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1851, British, pegged' at 5s = 1 US silver dollar.
1 July 1859, 100 cents = 1 Canadian dollar.

Canada now consists of ten provinces (from east to west, Newfoundland, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) and two territories (Yukon and Northwest Territories). The vast region began as a number of colonies and settlements physically separated by virtually unexplored territory and its postal affairs developed accordingly.

Canada (Colony)

Although Jacques Cartier sailed up the St Lawrence River in 1534, the first French settlement was made at Quebec in 1608. Conquered from the south by British troops during the Seven Years' War, 'New France' was ceded to Britain in 1763. In 1791 the British territory was divided into Upper Canada (English-speaking; now Ontario) and Lower Canada (Frenchspeaking; now Quebec Province)). The provinces were reunited in 1840 as the self-governing colony of Canada.

Postal History
Under the French, New France had a single post road between Quebec and Montreal from 1734 and a packet service from La Rochelle. After 1763 the postal services of British North America were extended to Canada, and handstruck postal markings of British pattern are known from c.1776, about the time the American colonies seceded. In 1784 Canada was given its own postmaster-general. A regular overland service was established between 'Halifax (Nova Scotia) and Quebec. In 1791 there were only 11 POs (including Detroit and Machilimackinac, transferred to the United States in 1796); by 1809, there were 26. Stage-coaches (from 1808) and steamboats (from 1809) replaced couriers as the extension of postal services matched widespread government-sponsored immigration from Britain. By 1828 there were 151 POs. Standardized handstamps were introduced in 1829.

When stamps first appeared in 1851, there were in the colony of Canada about 600 POs to sell them. Railroads carried mail from 1853 as they came into service and a network of TPOs developed. Street letter boxes were introduced in 1859 (in Toronto).

First cancellations for stamps were in the form of a numeral with four concentric rings. They were issued on an alphabetical basis from 1 'Barrie' to 30 'Windsor'. Additional numerals were issued later and particularly 516 for Montreal and 627 for Ottawa Senate. In 1868 a new series appeared with two thick concentric circles. These were numbered from 1 to 60, and included allocation to some of the POs in the Maritime provinces (i.e. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick) which had joined the Confederation in 1867.

A further range of unofficial fancy cancellations and target obliterations also exist.

Duplex types of cancellation were introduced in 1860 and were in general use from 1880 onwards. Flag cancellations were used at Montreal and Ottawa in 1897.

Nova Scotia

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 1 September 1851.

Nova Scotia was ceded to Britain in 1713 by the French, who had colonized it in 1598 under the name Acadia. Cape Breton Island had been assigned to France in 1632, but was united to Nova Scotia in October 1763. In 1784 it became separate, but was again joined in 1820. New Brunswick, which was gained from France in 1758, was part of Nova Scotia until 1784. Joined Canadian Federation on 1 July 1867.

The Nova Scotia P0 was under control of GPO London from 1754 until 1851 and Halifax was an important link in the transatlantic service. Nova Scotia used many types of obliterations on the early stamps and by 1868 was included in the Canadian list (seven Nova Scotia and one Cape Breton POs).

New Brunswick


New Brunswick, formerly part of Nova Scotia, was won from the French in 1713. It became a separate colony in 1784 and remained thus until federation with Canada on 1 July 1867. A dispute over the boundary with Maine in the USA was not settled until the Ashburton Treaty on 9 August 1842.

The New Brunswick P0 was under the control of GPO London from 1785 to 1851, by which time there were more than 20 POs in the colony. When issued, stamps were cancelled with an obliterator or with pen and ink. Initial allocation of numerals was alphabetic, except for number 1, which was St John. In all, 39 numerals were sent out. The 1868 Canadian list included five New Brunswick POs.

Prince Edward Island


The island, ceded by France in 1763, was annexed to Nova Scotia until made a separate colony in 1769. Originally called Lie St Jean (and St John's Isle) but renamed in 1799 after the Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria's father.

During the period of French rule there is reference to the fact that in 1705 the couriers of the governor's dispatches conveyed private letters for a fee. In 1816 administration of the post passed into the hands of the Postmaster of Nova Scotia but this was so infrequent that the islanders ran their own unofficial post. In 1851 control passed back to the islanders.

Stamps were obliterated with grids of bars until numerals were introduced in 1864 at Charlottetown. There were 32 POs on the island at this period. Stamps were withdrawn on 1 July 1873 when the colony became a province of Canada.

British Columbia and Vancouver Island

Superseded by separate issues in 1865 after currency had been decimalized in Vancouver Island.

Separate colonies originally with a joint stamp issue.

Vancouver Island, granted first to the Hudson's Bay Company, was made a colony in 1849. British Columbia (known until 1858 as New Caledonia) was surveyed by Vancouver 1792-4, had trading posts from 1805 and was sporadically settled from 1821 by the Hudson's Bay Company. The Fraser River gold rush of 1858 caused an influx of population via Vancouver Island, and British Columbia was made a separate colony. The two united in 1866 under the name of British Columbia, and in 1871 became a province of the Dominion.

