First African Stamps

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first-african-stampThe first postage stamps issued from the continent of Africa were released in September, 1853. The territory of ‘Cape of Good Hope’, then a British colony administered as the Cape Colony, was the issuer.
It remained a British colony until being incorporated into the independent Union of South Africa in 1910 (now known as the Republic of South Africa).

centenary stamp for the first stamp of Cape of good Hope

Centenary stamps

In August 1852 the Cape government approached British printing company Perkins Bacon and commissioned the production of 1d and 4d stamps in a triangular shape (see inset on the Centenary stamps above).

Originally sketches in triangular and pentagonal designs had been sent to London by a Mr. Charles Bell who, typically with the attitude of the colonials at that time, believed that the use of abnormal shapes would make the sorting of the mail easier for what he considered the semi-literate native employees of the Cape’s postal service.


Selfportrait of Charles Bell

Dublin-born William Humphrys (of whom more to come later) engraved Bell’s triangular design, showing the seated figure of Hope.

The stamps were recess-printed by Perkins Bacon (also to come) in London and then shipped to the Cape.

Old photograph of printer Perkins Bacon

Early photograph of printing company Perkins Bacon

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