General issues: Postage stamps 1898, War tax stamps 1919, Postage due stamps 1945
Country name on general issues: Correios Africa, Colonias, Imperio Colonial Portugues
Currency: 1 Milreis = 1000 Reis 1898, 1 Escudo = 100 Centavos 1919-1945
Political and postal history Portuguese Africa
Commemorating Vasco da Gama
Portuguese Africa was never a single political entity. Portuguese Africa exists only as a ‘stamp issuing entity’ as the Portuguese, at a number of times, issued stamps for all of their colonies in Africa. Three of these issues have appeared: postage stamps in 1898, war tax stamps in 1919 and postage due stamps in 1945. By far the most appealing are the postage stamps issued 1898.
In 1898, it was four hundred years since the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached India. Having left from Lisbon in 1497, Vasco da Gama rounded Cape of Good Hope, explored the east African coast and finally crossed the Indian Ocean to arrive in India in 1498. The voyage of Vasco da Gama may been seen as one of the major efforts in establishing the Portuguese colonial empire – the Portuguese would dominate the trade on the Indian Ocean for the next century.
In 1898, Vasco da Gama was commemorated throughout the Portuguese Empire. The postal authorities did so by issuing a set of commemoratives.
The 1898 Vasco da Gama set of postage stamps in more detail
For use in the Portuguese possessions in Africa, a set was issued insribed ‘Africa Correios’. The Portuguese possessions in Africa were at the time:
The same set was also issued in other Portuguese possessions – only now inscribed with the names of the issuing countries. These were:
Finally, the set was issued in Portugal itself and the islands in the Atlantic Ocean that were part of Portugal but had their own postal administration at the time:
Thus, the issue was a Portuguese version of what the British would call an ‘Omnibus Issue’ or the French a ‘Grande Série’.
A second life for the Vasco da Gama issue
The set was apparently printed in sufficient numbers to allow for it to have a second life. It was reissued with overprints in almost all countries within the Portuguese Empire. Basically on two occasions: the establishment of the republic in Portugal in 1910 and the introduction of the new currency in Portuguese Africa in 1912. Let’s take a closer look.
In 1910, the monarchy in Portugal had been ousted and the republic proclaimed. All over the Portuguese Empire available stamps were overprinted ‘Republica’. Among these, the Vasco da Gama set which was reissued in the following countries – in some cases with an additional overprint of a new face value to accommodate for changed postal rates:
- Azores – 1911
- Macau – 1913
- Portugal – 1911
- Portugal – 1911 on the set originally issued for Madeira
- Portuguese India – 1913
- Timor – 1913
In Portuguese Africa the Vasco da Gama set was also reissued with overprints. Only in Portuguese Africa the overprint not only reflects the change to a republic, but also to a new currency – the escudo/centavo introduced in 1912. Thus, stamps were overprinted with ‘Republica’ and the face value in the new currency. In the countries in Africa, the set issued for Portuguese Africa was used, but also the set issued for Macau and Timor. Thus, the overprint also includes the name of the country. We find these overprints in the following countries:
- Angola – 1914
- Cape Verde – 1913
- Mozambique districts:
- Portuguese Congo – 1913
- Portuguese Guinea – 1913
- Sao Tome & Principe – 1913
A final note on the Vasco da Gama commemoration in 1898. Portugal also issued a set of postage due stamps to commemorate Vasco da Gama – all of the same design. This set was reissued for postal use with the ‘Republica’ overprint in 1911.