Bechuanaland and Botswana Philately

Postal History
Collect Bechuanaland Postal History
This Page is the Introduction to the Postal History of Stellaland,
British Bechuanaland, Bechuanaland Protectorate and Botswana and includes References to Articles and Bibliography by various Authors

The Discovery of the Century for Rhodesia & Bechuanaland, the End of a Myth
By Otto Peetoom - Published in The Rhodesian Philatelist No 16 April 1998

Brief Background History: A Postal Notice dated 28 July 1888 issued at Vryburg by the Acting Postmaster General Ernest C. Baxter announced that a mail service between Bechuanaland and Matabeleland was to be established shortly. A list of postal rates accompanied the notice. Five postal agencies along the route would be opened. Each office along with a postmaster would receive a date stamp and a barred oval numeral canceller.

The Offices, allocated BONC's and Postmasters were:
KANYE 677 J. Williams, MOLEPOLOLE 674 Rev. S.J. Wookey, SHOSHONG 676 C. Austin, TATI 679 Sam Edwards and GUBULAWAYO 678 Rev. C.D. Helm.
A postal notice dated 8 August 1888 issued by the G.P.O. Cape Town, announced that the service would commence on August 9th. The Rev. John Smith Moffat organized the service; he was the Assistant Commissioner of Bechuanaland and the British agent in Gubulawayo. During July and August 1888 he travelled north along the mail route and reached Tati on the 15th.

The Datestamps: All five handstamps for the above agencies had BECHUANALAND at foot.
Gubulawayo Matabeleland was under the control of Lobengula. The Tati district was disputed territory. Seretse Khama, the paramount Chief of the Bechuanas regarded it as his domain. Lobengula considered the area as his land and had granted Mining Concessions on it. The dispute was finally settled by mid 1894 after Lobengula's death. It has never been established who was responsible for the erroneous inclusion of the word BECHUANALAND on the Gubulawayo and Tati datestamps. Had the word remained in place a potentially volatile situation could have developed.

GUBULAWAYO BECHUANALAND AU 21 88: I am not aware when this postmark was first discovered. In his 1940 publication Dann recorded four, by 1956 Nodder raised the count to eight and by 1997 there were fourteen recorded.

TATI BECHUANALAND 21 AU 88: Neither of Dann’s 1940 and 1950 publications made mention of it. Jurgens in his 1945 publication stated that H.R. Holmes was aware of three copies and that Robson Lowe had sold one of them in their 15 December 1943 Auction. In 1956 Nodder stated two examples were known and by 1997 the count had reached eight.

A Myth is Born:
H.C. Dann in his 1940 publication (page 38) related an unauthenticated tale that the Rev. John Smith Moffat, upon his arrival at Bulawayo on 21 August 1888, cancelled the first mail dispatch with the datestamp Gubulawayo Bechuanaland AU 21 88. Then, in order to appease an irate King Lobengula, Moffat allegedly chipped the word BECHUANALAND from the handstamp.

A different version of the Myth: H.R. Holmes in his 1971 book on Bechuanaland presented a new version of events by including Tati 21 AU 88 in it. According to Holmes, Lobengula had no knowledge of the Gubulawayo Bechuanaland datestamp. Allegedly the Rev. Helm, not Moffat, cancelled the outgoing mail on 21 August 1888 with the handstamp in its original state and then quickly removed the country name before Lobengula became aware of its existence.
On that same day the Rev. Helm (in Bulawayo) supposedly persuaded Sam Edwards (in Tati) to remove the word BECHUANALAND from his handstamp. Still on the same day, Sam Edwards allegedly cancelled the mail using his TATI BECHUANALAND 21 AU 88 datestamp and afterwards filed the offending word away.
Thus the early stalwarts of African Philately had informed their humble followers that the GUBULAWAYO and TATI datestamps with BECHUANALAND at foot had both seen postal usage for one day only at their respective locations. For over forty years the myth went unchallenged.

Disputing the Myth - A Rhodesian Rarity or Cancelled To Order Souvenir Colin Fraser in an article in the June 1987 Stamp World challenged the myth on the basis that in each case the Gubulawayo and Tati Bechuanaland postmarks are clearly and centrally struck on the stamp which would seem unlikely to happen to stamps used on commercial mail. Colin stated that a more likely explanation was that the postmarks were prepared as cancelled-to-order souvenirs. His article was reprinted in The Runner Post No 8 and a brief quote from the article appeared in Rhodesian Study Circle Journal No 139/90.

Note: The postmarks are all on Bechuanaland adhesives either SG 40, 41 or 42. In addition to a central postmark the majority of the stamps also have one or two portions of the rim of a cancel that has been applied to the adjoining stamp. This is very much in keeping with C.T.O. practice.

The End of a Myth - The Proof: Illustrated above is a marginal strip of five 2d Bechuanaland stamps SG 42 with five different cancels dated
AU 21 88. The five Agencies along the new mail runner route between Bechuanaland and Matabeleland are arranged in the correct geographic sequence southwards: Gubulawayo, Tati, Shoshong, Molepolole and Kanye. Each datestamp is inscribed BECHUANALAND at its foot. This item I will now refer to as The Proving Strip. The second strip of four 1d stamps SG 41 is cancelled with the same date with Gubulawayo, two Tati 's and Shoshong.
The third discovery is an irregular marginal block of five ½d vermilion stamps SG 40 with five cancellations of SHOSHONG AU 21 88. This new evidence proves that the 21 August 1888 usage of these datestamps was undertaken to create cancelled to order souvenirs. It is unlikely that any of the datestamps saw correct postal usage on the 21 August 1888.

The Provenance: The above items originate from the Hunt collection. Ernest Hunt, born in London on 9 September 1877 immigrated to South Africa in 1904. He was a well known and highly respected Philatelist who amassed an amazing assembly of collections. It is said that his world collection to 1933, at the time of his death, lacked only a small number of stamps for completion. In 1950 he became a founder member of the Expert Committee of the Philatelic Federation of Southern Africa.
In 1952 he was elected to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists and in 1960 he was Chairman of UNIPEX, the International Stamp Exhibition held in Johannesburg. Many of Britain’s prominent dealers knew Mr Hunt, but none of them were aware that he possessed the above mentioned items. John Taylor informed me that the bulk of the Hunt collection was acquired by Stanley Gibbons; John recalls that the last stamp he sold Ernest Hunt was Bulgaria SG 1. Part of Hunt's collection which included the Bechuanaland AU 21 88 strips changed hands in South Africa during late 1997. Ernest Hunt’s Obituary appeared in the June 1968 South African Philatelist.

Questions arising from the proving strip: The present day stalwarts of African philately may perhaps have a field day with the new evidence, but will someone else prove them wrong in another forty years from now? The following opinions have been put forward by a variety of individuals.
Where were the AU 21 88 cancels applied and by whom? Possibly in Vryburg prior to the handstamps intended distribution to the North?
If applied there the most likely candidate to carry out the work would have been Ernest C. Baxter, the Acting Postmaster General, who it is said to have had an interest in philately.
Who instigated the idea? It is believed that Baxter was a friend of Emil Tamsen who was a keen collector and part time dealer - See The Rhodesian Philatelist No 14. Tamsen frequently succeeded in having stocks of his mint stamps cancelled at a variety of post offices in Southern Africa. At the time no great value would have been attached to the actual cancels on the stamps. It appears that the AU 21 88 C.T.O.’s were distributed as normal used stamps. To this end it is quite amazing that the above multiples have survived.

