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Mauritius



FIRST STAMPS ISSUED 21 September 1847.


CURRENCY

1847, sterling.
1878, 100 cents = 1 shilling.



Visited in turn by Arabs, Malays, and in the 16th century Portuguese, Mauritius was settled in the 17th century by the Dutch, who gave it its name. The French (1721) changed the name to Isle de France. The island fell to British arms in 1810 and was ceded to Britain in 1814, becoming Mauritius again. It was a Crown Colony until 1967, when it was given self-government, and on 12 March 1968 became independent within the Commonwealth.


Postal History
Letters are recorded from 1609; the contents of one are known, but the earliest surviving letters to and from Mauritius are dated 1638. After 1721 mails were carried by vessels of the French East India Company. In 1772 a government PO was placed at Port Louis. The government printer instituted an inland post linked to transmission by private ships. In 1783-8 a quarterly royal packet operated between Mauritius and (alternately) Bordeaux or Le Havre: from this period dates the first handstruck postal marking.


The first English PO was established at Port Louis in 1811, also with handstruck markings, but a stage-coach mail for internal distribution began only in 1834. In July 1847 PAs were opened in eleven districts. In June 1848 fast schooners were operated from Mauritius to take the mails via Ceylon. During the next decade mail was carried on various short- lived P&O Steamship Co. schedules via the Cape, Ceylon, or Aden, but only the arrival in 1864 of the packet-boats of Messageries Imperiales brought a regular service to Europe via Aden. The same year saw the start of the railway network which served the island until World War II. POs were then relocated at or near railway stations and the 1869 series of numerical cancellations in oval of bars follows an order based on the railways (see bottom map). The previous series of numerals in two concentric circles (incorrectly recorded in the Robson Lowe Encyclopaedia) are located on the top map. Mauritius joined the UPU in 1877.


Mauritius worked a sea-link to connect with the African airmail (via Mombasa-Nairobi) from 1933; the first (military) air service by landplane from Plaisance airfield was inaugurated in December 1943; and the first direct civil airmail (Air France) started between Mauritius and Nairobi in 1946.


First stamps were the famous 1d and 2d inscribed POST OFFICE, the design based on the 'penny black' of Britain, engraved by J. O. Barnard locally. The stamps remained undiscovered for years and the only specimens known on cover were found in 1897 in an Indian bazaar. The romance that surrounded them has perpetuated collectors' interest in the early and middle issues.


The island dependency of Rodriguez has had a branch PO since 1861, using stamps of Mauritius: these can be identified by cancellation B65 or, later, named datestamp.



Mauritius pre 1869
Click map for larger view


Mauritius from 1869
Click map for larger view


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