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FIRST STAMPS French Colonies General Issues 1885.



French (but since 1966 the franc designated Fmg, reflected on stamps only since 1974).

Discovered by the Portuguese in 1500. The native population, settled perhaps 500 years earlier from South-East Asia, resisted the peripheral colonization of the French. In the 1880s other European nations also had aspirations. After a war in 1882-5 Diego Suarez (see above) was ceded to France and protected status without occupation extended to the whole island. This was recognized by Britain and Germany in 1890. In 1894 the French claimed the island. After the suppression of popular resistance, Tananarive was taken in September 1895 and a colony proclaimed on 30 May 1896. The Queen was deposed in 1897.

After the fall of France in 1940, Madagascar adhered strongly to Vichy. In 1942, fearing collaboration with the Japanese, the British seized the island by force and handed it to a Free French administration. The island became autonomous as Republique Malgache (q.v) on 14 October 1958 and an independent state as Malagasy Republic (q.v.) within the French Community on 26 June 1960. A series of coups d'etat in 1975 led via military dictatorship to a left-wing regime, and the addition of 'Demokratika' to the country's official name.

Postal History
Up to 1881 the peripheral colonies shared the route to Zanzibar with the Comoro Islands. From 1881 they were served by a monthly steamer from La Reunion to Tamatave. Stamps (French Colonies General Issues, supplied from Reunion) were cancelled on board ship. French POs opened in 1885 at Tamatave, Tananarive, Fianarantsoa, Mahanoro, Majunga, Vatomandry, and Vohemar, which (with Ste Marie, Nossi &, and Diego Suarez) were served by the Ligne Coloniale de Mozambique.

Used French Colonies General Issues from 1885, including locally overprinted provisionals, some on stamps of France, March 1889-96.

A runner service (parcels from 1875; letters from 1888) was organized by the Norwegian Missionary Society which operated until 1899. A. runner service from Tananarive to the French P0 in Tamatave was organized by British residents before 1884 and made official by the vice-consul in 1884.

Used locally printed stamps March 1884-7, after which the service continued with handstruck markings to indicate payment.

In January-September 1895, during the French war of occupation, the British ran an inland mail service using special stamps.

Malagasy Republic (Republique Malgache)

FIRST STAMPS December 1958.


1958, francs CFM.
1976, 5 francs = 1 ariary.

Madagascar and Dependencies



1889, as France.

Nossi Be

FIRST STAMPS June 1889 (locally overprinted).


1889, as France.

Island off north-west coast of Madagascar, French since 1841. A dependency of Mayotte until 1881, then of Diego Suarez, and, from 1901 an administrative part of Madagascar.

Used French Colonies General Issues from c. 1864 (oblit. NSB in lozenge of dots).

Diego Suarez

FIRST STAMPS 25 January 1890.


1890, as France.

The fine harbour at the northern end of Madagascar became a French protectorate in 1840, was ceded in 1885, and incorporated in Madagascar in 1898.

Used French Colonies General Issues from c. 1885. Stamps validated after 30 May 1896 throughout Madagascar and dependencies.

Sainte-Marie de Madagascar

FIRST STAMPS April 1894 (withdrawn 18 January 1898).


1894, as France.

Port-of-call on the French route to India from 30 July 1750, treated as a dependency of Reunion, then from 1881 of Mayotte. Administered from Diego Suarez from 1888. Used stamps of Diego Suarez from 1890.

Comoro Islands

FIRST STAMPS 1864 (French Colonies General Issues).



1950, 100 centimes = 1 franc (Malagasy).

Mayotte, Anjouan, Grande Comore, and Moheli came under French protection at various dates from 1841. They were separate colonies 1891-8, dependencies 1898-1912, colonies again from 25 July 1912 to 23 February 1914, when they became dependencies of Madagascar. They were captured from their Vichy sympathizers by British forces in 1942. On 9 May 1946 the islands became an autonomous overseas department of France. Mayotte is predominantly Catholic, the other islands Muslim Arab.

A separatist movement fostered in Tanzania was active in the 1960s and on 6 July 1975 the local chamber of deputies declared unilaterally for independence; all the Mayotte deputies abstained. Troops were flown in from Reunion pending a referendum, which on 22 December 1975 produced a similar result. The self-styled Etat Comorien celebrated with a couple of coups d'etat. A second referendum in Mayotte showed an 80 per cent demand to become France forthwith.

From c.1872 an integral part of the Comoros and Nossi-Be sent mail by a British India S. N. Co. steamer to Zanzibar. From 1880 a French sea link existed from Mayotte via Nossi Be to Reunion. In 1885-8 Messageries Maritimes ran a 'Ligne Coloniale' between Mauritius and Mozambique via Madagascar and Comoro ports.




1892, as France.

Ceased issuing stamps in 1914 when it became a dependency of Madagascar. Following a referendum in December 1974, and a coup d'etat in 1975, Mayotte finally voted for the status of an overseas departement of France.

However, before the stamps of France became available in August 1976, the stamps of Comoro Archipelago (q.v.) were issued in Dzaoudzi in February 1976 before stamps were obtained from Reunion.


FIRST STAMPS November 1892.


1892, as France.

Came under French influence in 1843 and protection in 1866.

Great Comoro (Grande Comore)

FIRST STAMPS November 1897.


1897, as France.




1906, as France.

Initially a dependency of Anjouan, it received a PO c. 1902.

After 1914, stamps of the four islands were validated throughout Madagascar and dependencies and use up, after which stamps of Madagascar dependencies were used.

Comoro Archipelago (Archipel des Comores)


FIRST STAMPS inscribed ETAT COMORIEN issued 1975 (in Anjouan, Grande Comore, and Moheli), some of which have been declared undesirable'.

Madagascar pre 1900
Click map for larger view

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