A question without resolve: Were the cancels applied on the actual day of 21 August? Is it possible that the CTO souvenirs were prepared prior to that date and that the 21 August was chosen as the anticipated date that the new mail service would be fully operational?
Other thoughts on the AU 21 88 date: It is suggested by E.W. (Ted) Proud that the manufacturers of postal handstamps invariably delivered their datestamps complete with a fitted date setting and time code, if provided for. Ted also thinks that whenever the postal authorities received a new handstamp they would insert a date setting to ensure everything fitted correctly. Either suggestion may account for the AU 21 88 date fitted to all five datestamps used on the proving strip.
In 1997 Ted published books on the postal history of Bechuanaland and Southern Rhodesia in which he expressed an opinion that Gubulawayo and Tati Bechuanaland were only used to produce cancelled to order souvenirs.
When and where was BECHUANALAND excised from the Gubulawayo and Tati datestamps? The only known date for the two handstamps in their original state is 21 August 1888. The proving strip suggests that neither Agency used their date stamp with the word BECHUANALAND in place.

The suggestions for the excising are:
Carried out at Vryburg on the assumption that the necessary skills were available locally. The two datestamps were returned to the manufacturer for modification, possibly in Cape Town. Present opinion is that neither handstamp was sent north in its original state. The known manuscript cancellations applied at Tati between 15.8.88 and 27.9.88 add support to this last opinion.

The TATI manuscript cancels: All on Bechuanaland adhesives, a total of five examples are known. Two on loose stamps (one is undated). Two separate pieces with two stamps per piece.
One cover addressed to Cape Town from Matabele Thompson to his wife. The envelope has two stamps on it with a third adhesive removed. During transit at Mafeking the manuscript stamps were cancelled there as well, either with the Mafeking datestamps or barred oval numeral 638, allocated to that office. The manuscript Tati cancels are dated: 15.8.88 (two examples), 8.9.88 and 27.9.88. The foregoing suggests that between 15 August and 27 September 1888 there was no postal canceller of any description available at Tati. For more details of the foregoing see The Runner Post No’s 18 & 20. Dann 1940 (page 37) and 1950 (page 36). Holmes 1971 (page 94) and Knight & Mitchell 1984 (page 2).

Gubulawayo and Tati Bechuanaland - A Review: Most collectors of Bechuanaland and Rhodesia would like to own an example of Tati and Gubulawayo Bechuanaland. During the past twenty years or so the interest in postal history and postmark collecting has increased considerably, thus it is not surprising that further examples of both cancels have been discovered. If we include the cancels on the two strips the numbers now known are Tati eleven and Gubulawayo sixteen. These numbers do not suggest that either is a major rarity when compared to the postmarks of other offices for which only one or two examples are known to exist. However by the prices realized at auction it indicates that demand far outstrips the supply. During 1996 Christie’s in London sold three Gubulawayo Bechuanaland strikes for £1150, £1265 and £1840. At the time, a Tati Bechuanaland cancel sold for a staggering £2760.

Kanye, Molepolole and Shoshong Bechuanaland: By comparison to Tati and Gubulawayo these three cancels are not considered as major rarities, thus there is no active search going on for very early dates. I am informed that besides the irregular block of five ½d SG 40 cancelled SHOSHONG AU 21 88 that I reported in this article, only two examples of MOLEPOLOLE AU 21 88 on SG 40 and SG 42 are known.
The anticipated publicity that the proving strip should create may well prompt the Bechuanaland collectors to take a much closer look at the material in their possession.
Earliest recorded dates other than AU 21 88: Kanye 26 Aug 1890, Molepolole 27 Apr 1889 and Shoshong 12 Oct 1888.
With the word
BECHUANALAND removed: Tati 21 Apr 1889 and Gubulawayo 10 Nov 1888. Considering the need to modify these two datestamps it is possible that their first usage occurred at a later date than the three Agencies in Bechuanaland.
Molepolole and Tati dates reported in The Runner Post No’s 20 and 21. Remaining dates supplied by E.W. Proud. Readers please report any earlier dates you are aware of, please advise your source.

Fact or Fiction? Gubulawayo Bechuanaland on Cover: The London Philatelist March 1974 page 78 reported that at the Royal Philatelic Society in London on 13 December 1973 Geof Lovejoy gave a display of his Rhodesian collection. It is alleged that Geof showed a cover cancelled Gubulawayo Bechuanaland AU 21 88. I recently discussed this twenty five year old report with Mr. Lovejoy. Geof said his recall was no longer as good as he would like it and could not comment with certainty whether or not he had ever owned such an item. If he did Geof said it was likely that he had obtained it from John Taylor. Geof sold his collection to Argyll Etkin and understood that most of it had been acquired by Bryan de Robeck. I investigated the matter further. John Taylor said - Never seen or heard of such a cover, I do not believe it exists. Ian Shapiro at Argyll Etkin wrote Unfortunately we have no record of the full collection - but I can find no trace of the Gubulawayo cover you mention. I doubt that it exists.

The De Robeck collection was auctioned by Sotheby Parke Bernet South Africa on 11 November 1981, needless to say the alleged Gubulawayo cover was not in this sale. At the time Harry Birkhead was an active collector of Rhodesia and if a Gubulawayo Bechuanaland cover had appeared on the market I doubt that Harry would have passed up the opportunity to acquire such an item.
In conclusion, except for the London Philatelist report in 1974, there appears to be nothing available to substantiate the existence of the alleged cover. If it does exist how can such an important item fade into obscurity? Thus is it Fact or Fiction?

The Late E.K. Wright: Kenneth Wright was fascinated by Gubulawayo and Tati. He recorded all the known examples of both cancels inscribed Bechuanaland and noted past and present owners. Kenneth also recorded the sale of each cancellation at auction.
In September 1979 he published a 33 page paper on The Early Bulawayo Posts and Postmarks issued as a supplement with Rhodesian Study Circle Journal No 108. In March 1987 he presented a display on Tati to the Bechuanaland Study Circle in London which was reported in The Runner Post No 7 followed in 1988 by an article on Tati in Rhodesian Study Circle Journal No's 141 and 142.
Colin Fraser’s June 1987 article (see my ref on page 243) drew a response from Jim Catterall in The Runner Post No.9 (December 1987).
All the known AU 21 88 cancels occur on ½d, 1d and 2d adhesives. Considering the letter rate out of Matabeleland started at 4d, if the stamps in question had been postally used, then why would every sender resort to using multiples of low values?
None of the letter rates required a ½d.
The foregoing set Kenneth off on a complete rethink on the Tati and Gubulawayo Bechuanaland question. Alan Drysdall recalls having long discussions with Kenneth on the subject. Kenneth became convinced that neither cancel in its original state ever saw genuine postal service. Kenneth wrote a three page draft dated 25 January 1988 in which he debated the C.T.O. theory; he marked his paper Confidential - not for Publication. As far as I know he only sent a copy to Alan MacGregor and Jim Catterall. The draft article indicates that Kenneth thought that Emil Tamsen had an involvement with the CTO’s. He was also under the impression that the Tati and Gubulawayo Bechuanaland datestamps had been sent to their respective destinations. It appears that this belief raised several questions for Kenneth but I got the feeling that the possible answers available to him at the time were not to his satisfaction. At the close of his article he wrote Conclusion - In the absence of contemporary records no final verdict is possible. It is with a note of sadness that Kenneth did not live long enough to see the proving strip that would have provided the necessary proof for him to write a concluding chapter on Tati and Gubulawayo Bechuanaland.

