chinde and Quelimane. The
Nyasaland and Portuguese East
Africa connection was later
relocated via Umtali and Tete.
The main line through Bechuanaland
was rebuild from 1897 with a
three-wire line to accommodate
the increased Rhodesian and
British Central African traffic.
The British South Africa Company
resumed direct responsibility
of the telegraph system from
the Cape Department in 1897.
Thus, in just the few years
between 1890 and 1897, the Southern
African telegraph system had
matured and now connected Rhodesia
and British Central Africa with
the Cape Colony and with the
rest of the world.
In this compilation, relevant
references to the Northern Mails
and Telegraphs have been extracted
from the Postmaster-General’s
annual reports. The information
is presented in a chronological
order that closely follows the
Postmaster's presentation. An
accompanying compilation will
chronicle, within the same general
time frame, the development
of postal rates of the Cape
of Good Hope and the greater
southern African area. It is
hoped that the information contained
herein will prove of value to
the postal historian of southern
Africa. The first reference
to the Northern Mails occurs
in the 1885 report. The last
reference is naturally found
in the 1909 report (submitted
in early 1910). The following
year, 1911, was reported as
the first year by the Union
of South Africa's Postmaster-General.
The extracts are transcribed
literally with only a few and
rare typographical errors corrected.
The exceptions are the listings
of telegraph offices and also
the headings that have been
modified for ease of reference
Because the text to the reports
were collected over the report
year by the various personnel
in the postal and telegraph
sections of the Postmaster-General’s
office, repetitions are abundant
both within a report year as
well as from year to year. Many
errors and inconsistencies undoubtedly
occur, such as the opening or
closing of a telegraph office
reported during two following
report years. Sometimes a report
is given of an expected occurrence
or achievement that may have
failed to materialize. It should
also be realized that the reports
served a political purpose and
that the Postal and Telegraph
Services of the Cape, like other
government organizations, both
then and today, was dependent
on yearly budgetary approvals.
Despite these limitations, inconsistencies,
and inaccuracies, the report
texts provide useful information
on the role of the Cape Postal
and Telegraph Services' in the
development of the southern
The text was extracted from
Reports of the Postmaster-General,
Cape of Good Hope,
printed by W.A. Richards &
Sons, Cape Town, annually between
1885 and 1909. The 1910 report
was part of the Union of South
annual report printed in 1911.
The present compilations are
based on a microfilm edition
in the collections of the Library
Interest - Pilane Station
Opened circa 1952
Closed 21 September 1953
Re-opened circa 1958 or earlier
Closed 30 November 1964
Putzel Volume 3
Very few cancellations of Pilane
Station have been recorded and
this may well be the only example
The Runner Post
No16 - Page 292 Recorded
21 JUN 1952 - L.R.D. 21 APR
BECHUANALAND TO SALISBURY
Postcard to the actor Kenneth
Griffith posted in Bechuanaland
with a 2d South Africa commemorative
Disallowed as valid and crossed
out, cancelled with rare D.C.
PILANE STATION 29 VII
Taxed 2d with circular SALISBURY
18 - TO PAY
cachet - Paid with S. Rhodesia
2d due cancelled 2 AUG 52
Otto Peetoom Collection