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Marshall Islands

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED German Colonial Type overprinted 1897.


Up to 1914, German (mark).
1914 - 1945, Japanese (yen).
1945 - to date, American (dollar).

Group of islands in the North Pacific, including Jaluit, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok. Discovered in the 17th century by the Spaniards, but not developed as they were too far from the Philippines, the main administrative centre. Constituted a German colony on 15 October 1885 and administered from the capital on Jaluit.

Invaded by a Japanese force in September 1914. Became a mandated territory under the League of Nations and a UN trusteeship territory in 1945.Administered by the USA after the war, the islands became internally self-governing in 1979 and the United Nations Trusteeship came to an end on 21 October 1986. Its independence was recognised by the United Nations in December 1990.

Postal History
First Germany PO opened on 1 October 1888 but initially no stamps were available. Contemporary German stamps were placed on sale in March 1889, but can only be distinguished by their postmarks. In 1897 German colonial stamps were issued overprinted, and these together with later German issues were used until 1914. In 1901 the Jaluit company operated a mail service from the Marshall Islands to Sydney, and the following year extended the service to Hong Kong. Both of these lines connected with the main lines to Europe.

Japanese stamps were used from 1914 to 1944 and USA stamps since then. These can only be distinguished by the postmarks. New stamps were issued by this Republic in 1990.

Waked Island


American dollar

Small group in the mid-Pacific, north of the Marshall Islands. Placed under the jurisdiction of the US Navy Department in December 1934, having been annexed in 1898.

Wake Island had been selected by Pan American Airways as a port of call on their Clipper Service to the Philippines, and their first plane landed on 9 August 1935. It was the site of a heroic defence by American Marines against Japanese invasion. Group was finally occupied on 24 December 1941, and recaptured in 1945.

No special stamps issued.

Postal History
Although there was a hotel on one of the smaller islands, the mail was normally handled through Pan American Airways to Honolulu or Guam. A civil PO was established on 1 May 1961, and USA stamps used. Single PO handles both civil and military mail.

Midway Island


American dollar

Small group of islands in the mid-Pacific area to the west of the Hawaiian Islands. Discovered by the Royal Navy in 1859 and occupied by the USA in 1903, when a station for the Transpacific cable was built there. In 1936 became a stopping-point on the Pan American Airways Clipper Service from Hawaii to Manila. Attacked by the Japanese in December 1941, but held out and was the site of a major naval action in June 1942 in which the Japanese carrier fleet was largely destroyed.

No special stamps issued.

Postal History
A USA civil PO was in operation between 1903 and 1918; administered as part of the Hawaiian Postal Sector. There was no PO on the island between the wars, though unofficial cachets were placed on mail by Pan American Airways. The military took over in November 1940. After the war, and up to the present day, Midway has remained a military station and there is no civil PO.

French and German Mailboats in the Pacific

The French shipping line Messageries Maritimes was operating in the Indian Ocean to service Mauritius and Reunion as early as 1864. This became Ligne T in 1867 and was extended to Australia and New Caledonia in 1888.

The first service was routed via Seychelles and Mauritius, but in 1888 the ships passed direct from Seychelles to King George's Sound. In 1896 the service was altered again and sailed direct from Colombo to Fremantle in Western Australia. Throughout this period, the shipping points in Eastern Australia remained the same - Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney - and thence to Noumea in New Caledonia.

In 1903 the pressure of the German service from Singapore to New Guinea and on to the Marshall and Mariana Islands caused the French to reorganize their service. The regularity of the mail trips increased but the ships did not carry PAs on board. This service ended with the outbreak of war in 1914.

In 1886 Norddeutsche Lloyd of Bremen began a service to Singapore and China via Aden, Colombo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. It was extended to Japan in 1900. Later on, every other steamer on a monthly service went to Tsingtao. In the period between 1886 and 1900 there was a feeder line from Hong Kong to Nagasaki.

Also in 1886 a service was opened to Australia via Port Said, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and a feeder service was initiated between Sydney, Tonga and Samoa. This was closed in 1893 because it was unprofitable.

Other branch lines were established as follows:

Singapore to German New Guinea in 1893 - 1900 and in 1909 - 14.
Hong Kong to Sydney via Saipan, Ponape and German New Guinea 1900 - 01.
Hong Kong to Sydney via Yap and German New Guinea 1901 - 02.
Singapore to Sydney via German New Guinea 1900-04.
Yokohama to Sydney via Hong Kong, Manila, Yap, and New Guinea 1904-14.

In 1901, the Jaluit Company began services in the Marshall, Mariana and Caroline Islands, as follows:

Sydney to Palau via Jaluit, Ponape and Yap 1901 - 02.
Sydney to Hong Kong via Jaluit, Ponape, Yap and Palau 1902 - 04.
Sydney to Hong Kong via Jaluit, Ponape, Saipan and Yap 1904 - 14.

All German lines closed in 1914 and did not reopen.

After the war, the French service was reorganized again and from 1920 to 1923 operated only to Australia and Noumea, but in 1923 the line to Noumea began to sail via the Panama Canal and the Australian route was extended to terminate at Brisbane. This service continued until 1940. The New Caledonia (Noumea) line was routed via Tahiti and New Hebrides. It continued until World War II. This was the only French service which was 'Transpacific' and linked with local services in all three island groups.

Transpacific mail

No regular subsidised mail contract existed for a service from China and Japan before 1867. In 1866, the Pacific Mail Steam Navigation Co. gained a contract from the US Government for a regular fortnightly service from San Francisco to Hong Kong via Hawaii and Yokohama. Four ships were built for this route and they were the largest wooden coal-burning ships ever built.

As they were not ready by the start of 1867, on 1 January that year the Colorado made the inaugural voyage to Hong Kong. This was successfully completed but it was not until 1868 that there were sufficient ships to fulfil the contract.

In 1867, Hong Kong and the USA signed a convention to establish the rates of postage at 8 cents (Hong Kong) or 10 cents (USA). These rates were introduced after ratification in 1868. At the same time the American POs in Shanghai and Japan were opened and a feeder service was introduced to carry mail to Japan and connect with the main service to Hong Kong.

PMSNC retained the monopoly of this service until 1877. At that time, Hong Kong joined the UPU, the convention on postal rates was no longer necessary and the Oriental and Oceanic Steamship Co. began an alternative service.

In 1892, a further service from Hong Kong to Vancouver was opened by the Canadian Pacific Railway to connect with their newly completed transcontinental service. Mail was routed from Vancouver to Toronto and thence via Buffalo to New York to connect with the Atlantic service.

French & German Mailboats 1886-1914
Click map for larger view

North Pacific to 1919 (incl. Hawaiian Is.)
Click map for larger view

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