The following is not part of the above article and is purely for information

Ownership of the two strips:

Believed to have originated from Emil Tamsen and sold to Ernest Hunt
In 1997 a South African dealer John Peter Wharton - Hood acquired these pieces and sold them to Alan MacGregor.
Both pieces were lent to me for research and above article was the result.
At the 1998 Johannesburg S.A.P.D.A. show, both pieces were sold to a collector Des Highland, he in turn put the strip of five in his collection and sold the strip of four to Richard Knight.

Des Highland sold his collection, I don’t have these details, but Alan MacGregor should know. The strip of five ended up in David Wessely’s Bechuanaland collection. David lives in America. He sold his collection last year through Argyll Etkin. The strip featured on the front cover of their 20 May 2010 sale as lot 654 estimated at £3200 - 3600.
I don’t know how much it sold for or for or who the buyer was.

The late Richard Knight’s collection was sold by Spink, not Stephan Welz as per someone elses' write up.
The strip of four featured in Spink’s 20 - 21 March 2003 sale as lot 513 estimated at £2000 - 2500
I don’t know how much it sold for or for or who the buyer was, it is
suggested the Barry’s from Cape Town bought it.

It ought to be appreciated that the above article was write seventeen years ago and opinions ventured were the thoughts in 1998. I recall seeing something in an old edition of The South African Philatelist that Ernest Hunt was a friend of Emil Tamsen and that Hunt had bought an outstanding World Collection from Tamsen. The foregoing points to the original owner of the strips as being none other than Tamsen, who more than likely arranged through a Postmaster to manufacture a number of C.T.O. cancels of the five Offices - All dated AU 21 88!

This Item currently features on Alan MacGregor's Website

Several single circle datestamps struck on left marginal block of four of a
½d Vermilion overprinted Protectorate - A very rare block. SG 40

Note: The datestamps for Kanye, Molepolole, Shoshong, Tati and Gubulawayo with
at base are recorded used together se-tenant dated 21st August 1888,
proving the datestamps had not been delivered to their respective agencies at this date.
This item was therefore not cancelled at Shoshong but more likely at Vryburg.
The stamps have full gum and are unmounted mint proving the datestamps 'by favour' or CTO status. Stamps bearing Kanye, Molepolole and Shoshong datestamps for 21 August appear to be as rare as the Tati / Bechuanaland and Gubulawayo / Bechuanaland cancellations

By Peter Thy

The following four Instalments were
published in Forerunners between
1997 and 2002 in
Journals No 30, 32, 34 & 41

The Bibliography quoted is
more than likely a repetition of
what has already been quoted on the

Publications Page

Part I - A General Introduction

The large inland tract north of the Orange and Vaal Rivers offers numerous challenges and reward for the philatelic collector and postal historian. It is more than justified to dedicate this regular column to the study of the postal history and philately of the former territories of Stellaland, British Bechuanaland, and Bechuanaland Protectorate, as well as present-day Botswana. The complex and varied postal history of these territories will assure that we will never lack an interesting subject to discuss and share.

The earliest postal activity in this vast area was organized by the pioneering missionaries and travelers of the London Missionary Society with important missions opened at Kuruman in 1816 and lnyati (Bulawayo) in 1861. The expansion of the Transvaal Boers northward led to the proclamation in 1882 of the independent Boer republics of Stellaland and Goshen. Of these, Stellaland issued the first postal and revenue stamps of the “Bechuanalands” in 1884. These republics and the establishment of a German protectorate of South West Africa the same year led immediately to British military intervention.

A British expeditionary force under command of General Charles Warren arrived the same year in Cape Town and marched toward Vryburg (Stellaland) and Mafeking (Goshen). This military action resulted in the collapse of the two republics and a British proclamation in September 1885 of sovereignty over the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland, north of the Cape of Good Hope and south of the Molopo River. In addition, British protection was proclaimed over the area south of the 22nd latitude, later known as Bechuanaland Protectorate.

The Warren expedition maintained a military postal and telegraph service and issued telegraph stamps. Shortly after the proclamation a postal convention was signed between the Cape Colony and British Bechuanaland. This was the inauguration of the British Bechuanaland postal services and resulted in the appearance of the first regular postal stamps issued for British Bechuanaland in the form of overprinted Cape of Good Hope adhesives.

A few years later, in 1888, the missionary mail routes toward the north were, at the insistence of Assistant-Commissioner John Moffat, taken over by the British Bechuanaland postal service, thereby linking Mafeking with Bulawayo by a 500 mile relay runner post service across the Bechuanaland Protectorate. This was the birth of the Protectorate postal service that saw postal offices and postmasters appointed at several locations along the mail route. For accounting purposes, British Bechuanaland stamps were overprinted for usage in the Protectorate. The runner post was replaced the following year by a mule drawn cart service between the rail head at Vryburg and Shoshong (Palapye) in the Protectorate.

Figure 1. Sketch map of the ‘Bechuanalands’ from John Mackenzie,
Austral Africa, first published in 1887.

The next chapter in the postal history of the Bechuanalands is related to the occupation of Mashonland organized by Cecil Rhodes’ Royal Chartered South Africa Company. In preparation for the raid, a telegraph line was erected north of Mafeking and reached Macioutsie and Tuli near Shashi River in 1891, where the occupation force camped prior to crossing into Mashonaland. After the successful occupation, an increased mail and passenger service between Mafeking and Salisbury necessitated and required a reorganization and extension of the previous services.

During early 1893, the Cape Colony took over responsibility for the British Bechuanaland postal service and also for the Mashonaland mail. As part of a contract renewal with the mail carrier, the end-station of the Bechuanaland mail was shifted from Macloutsie and Tuli to Bulawayo. This move was most likely politically determined in an attempt to avoid the more direct route via Pretoria and the Transvaal. In 1895, the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland was annexed by the Cape of Good Hope. The remaining stock of stamps and postal stationery was used in the Protectorate without being overprinted.

The most important factor shaping the modern postal history of the Bechuanalands was no doubt the construction of the railway that reached Vryburg in December 1890. Three years later, in October 1894, the line between Vryburg and Mafeking was officially opened. In 1897, Bulawayo was finally reached and the rail then transected Bechuanaland Protectorate linking the Cape with Rhodesia. The telegraph line was relocated to the rail line as this was constructed. The rail soon became the main artery for mail transport and the economic development of Bechuanaland Protectorate. Only a few main towns were located far off the rail line (Serowe, Molepolole) and connected to the rail by other means of transportation. Although airmail service was offered as early as 1932, the mail was normally transported by rail to Johannesburg. The first direct and permanent airmail service was offered as late as 1966 between Gaberones and Johannesburg.

