Tucked away at the end of the Egypt section of the SG Commonwealth Part 1 catalogue, you will find a listing for the four stamps issued by the Suez Canal Co. during the canal's final construction phase.
Ferdinand de Lesseps secured the concession to build his mighty canal in November 1855, and the Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez was formed as part of the agreement with Mohamed Said Pasha (Khedive of Egypt, 1822 – 1863), who owned 44% of the new company's shares.
In 1859, the company established its own postal system, in order to convey mail between its work sites and administrative offices. The service was quickly handed over to the Posta Europa service in 1860, but in 1865 the company was forced to take charge of its own postal affairs again, and carried all mail, both business and personal, completely free of charge. Within a couple of years, it became obvious that a charge for this service would have to be levied.
With the new postal charges due to take effect on 1st July 1868, the company ordered postage stamps in denominations of 1, 5, 20 and 40 centimes with the Parisian printers Chezaud Aine et Tavernier. For each value, 120- position lithographic stones were created. The complete sheets arrived at Ismailia a week or so after the 1st July deadline and were immediately placed in use.
The Egyptian authorities quickly saw a risk to their postal monopoly, and less than 40 days after their arrival, the new stamps were withdrawn from service at midnight on August 15th 1868. The company's postal equipment transferred to the Government, who then opened post offices at the sites.
With the short period of issue and the late arrival of the official cancelling devices, genuinely used examples are extremely rare. There are less than 20 used examples of the 1c, 5c and 40c values known, bearing a mixture of the French numeral postmark for Port Said and certain other identifiable grid cancellations; there are also less than 25 known, used on covers!