Postal History
First P0 was set up at Victoria in 1847, first mainland POs in 1858. External communications were via US expresses (Wells Fargo, etc.); internal mails beyond the small confines of the government service were also by private expresses. POs sold stamps of the USA to prepay external postage until 1870 (these were generally cancelled in transit at San Francisco). In 1871 there were 30 POs.

Vancouver Island

FIRST SEPARATE STAMPS 19 September 1865.

British Columbia


After 19 November 1866, when the colonies were united as British Columbia, their stamps (surcharged where necessary) were all valid throughout the region until withdrawn on 20 July 1871.

Canada (Dominion)

FIRST STAMPS valid for use throughout original federation March 1868. Successive issues were made available over an ever-widening area as new provinces came into existence and as the settlements spread.


1867, 100 cents = 1 Canadian dollar.

In 1867 the provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia federated as the Dominion of Canada. Prince Edward Island became a province in 1873. Though British Columbia joined the federation in 1871, it remained cut off geographically overland until the railway link was forged in 1886. The vast lands draining into Hudson's Bay had been assigned in 1670 to the Hudson's Bay Company, and after 1713 were recognized as a sphere of British influence. In 1763 the North West Company was formed to exploit the territories beyond. The two companies amalgamated in 1821. In 1869 all territorial rights were sold to the Dominion government. As settlers moved in, Manitoba developed to become a new province. After British Columbia joined the federation, the Northwest Territories (so called after 1876) lost lands first to new 'districts' (some, such as Assiniboia and Athabaska, now only names), later to new provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905).

Postal History
Before 1850 Fort Garry (Winnipeg) and the Red River Settlement of the Hudson's Bay Territory (Rupert's Land) exchanged one mail a year with Britain via York Factory and Rupert House, and two with Canada via Lake Superior and the Ottawa River. These were carried by canoe by the fur-trading voyageurs.

About 1853 a runner mail service was organized between Fort Garry and Pembina (just over the border in Minnesota), then the nearest US P0, for transmission via St Paul. Until 1871 US postage stamps were sold in Fort Garry to prepay the American postage. In 1870 Manitoba became Dominion territory and though mail was mainly carried via US territory until the Canadian railway reached Winnipeg in 1879, by agreement only Canadian stamps were necessary. Between 1870 and 1882 some 130 POs were opened in Manitoba.

In 1876 a mail was started between Winnipeg and Edmonton, serving five intermediate offices once every three weeks.

Farther west, though westbound mails to Fort Walsh, Fort McLeod, and Calgary were sent in closed bags from Windsor, Ontario via Montana office, the eastbound letters had to be put directly into the US system bearing US stamps via Fort Assiniboine or Benton. The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the opening of Western Terminus, a railhead distributing office, in 1883 rendered services via the USA unnecessary.

By 1900 there were c. 120 POs in Alberta, c. 180 in Assiniboia, 11 in Keewatin, c. 50 in Northwest Territories, and c.50 in Saskatchewan. The last major territory to be reached was the Yukon, where a P0 was established at Dawson in 1897 to cope with mail from the Klondyke gold rush. In the first year the mails were carried by the North-West Mounted Police, then by contractors.

Since 1921 scattered habitations in the Arctic north have been served as conditions permit by patrol boats, by aircraft fitted with skis and by snow-cats.




1857, British.
1865, 100 cents = 1 dollar.

Island discovered by the Cabots in the reign of Henry VII, administered as part of England from 1583, as a colony from 1713, and self-governing from 1855. Came to be treated as a dominion by 1917, but its constitution was suspended by request in 1934, and it joined Canada on 1 April 1949. Coast of Labrador was administered by Newfoundland from 1809 and from 1927 to 1944 a large area inland (formerly under Quebec Province) came under the island.

Postal History

Has used stamps of Canada since 1 April 1949. The stamps were obliterated with a series of grids and fancy cancellations. One numeral, 235, is known, but this is fraudulent.

After World War I Newfoundland was the base for many attempts to cross the Atlantic by air. Although many of these failed, the technology that was developed in these trials enabled Imperial Airways to develop other overseas air routes after 1924. The first successful flight by Alcock and Brown was made in June 1919 and, as with other attempts to win the Daily Mail prize of £10,000, the stamps used were specially overprinted.

The long indented coastline of Labrador was served from 1896 to 1949 by Newfoundland steamer TPOs similar to those of Norway (and under Canada still is, though the railway and new town of Scheffersville opened up in 1950 a direct overland route from Quebec Province).

St Pierre et Miquelon

FIRST STAMPS French Colonial General Issues from 1859.

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 5 January 1885. Used French stamps from 1978.


100 centimes = 1 franc.

After periodic disputes between England and French settlers from 1713, these islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland became a French colony in 1816. Taken by a Free French naval force on 24 December 1941. Became a French overseas territory on 19 March 1946, and an overseas departement of France on 1 July 1976.

The head P0 is at St Pierre (handstamp from 1853); there are suboffices at Ile aux Chiens, Miquelon and Langlade.

Used French Colonies General Issues (oblit. SPM in lozenge). Since 1 April 1978 has used stamps of France.

Canada to 1873
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Canada to 1900
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Canadian TPOs to 1950
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