All stamps and most postal stationery issued up until 1932 were overprinted Cape and Great Britain issues. In 1932, the first stamps inscribed “Bechuanaland” appeared and showed a design with baobab trees and drinking cattle. This design was to be used during the regency of three different monarchs until it was finally replaced in 1961 by the QEII second definitive issue. The postwar period has seen steady growth with a marked increase in postal offices, agencies, and services provided, e.g., postal and money orders, savings bank, airmail services. This development has, in particular, accelerated since independence of Botswana in 1966. In 1962, the Bechuanaland government finally took over full responsibility for its own postal services that, since 1893, had been administered by the South African postal services (first the Cape and then the Union).



Part II - Bechuanaland Literature

The following list includes the most important books and journal articles with relevance to the Bechuanalands. An attempt has been made to include the various time periods as well as the major researchers and writers. Also included are the most important catalogues and auction sales. We will appreciate your additions and corrections.

Baker, K., 1983. The Early Postal History of the Griqualands and the Bechuanalands. Occasional Paper No. 6
Postmark and Postal History Society of Southern Africa.
Bullivant, P.N., 1962. The Shelley Catalogue of the Decimal Surcharges on the Stamps of Basutoland, Bechuanaland, and Swaziland.
Stamp Collecting, London.

Drysdall, A., 1992. A postal history of Stellaland. London Philatelist, vol. 101, p.54-66, p. 95-99.
Drysdall, A., 1993. Postage rates prior to 1900. Runner Post, no. 34, p. 719-730.
Drysdall, A., 1998-1999. Stellaland revisited - again. Runner Post, no. 51, p. 1278-1286.
Drysdall, A. and Collis, D., 1990. Mashonaland. A Postal History 1890-96.
Rhodesian Study Circle and Christie’s Robson Lowe, London.
Drysdall, A. and Catterall, J., 1995. The Sitwell Correspondence and Bechuanaland Postage and Mashonaland Postage Rates, 1890-92.
Memoir 1, Rhodesian Study Circle.

Finlay, D.W.
, 1993. Crocodile Pools Siding - occupation by Imperial and Boer forces October 1899 to May 1900 and postal agency.
Runner Post, no. 33, p. 683-685.
Finlay, D.W., 1994. The rarer stamps of British Bechuanaland and Bechuanaland Protectorate. Runner Post, no. 36, p. 761-769.
Frescura, F. and Nethersole, M., 1991. The Postal Cancellers of the Cape of Good Hope. Volume 1. The Barred Oval Numeral Canceller of 1864.
Philatelic Federation of Southern Africa, Johannesburg.

Harrington, W.J., 1937-1938. The Bechuanalands. South African Philatelist, vols. 13 and 14.
Holmes, H.H., 1956. The post offices and postmarks of British Bechuanaland. London Philatelist, vol. 65, p. 49-53.
Holmes, H.H., 1957. The postal history of the Tati district. London Philatelist, vol. 66, p. 106-108.
Holmes, H.H., 1971. The Postage Stamps, Postal Stationery, and the Postmarks of the Bechuanalands. Royal Philatelic Society London, London.

, J., 1996. The Bechuanalands: - GB stamps overprinted by De La Rue: printings and quantities. Runner Post, no. 44, p. 1046-1049.
Inglefield-Watson, J., 1997. Forged overprints and surcharges on stamps of the Bechuanalands. Runner Post, no. 47, p. 1161-1163.

Jacobson, L., International Reply Coupons of Bechuanaland/Botswana. Runner Post 56, 1371-1374.
Jurgens, A.A., 1945. The Bechuanalands. A Brief History of the Countries and their Postal Services to 1895. Royal Philatelic Society London, London.

Lodoen, P., 2002. Philatelic Atlas of the Bechuanalands and Botswana. Bay Publishing, Gaborone, Botswana.

May, B., 1923. The stamps of Bechuanaland. South African Philatelist, vol. 1, p. 110-111, p. 120-122, p. 131-132.
Midwood, N. and Trotter, B., 2002. Revenues of Southern Africa. Part 1. The Bechuanalands. N. Midwood, Milton Keynes, U.K.
Munk, H., 1937. The Bechuanalands (Kohl’s Handbook, translated by Rich, S.G.). Collectors Club Philatelist, vol. 16, p. 65-70, p. 124-134.

Philatelic Society, 1895. The Postage Stamps, Envelopes, Wrappers, Post Cards, and Telegraph Stamps of the British Colonies, Possessions and Protectorates in Africa, Part 1. Philatelic Society London, London.
Poole, B.W.H., 1908. The postage stamps of Stellaland. Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal, vol. 18, p. 206-208, p. 249-252.
Proud, E.B., 1996. The Postal History of Basutoland & Bechuanaland Protectorate. Proud-Bailey, Heathfield.
Putzel, R.F., 1986-1990. The Encyclopaedia of South African Post Offices and Postal Agencies. Ralph F. Putzel, Tokai, South Africa (4 volumes ).
Putzel, R.F., 1992-2000. The Postmarks of South Africa and Former States & Colonies. Ralph F. Putzel, Tokai, South Africa (7 volumes published in 2000, series still not completed).

Robson Lowe, 1949. The Encyclopaedia of British Empire Postage Stamps. Volume II. The Empire in Africa. Robson Lowe, London.

Seligmann, K., 2000. Early postal rates: a few comments. Runner Post, no. 52, p. 1299-1305.
Symons, J.E., 2002. The Macloutsie Post Office and its Postmaster, Bechuanaland Protectorate, 1892. Krone Publications, Davis, U.S.A.

Tamsen, E., 1927-1928. Stellaland and its stamps. South African Philatelist, vol. 4, p. 116-117, vol. 5, p. 4-7, p. 21-22.
Thy, P., 1994. The Introduction and Usage of Postal Orders in Bechuanaland Protectorate. Krone Publications, Davis, U.S.A.
Thy, P. (ed.), 2001. The Northern Mails and Telegraphs: Bechuanaland and Rhodesia in the Annual
Reports of the Postmaster-General, Cape of Good Hope, 1885-1909. Krone Publications, Davis. U.S.A.
Thy, P. and Inglefield-Watson, J., 2003. The Postal Stationery of the Bechuanalands and Botswana. British Philatelic Trust, in press.
Trotter, B., 1995. Bechuanaland and Botswana. Postal Marking Classification (Typology). Bechuanalands and Botswana Society, London.
Trotter, B., 2001. Tati Concession revenue stamps. Journal Rhodesian Study Circle, vol 51 (no. 2), p. 59-71.

van der Molen. P., 1992. The Bechuanaland 1961 QE2 2c postal card. Runner Post, no. 28, 549-550.
van der Molen, P., 1992. The Bechuanaland QE2 aerogrammes. Runner Post, no. 29, 581-584.
van der Molen, P., 1993. The 1961 decimal 1c on 1d surcharges. Runner Post, no. 31, p. 631-635.
van der Molen, P., 1996. Bechuanaland Protectorate definitive registration envelopes. Runner Post, no. 42, p. 970-981.
van der Walt, A., 1986. Mafeking. A Study of the Development of the Postal History of the Mafeking from 1881 to 1910. Occasional Paper No. 7.
Postmark and Postal History Society of Southern Africa.

