General issues: French colony 1891-1903
Country name on general issues: Congo Français
Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1891-1903
Population: 511 000 in 1905
Political history French Congo
French Congo is located in central Africa. The name French Congo has been used for a number of different entities in what will eventually become French Equatorial Africa.
The establishment of French Congo
French Congo is populated by a number of Bantu peoples of which the Fang and the Kongo are the largest groups – peoples that are organized in smaller polities. A small number of Pygmy peoples also live in French Congo – the Pygmy being the original inhabitants, the Bantu having migrated to French Congo at a later date. The Portuguese are the first Europeans to explore the coast of the future central Africa. From the 16th century several European nations have had trade settlements in French Congo. From 1839, the French establish a permanent presence in the part of French Congo that is then – and now – known as Gabon signing the first treaty of protection. In 1849, Libreville is founded by the French to become the capital of Gabon. In subsequent years the interior is explored – an effort that gains momentum from 1875 when the French explorer De Brazza embarks on his first journey. De Brazza signs more treaties of protection and, in 188o, founds the city that will be named after him – Brazzaville – and that will become the capital of French Congo. At the 1885 Berlin conference where the colonial powers divide their respective spheres of interest in Africa, the territories explored by De Brazza are claimed by and awarded to France. The French – who have administered their settlements in the region in different ways from 1839 – in 1886 establish the colonies of French Congo and Gabon.
The extension of French Congo
As the French set out to establish effective colonial rule and extend their presence in what will become French Equatorial Africa, these colonies will go through yet a number of administrative changes. In 1888, French Congo is joined with neighboring Gabon to form the colony of Gabon-Congo. Gabon-Congo is renamed French Congo in 1891. From the colony of French Congo, the French extend their possessions in central Africa. In 1891, a settlement is founded in Bangui and in 1894 Ubangi Shari is proclaimed a French territory. In 1900, Chad is proclaimed a French military territory. Both are subordinate to French Congo. In 1903 – effective 1904 – French Congo is redefined as a higher level of government administration – as a federation of French possessions. Within this federation the following French possessions are defined: the colonies of Gabon and Middle Congo, the territory of Ubangi Shari and the military territory of Chad. All are subordinate to the commissioner general – from 1908 the governor general – of French Congo. French Congo is finally named French Equatorial Africa in 1910. The constituent parts of the federation of French Congo currently form the republics of Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, the Central African Republic and Chad.
Thus, the name French Congo is used for three successive entities: the colony of French Congo from 1886 to 1888, the colony of French Congo including Gabon from 1891 and the federation of French possessions in central Africa from 1904 to 1910.
Postal history French Congo
The first French post office in central Africa is opened in 1862 in Gabon in Libreville – using the general issues for the French colonies. These are known to have been used from 1881 in Brazzaville – mail being processed through Gabon. The first stamps are issued in 1886 for Gabon.
Stamps in the name of French Congo will be issued from 1891. The first set are overprints on the issues for the French colonies – the overprint being ‘Congo français’ and a new face value. In 1892, more issues from the French colonies are overprinted, including postage due stamps. The first set of definitives is issued in 1892 – the standard ‘Navigation & Commerce’ design inscribed ‘Congo Français’. In 1900, a set of pictorials is issued. As the French extend their possessions in central Africa, the stamps of French Congo are also used in Ubangi Shari – the first post office in Ubangi Shari being opened in 1893 in Bangui.