Ramsay, J., Morton, B., and Morton, F., 1996. Historical Dictonary of Botswana. Third Edition. Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD.
Shillington, K., 1985. The Colonisation of the Southern Tswana, 1870-1900. Ravan Press, Braamfontein, South Africa.
Sillery, A., 1952. The Bechuanaland Protectorate. Oxford University Press, London.
Sillery, A., 1965. Founding a Protectorate. History of Bechuanaland, 1885-1895. Mouton, London.
Stevens, P., 1947. Bechuanaland Bibliography. University of Capetown, Capetown.
Tlou, T., 1985. History of Ngamiland - 1750 to 1906 - The Formation of an African State. Macmillan, Gaborone, Botswana.
Tlou, T. and Campbell, A., 1984. History of Botswana. Macmillan, Gaborone, Botswana.
Wylie, D., 1990. A Little God. The Twilight of Patriarchy in a Southern African Chiefdom. Witwatersrand University Press, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Society Newsletter
The Runner Post. The Bechuanalands and Botswana Society. Editor is Neville Midwood.
Forerunners. The Philatelic Society for Greater Southern Africa.
Editor is Peter Thy.

British Commonwealth Revenues. Barefoot, London (current edition).
Higgins and Gage Postal Stationery Catalogue (section 2). Classic Philatelics, Huntington Beach, U.S.A.
South African Stamp Colour Catalogue. International Philatelic Services, Johannesburg, South Africa (current edition).
Stanley Gibbons. British Commonwealth Stamp Catalogue, volume 1 (current edition).
Stanley Gibbons. Elizabethan Catalogue of Modern Commonwealth Stamps (1983 Edition).

Auction Sales
Christie’s Robson Lowe, London, 12 June 1991 (Haskins Collection).
Christie’s Robson Lowe, London, 13 December 1994 (Campbell Collection).
Christie’s Robson Lowe, London, 19 November 1996 (Weiss Collection).
Grosvenor, London, 23 May 2001 (Catterall Collection).
Harmers, London, 29 October 1981 (Holmes Collection).
Harmers, London, 24 June 1986 (Barkaway Collection).
Harmers, London, 31 October 1995 (George Collection).
Postal History Auctions, London, 19 March 1999 (Proud Collection).
Robson Lowe, London, 16 June 1971 (Danson Collection).
Robson Lowe, London, 15 June 1983.



Part III - Sources of Philatelic Information

There exist a surprising large literature covering the various aspects of the philately and postal
history of the Bechuanalands. This vast amount of written information and studies attests to the popularity of the area and the excitement felt by it’s students. Because of this, the biggest obstacle facing a newcomer to collecting the Bechuanalands is where and how to obtain the basic information. Here we give a brief introduction to the most important sources of philatelic information for the collector that for the first time specializes in the Bechuanalands. Subsequent columns will cover the postal history aspects as well as more specialized subjects.

General Stamp Catalogues
Several English language general catalogues include the Bechuanalands. The most important of these is the STANLEY GIBBONS BRITISH COMMONWEALTH CATALOGUE that in it’s last edition (2002) lists together Stellaland, British Bechuanaland, Bechuanaland Protectorate, and Botswana in volume 1. Because many of the early Bechuanland issues were overprinted on Cape of Good Hope and Great Britain issues, the listings of these areas will constantly be of interest to the Bechuanaland collector. Unfortunately, only Great Britain is listed in volume 1 of the Commonwealth catalogue.
The Cape of Good Hope is listed with South Africa in volume 2. For this reason, most Bechuanaland collectors will require both volumes of the catalogue. The British Commonwealth Catalogue is the most detailed and accurate listing available and should not be ignored by the serious collector of the Bechuanalands. Nevertheless, it is important to consider that the listings are not of a specialized nature.

In 2003, Stanley Gibbons discontinued its general Commonwealth catalogue and replaced it with a ‘classic’ period catalogue listing only stamps issued until 1952 (COMMONWEALTH & BRITISH EMPIRE STAMPS 1840-1952). The last edition of the comprehensive Commonwealth catalogue is thus the 2002 edition. It is the plan to release occasional one-contry catalogues including the modern stamps in a digital format. The Bechuanaland/Botswana one-country catalogue has not yet been released. In the mean time, the content of the general Commonwealth catalogue appears to be available on However, to take full advantage of this listing an annual fee is required. Another Stanley Gibbons option is the simplified Commonwealth catalogue that was issued in 2003 in full color as well as the KING GEORGE VI STAMP CATALOGUE last issued in 2001.

The SCOTT STANDARD POSTAGE STAMP CATALOGUE includes a simplified general listing of the Bechuanalands and Botswana (last edition is 2004). This catalogue is widely used in North America and, therefore, is an important tool for communicating with collectors and dealers in particular the USA. Because of the simplified nature of the listing, it is not recommended that specialized Bechuanaland collections are being build based on the Scott catalogue. However, it should be noted that the SCOTT editors are committed to improve the Scott listings.

The SOUTH AFRICAN STAMP COLOUR CATALOGUE includes the Bechuanalands. The editor has over the years expanded the catalogue to include all of pre-independence Southern Africa The last edition is available from L. Heffermann, P.O. Box 567, Johannesburg 2000, South Africa. This catalogue is highly recommended and is far superior to
the Scott catalogue.

The COMMONWEALTH FIVE REIGNS POSTAGE STAMP CATALOGUE contains very useful information and is an important additional source.
The 1980 edition was published by Bridger & Kay, but later editions may exist. A relatively similar catalogue covering a more limited area is the COMMONWEALTH KGVI CATALOGUE also originally published by Bridger & Kay. This catalogue is now out in it’s 18th edition published by Murray and Payne (P.O. Box 1135, Axbridge, Somerset, BS26 2EW, UK).

The STANLEY GIBBONS ELIZABETHAN II STAMP CATALOGUE (or related titles) contains a slightly expanded general listing of QEII stamps. This catalogue has had a long publication history (1965-85) but is no longer published.

Robson Lowe’s THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF BRITISH EMPIRE POSTAGE STAMPS, VOLUME II, THE EMPIRE IN AFRICA was published in 1949. This work belongs on any serious students bookshelf, but its stamp listing is now outdated.

Specialized Stamp Catalogues
Specialized catalogues for the Bechuanalands and Botswana do not exist. It may be of interest briefly to consider the reasons. Specialized catalogues are the result of two important factors. First of all it requires a contemporaneous and active group of local collectors that carefully monitor the activities of the postal services and it’s postal offices and record on paper their findings. Secondly, it requires that the postal services and philatelic bureaus make available detailed information of new issues including printings and printers, release and withdrawal dates, amounts printed and destroyed. None of these conditions have fully existed in Bechuanaland or exist today in Botswana. The collectors of these areas, therefore, will largely have to reconstruct the story based on the available stamps, erratic hearsay, and archival information. Ironically, this may exactly be what makes collecting the Bechuanalands and Botswana such an exciting and rewarding enterprise.

Information on printings, plate numbers, withdrawal dates, and errors may be found for the QEII area in various editions of the STANLEY GIBBONS ELIZABETHAN STAMP CATALOGUE of which the 1983 edition appears to be particular useful (other editions may be equally useful).


The specialist will also frequently need to consult the latest editions of STANLEY GIBBONS SPECIALIZED STAMP CATALOGUE, VOLUME 1 (QUEEN VICTORIA) & VOLUME 2 (KING EDWARD VII TO KING GEORGE VI) for information on the British stamps overprinted for use in the Bechuanalands. A similar source on the overprinted Cape of Good Hope stamps do not exist.

Specialized Monographs and Major Journal Articles
There exist three important monographs dealing with the stamps of the Bechuanalands. The earliest of these is the POSTAGE STAMPS, ENVELOPES, WRAPPERS, POST CARDS, AND TELEGRAPH STAMPS OF THE BRITISH COLONIES, POSSESSIONS AND PROTECTORATES IN AFRICA. Part 1 of this work includes British Bechuanaland and the Cape of Good Hope. Part 2 includes Stellaland. This monograph is often referred to as “AFRICA” and was published by the Philatelic Society of London in 1895 (Part 1). This is the most important source of detailed information of the early period and is the foundation for all later studies and catalogues.

In 1945 the Royal Philatelic Society of London published A.A. Jurgens’ THE BECHUANALANDS. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COUNTRIES AND THEIR POSTAL SERVICES TO 1895. This work mainly covers the postal history, but also includes information on stamps and an extensive discussion of forgeries, specimens, revenue stamps, and essays (when using this latter discussion, reference to more recent opinions may be essential).

The most recent monograph is H.R. Holmes’ THE POSTAGE STAMPS, POSTAL STATIONERY, AND POSTMARKS OF THE BECHUANALANDS. This was published in 1971 by the Royal Philatelic Society of London and contains detailed discussions and check lists of the stamps and stationery up to 1964. This monograph is a must and cannot be avoided by serious collectors.

Revenue stamps are listed in Barfoot’s BRITISH COMMONWEALTH REVENUES latest released in 2000. A comprehensiveand detailed listing can be found in Trotter and Midwood’s REVENUES OF SOUTHERN AFRICA. PART 1. THE BECHUANALANDS from 2002 (N. Midwood, 69 Porlock Lane, Furzton, Milton Keynes, MK4 1JY, UK).

Postal stationery is listed in Holmes’ book. A more detailed work is to be published by the British Philatelic Trust (Thy and Inglefield-Watson POSTAL STATIONERY OF THE BECHUANALANDS AND BOTSWANA).

There exist several earlier studies of the stamps of the Bechuanalands. To mention a few: (1) B.W.H. Poole’s “The Postage Stamps of Stellaland” in Stanley Gibbons Monthly Journal (1908, vol. 18). This work still stands out as the authoritative study of the Stellaland stamps. (2) The Bechuanaland chapter of Kohl’s Handbook has been translated by S.G. Rich and is published in the Collectors Club Philatelist (1937, vol. 16). (3) B. May’s “The Stamps of Bechuanaland” in South African Philatelist (1923, vol. 1). (4) W.J. Harrington’s “The Bechuanalands” in South African Philatelist (1938, vols. 13 and 14).

Specialist Journals
There exist several specialist societies devoted to the study of the Southern Africa area. However, there is only one society devoted to the study of the philately and postal history of the Bechuanalands and Botswana. This is the UK based BECHUANALANDS AND BOTSWANA SOCIETY (BBS) who publish the very important and highly respected journal THE RUNNER POST. This newsletter has appeared since 1984 and its pages contain an indispensable source of information and more recent studies by society members (an occasional index is included). Information about BBS and membership forms can be obtained from the membership secretary (Neville Midwood, 69 Porlock Lane, Furzton, Milton Keynes, Bucke, MK4 1JY, UK). Needless to say, no student of the Bechuanalands and Botswana can be without the Runner Post.

Most of the current catalogues discussed here can be obtained from well-assorted stamp dealers. The monographs now out of print can fairly easily be found in the stock of many used philatelic book dealers. The American Philatelic Research Library can assist with some of the journal articles, but may not own copies of the early issues of the South African Philatelist. APRL can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 8000, State College, PA 16803 (web site address is Complete runs of the Runner Post only occasionally appear on the market. APRL do not own the Runner Post, but UK based philatelic libraries may be able to assist with photocopies



Part IV - Sources of Postal History Information

This installment will continue our survey of important sources of information for the collector of the Bechuanalands and Botswana. We will first focus on postal history monographs and will present our findings in the form of an annotated bibliography. Again we do not claim that the discussion is complete. Finally, some important primary sources and their availability to the North American collector will be discussed.

Secondary Sources
Several of the monographs mentioned in our previous discussion of philatelic sources also contain important postal history information. In particular, this is the case for Jurgen’s and Holmes’ monographs that both are indispensable. Another generalized monograph is E.B. Proud’s THE POSTAL HISTORY OF BASUTOLAND ANDBECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE which is a postal history source book. As implied by the title it does not include British Bechuanaland. Despite this shortcoming, the main problem is the book’s disjointed and disconnected assemblage of available information obtained form many sources. No attempt is made to tell the complete story and to fill out the gaps. Further, it is very unfortunate that Proud choose not to add sources and references to his assemblage of information. This limits the usefulness of the book.

Of a more limit scope is Ken Baker’s THE EARLY POSTAL HISTORY OF THE GRIQUALANDS AND THE BECHUANALANDS (The Postmark and Postal History Society of Southern Africa, 1983) that discusses the early missionary mails. Another specialized study, from 1986 by the same publisher, is Andries van der Walt’s MAFEKING. A STUDY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE POSTAL HISTORY OF MAFEKING FROM 1881 TO 1910. Other detailed studies can be found in the Runner Post and other philatelic journals.

Ralph Putzel’s monumental series’ THE ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF SOUTH AFRICAN POST OFFICES AND POSTAL AGENCIES and THE POSTMARKS OF SOUTH AFRICA AND FORMER STATES & COLONIES cannot be avoided. They both contains a wealth of information on Bechuanaland postal offices and postmarks, but it should be remembered that they are based on official records in South Africa that may not always be accurate. The encyclopedia was published in 4 volumes between 1986 and 1990. The postmark study is in the process of completion with Vol. 1 appearing in 1992 and Vol. 9, containing the letters R and S, appearing in 2002. Both series are available from well assorted philatelic literature dealers or directly from Alex Visser (212 Ross St., Meyerspark, 0184 South Africa). Another important survey of the postmarks has been published by Brian Trotter in the Runner Post. A typology of postal markings is available from the Bechuanaland Society (B. Trotter BECHUANALANDS AND BOTSWANA. POSTAL MARKING CLASSIFICATION (TYPOLOGY), 1995). The listing of postmarks in Proud’s Bechuanaland book is to high extend based on Trotter’s work. An additional valuable source of information on town and village names is the REPORTS OF THE PLACE NAMES COMMISSION of Botswana of which the third report was published in September 1984.

The postal rates of both the Bechuanalands and Botswana have been treated in a series of studies published in the Runner Post, but still awaits much needed revisions and updating. The postal rates of the early period are covered in Alan Drysdall and Jim Catterall’s THE SITWELL CORRESPONDENCE AND BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE AND MASHONALAND POSTAGE RATES 1890-92 (Rhodesian Study Circle, Monograph 1, 1995). There is at present no detailed study available giving details of opening/closing of postal offices and the postal routes of the Bechuanalands. The available information can be extracted from Putzel’s and Proud’s monographs, but otherwise require archival work and access to primary sources. Peter Lodoen’s PHILATELIC ATLAS OF THE BECHUANALANDS AND BOTSWANA, 2002, Bay Publishing, Gaborone, Botswana (available from Krone Publications, P.O. Box 73112, Davis, CA 95616).

The Postal Services publish two booklets that may be useful. One is the rate tariffs that is published at each new rate revision and can be obtained for a small fee. The other is the postal guide, which may still be available (last edition seen is from 1982).

There is one important fact that any student of the Bechuanalands sooner or later will realize. This is that it is nearly impossible to understand the history (and postal history) of the Bechuanalands without a detailed knowledge of the surrounding states and territories. Just to mention a few, the books by Richard Knight and Dave Mitchell (THE POSTMARKS, POSTAL ROUTES AND PRINCIPAL POSTAL RATES OF SOUTHERN RHODESIA to 1924, published by the authors, 1984), Robert Goldblatt (POSTMARKS OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE, Reijger Publishing, 1984), Richard Smith (RHODESIA. A POSTAL HISTORY - ITS STAMPS, POSTS AND TELEGRAPHS, published by the author, 1967), and Eric Rosenthal and Eliezer Blum (RUNNER & MAILCOACH, Purnell, Cape Town, 1969) will soon clutter the bookshelf of the interested collector. Philip Cattell’s THE UNION CASTLE OCEAN POST OFFICES (Proud-Bailey) contains the sailing lists of the mail packets between Cape Town and Southampton that can be used to determine departure and arrival of mail to and from Southern Africa.

With the risk of overlooking something important, we will close this brief survey of the Bechuanaland literature with Alan Drysdall and Dave Collis’ MASHONALAND. A POSTAL HISTORY 1890-96 (The Rhodesian Study Circle and Christie’s Robson Lowe, 1990). This monograph covers the early period and development of the postal services related to the pioneer column and the invasion of Mashonaland. Because the pioneer column passed through Bechuanaland, the monograph also presents the single-most important study of the development of the postal services in Bechuanaland prior to the arrival of the rail road. This book will likely be the first acquired by the student of Bechuanaland postal history. The reason is not only the factual content of the book, but also because it by any measure is the best researched, written, and presented book on the postal history of southern Africa. To show us how it should be done, this book will be on our bookshelves.

Primary Sources
We will continue with a summary of some of the most important primary sources that may be available to the postal history collector. Most important of these is the various government gazettes or official newsletters. The BRITISH BECHUANALAND GOVERNMENT GAZETTE was published in 9 volumes until 1895. So far we have only been able to inspect volume 4 to 9 (1890-1895). This gazette contains detailed information on postal tenders, regulations, rates, postal routes, and notices on opening an closing of postal offices.

Next is the OFFICIAL GAZETTE OF THE HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR BASUTOLAND, THE BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE AND SWAZILAND which we have so far only seen from 1951 (or as the BECHUANALAND PROTECTORARTE EDITION of the same gazette). The BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE GOVERNMENT GAZETTE first appears in 1963 and after Independence is replaced REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA GOVERNMENT GAZETTE that still is published by the Government Printer in Gaborone. A source for the early history of the area is CAPE OF GOOD HOPE GOVERNMENT GAZETTE that was published until 1910. Collections of the most important acts and notices were regularly published in the book form and still is published today on a yearly basis by the Government Printer, Gaborone. It should also be noted that the various editions of the Laws of Bechuanaland and Botswana contains the detailed postal regulations (last edition in 1987).

The ANNUAL COLONIAL REPORTS FOR BRITISH BECHUANALAND and later BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE often contain useful postal service summary sections. These reports were in various forms published until Independence, latest by the Commonwealth Relations Office. The postal guides of the Cape of Good Hope and later the Union (and Republic?) of South Africa contains listings of postal offices and postal route maps of neighboring territories, including Bechuanaland. Other listings of postal offices and rates appear in the Telephone Directories of Bechuanaland and later Botswana until 1980. The various official year books (‘blue books’) from the Cape of Good Hope and the Union of South Africa may be another valuable source to the development of the Bechuanaland (these includes the UNION-CASTLE YEAR BOOK & GUIDE). Annual reports were made by the Postmaster-General of the Cape of Good Hope (and later the Union) to the Bechuanaland Protectorate administration. These are not published, but deposited in the National Archives of Botswana.

We will finish this survey by mention some general historical interest books that will be useful. Most important is Anthony Sillery’s FOUNDING A PROTECTORATE (Mouton, 1965). Other titles are J. M. Chirenje A HISTORY OF NORTHERN BOTSWANA 1850-1910 (Associated University Press, 1977), K. Shillington THE COLONISATION OF THE SOUTHERN TSWANA Ravan Press, 1985), T. Tlou A HISTORY OF NGAMILAND - 1750-1906 (MacMillan Botswana, 1985), and T. Tlou and A. Campbell HISTORY OF BOTSWANA (MacMillan Botswana, 1984). For an relaxing hour Bosman’s JURIE STEYN’S POST OFFICE (Human & Rousseau, 1991 or other editions) is recommended.

The monographs mentioned are widely available from most philatelic literature dealers and literature auctions. But they can also be obtained from APRL. Many of the official gazettes are available on microfilm, although we so far have been unable to locate the British Bechuanaland Gazette and the High Commission Gazettes between 1895 and 1951 in North American libraries. It is very likely that these exist in South African and British libraries and may be available via interlibrary loan. The annual colonial reports may be available in British libraries, but sporadic copies may appear in many North American libraries. The Post Office guides of the Cape and the Union is probably best located in South African libraries and archives. To locate a long looked for document and publication are like finally finding the unique cover that is missing in your collection. You may not have to travel to London, Cape Town, and Johannesburg to find it. Please join us in the hunt.


The Northern Mails and Telegraphs
Bechuanaland and Rhodesia in the Annual Reports of the Postmaster-General, Cape of Good Hope, 1885 - 1909
Edited and Published by Peter Thy (2001)

The Postmaster-General’s reports were submitted annually to the Cape of Good Hope Parliament. The reports contained detailed summaries and statistics over the postal and telegraph activities for the past calendar year. They included information on postal regulations, postal rates, post offices, personnel, postal routes, telegraph developments, postal regulations, expenditures, revenues, and many other subjects. Of particular concern to the Postmaster-General was the development and unification of the postal and telegraph regulations of the southern African region, the maintenance of the British Mail Packets, and international regulations such as the Universal Postal Union. The Postmaster-General, with rights, considered himself and the Cape Postal and Telegraph Department as being the leading forces behind the development and modernization of the postal and telegraph services of southern Africa. Modernization of these communication services was equated with social and economic development. The progress toward this goal is recorded in the reports, which include in surprising details the history of what here is referred to as the ‘Northern Mails and Telegraphs.’ These frontier areas included, to various extents, British Bechuanaland, Bechuanaland Protectorate, British South Africa Company, Mashonaland, Rhodesia, and British Central Africa. The reports are thus important sources for the postal historian, not only of the Cape of Good Hope, but of the southern African region at large.

Sketch Map of South Africa South of the Zambesi showing principal railways and telegraph lines in 1896. From Hamiton Flowers Bechuanaland Telegraphs, St Martin's-Le-Grand, Volume VI pages 320 - 329 1896.
Telegraphs were also located along the railways.
H. H. Flowers was Postmaster at Mafeking.

The story narrated by the Postmaster-General begins in 1885 shortly after General Warren's Bechuanaland Expedition and the establishment of the Crown Colony of British Bechuanaland. Within a few years, from perhaps around 1889 until the turn of the century, the postal and telegraph services
of the vast regions towards the north of the Cape Colony were established and fast developed. This allowed settlers to communicate with other southern African States and Republics, and thereby, gave them access to the British Mail Packets maintained by the Cape Colony.

The Cape Department played a central role in these developments. For this reason, the early postal history of the Bechuanalands and Rhodesians is closely intertwined with that of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1882, the postal laws and regulations of the Cape Colony were consolidated and modernized into one single Government Act that the following year formed the background for a new contract for the conveyance of the mails between the United Kingdom and the Cape Colony. A postal convention between the Cape Colony and British Bechuanaland was signed in 1885, shortly after the establishment of the Crown Colony, and extended the Cape postal system northward. It was also the same year that the Cape Postal and Telegraph Services were amalgamated directly under the control of the Postmaster-General, thus laying the ground for an aggressive expansion of the telegraph systems, internally as well as toward the northern frontiers. In 1888, the first mail service toward the north was established as the well known Runner Post between British Bechuanaland and locations in the Bechuanaland Protectorate and Trans-protectorate. The same year, reduced rates of ocean postage came into effect following the new Ocean Mail Contract signed by the Cape Government in October. Consequently, the following years saw a systematic drop in the inland and overseas rates. The Cape letter rate dropped fast between 1888 and 1892 from 6d to 2½d as a result of a systematic policy of reducing postal rates. It was the Postmaster-General’s view that reduced rates resulted in an expansion in the mail volumes and ultimately in an increase in revenues.

The colonization of Mashonaland by the British South African Company soon led to the establishment of a weekly service between Tuli and Salisbury in 1892, connecting with the Bechuanaland service. A postal services to, and within, British Central Africa was inaugurated already in 1893, again with the active involvement of the Cape Department. The firm Cape control over the frontier mails was further consolidated by the transfer of the administration of the Bechuanaland Posts and Telegraphs to the Cape Post Office the same year. British Bechuanaland was annexed to the Cape Colony in 1895, and the local Postmaster-General's office in Vryburg ceased to exist.

  The Cape Colony entered the Universal Postal Union in 1895 despite widespread European concern that admitting the Cape would strengthen the influence of Great Britain on Union matters.
The entrance into the Union also had been delayed because of concern in the Cape Parliament and Postal Department about the organization and the effects on the British Mail Packets of reduced international ocean rates. The South African Postal Union came into effect in 1898, the next year the Imperial Penny Postage to the Empire was adopted by the Cape Colony. In 1899, an agreement was finally signed between the United Kingdom, the Cape Colony, and the States and Colonies of Southern Africa with the purpose of sharing on a more equal basis the expenses for the Packet Mails to and from the United Kingdom (and connecting to the European and North American mails)
This final settlement in a long controversy stabilized the postal developments in Southern Africa.

The telegraph had already entered southern Africa in 1860, but expansion of the lines first escalated after 1873 when the Government took over the existing private owned systems. Soon, the telegraph extended throughout South Africa and branched out toward the frontiers in the wake of colonization. Soon the telegraph was as important, if not more important, than the conventional mail system. The first Bechuanaland telegraph line was erected from Barkly West to Kanye by the Imperial Government in 1885 during the Warren Expedition. This line was taken over by the Bechuanaland Government to Mafeking and rebuilt with iron poles in 1886.

The British South Africa Company extended the line to Tuli, at the Matabele border, and the following year all the way to Salisbury. This early telegraph construction was mostly done by the Cape Post and Telegraph Department or under its supervision. In 1893, the workings and maintenance of the Bechuanaland and the British South Africa Company's telegraphs were taken over by the Cape Department that now controlled the complete line to Salisbury through the Protectorate. The construction of a telegraph line from Palapye, via Tati and Mangwe, to Bulawayo was initiated in 1893, and further pushed on to reach Charter in 1894. The following year, a direct line between Macloutsie and Mangwe was constructed and latter replaced the Palapye-Tati line. This way, Salisbury was connected to the south by two lines either via Victoria or Bulawayo, thus allowing for increased traffic, but also to provide some security in case of native uprisings. Within Rhodesia, the telegraph lines were rapidly expanding southward toward Umtali that finally was reached in 1895. Duplex workings were introduced 1895-6 doubling the traffic on the existing lines.

The Trans-Continental Telegraph Company and the Cape Department started construction of a line from Salisbury via Mazoe and Tete to Blantyre in 1895. This line was connected to the Portuguese East Africa telegraph system at Tshiromo with connection to Chinde and Quelimane. The Nyasaland and Portuguese East Africa connection was later relocated via Umtali and Tete. The main line through Bechuanaland was rebuild from 1897 with a three-wire line to accommodate the increased Rhodesian and British Central African traffic. The British South Africa Company resumed direct responsibility of the telegraph system from the Cape Department in 1897. Thus, in just the few years between 1890 and 1897, the Southern African telegraph system had matured and now connected Rhodesia and British Central Africa with the Cape Colony and with the rest of the world.

In this compilation, relevant references to the Northern Mails and Telegraphs have been extracted from the Postmaster-General’s annual reports. The information is presented in a chronological order that closely follows the Postmaster's presentation. An accompanying compilation will chronicle, within the same general time frame, the development of postal rates of the Cape of Good Hope and the greater southern African area. It is hoped that the information contained herein will prove of value to the postal historian of southern Africa. The first reference to the Northern Mails occurs in the 1885 report. The last reference is naturally found in the 1909 report (submitted in early 1910). The following year, 1911, was reported as the first year by the Union of South Africa's Postmaster-General. The extracts are transcribed literally with only a few and rare typographical errors corrected. The exceptions are the listings of telegraph offices and also the headings that have been modified for ease of reference and consistency.

Because the text to the reports were collected over the report year by the various personnel in the postal and telegraph sections of the Postmaster-General’s office, repetitions are abundant both within a report year as well as from year to year. Many errors and inconsistencies undoubtedly occur, such as the opening or closing of a telegraph office reported during two following report years. Sometimes a report is given of an expected occurrence or achievement that may have failed to materialize. It should also be realized that the reports served a political purpose and that the Postal and Telegraph Services of the Cape, like other government organizations, both then and today, was dependent on yearly budgetary approvals. Despite these limitations, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies, the report texts provide useful information on the role of the Cape Postal and Telegraph Services' in the development of the southern African region.

The text was extracted from Reports of the Postmaster-General, Cape of Good Hope, printed by W.A. Richards & Sons, Cape Town, annually between 1885 and 1909. The 1910 report was part of the Union of South Africa’s Postmaster-General’s annual report printed in 1911. The present compilations are based on a microfilm edition in the collections of the Library of Congress.


Postmark Interest - Pilane Station

First Office
Opened circa 1952
Closed 21 September 1953

Second Office
Re-opened circa 1958 or earlier
Closed 30 November 1964

Putzel Volume 3
Page 97
Very few cancellations of Pilane Station have been recorded and this may well be the only example on cover
The Runner Post No16 - Page 292 Recorded

21 JUN 1952 - L.R.D. 21 APR 1961


Postcard to the actor Kenneth Griffith posted in Bechuanaland with a 2d South Africa commemorative

Disallowed as valid and crossed out, cancelled with rare D.C. PILANE STATION 29 VII A 52

Taxed 2d with circular SALISBURY 18 - TO PAY cachet - Paid with S. Rhodesia 2d due cancelled 2 AUG 52

Otto Peetoom Collection

Bechuanaland Philately for Sale