Examples of revenue stamps used for telegraphic purposes (I)

English language

(Part I of II) This is a somewhat unknown subject in the revenue area, scarcely documented in a few publications known. Without explanation you would not recognize them being used for that purpose. With this small article I want to take a closer look at this aspect of revenue stamp usage.

A small piece of history

Gian Domenico Romagnosi discovered in 1802 by conducting a simple experiment the connection between magnetism and electricity which influenced the needle of a compass. The results were published in a newspaper but the scientific world overlooked his efforts. Inspired by the Prussian Philosopher Immanuel Kant, The Dane Hans Christian Oersted (Ørsted ) discovered this phenomenon again in 1819 and made the foundation for the telegraphy without designing a device for it. This was done by inventing a 5 needle telegraph from the English William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone.

The telegraphy started for William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone by receiving a patent for their electric telegraph on June 10th 1837. This patent was followed by one in scotland on December 12th 1837 and one in Ireland in April 1838. Finally there was the “Cooke & Wheatstone electric telegraph system”. The first line was constructed in London , having the length of only 1 mile. In that time no public messages were send. In 1837 was also the start of railway telegraphy and in 1839 they finished the connection of 13 mile between London – Paddington to Bristol. This line was mainly used to arrange the train traffic. The success of it was the start to create similar lines on other tracks. In the mean time William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone received a patent for their device in the USA on June 10th 1840. Half of the patent was sold to 3 US inhabitants. In the same year there was a US patent for telegraphy by using a dialing wheel. Also in 1840 there was a start for the first marine telegraphy by laying an experimental cable on the bottom of the sea in Swansea bay; new south Wales. They did not get a patent for the construction works in 1844.

It took till May 16th 1843 before telegraphy became in reach of the public. The first connection in England was between London and Slough. The Royal palace on Windsor and the household of the Queen were using it more and more often. The basic rate was 1/- regardless the length and destination. Delivery was extra. This rate would increase by limitation of the number of words per unit. At the time of 1868 the rates have been dropped again. The equipment was improved during the years and became simpler and more economic to use.

The first years were mainly connections for railroads. They grew from approx. 1100 miles in 1840 to more than 6600 miles in 1850. From 1845 other providers came on the market in England by buying patents and gathering starting capital to get connections with the mainland. They introduced the first telegraph stamps in 1853. Finally the English government took over the telegraph network in 1868. The companies were closed down between 1869 and 1870.

The needle telegraph needed, even with improvements, 2 lines to get a complete circuit. It’s also slow and the design for transmitting and receiving was complex. That’s why they went on another path in the USA. In 1825 the British inventor William Sturgeon demonstrated for the first time an electro-magnet. He demonstrated the force by lifting up 95 pounds with a piece of iron and wires what supposed to be the battery. Based on these facts, Joseph Henry demonstrated the working of an electro-magnet in 1830 on 1 mile distance to send an electric charge to switch on a bell. The birth of the electric telegraph was a fact. Samuel B. Morse exploited this invention in commercial sense. Together with his partner Alfred Vail he developed a simple mechanism that will close the circuit when turned on. A signal was send that way to a receiver on a distance and moved a marker which produced dots and lines (the Morse Code) on a paper roll. Around 1856 there was a sound key which made it for the user possible to hear the clicks of the message to write them down or typing it in a direct readable language.

The developments were going fast and the first transatlantic cable between London and New York was finished in 1858. On August 22nd 1858 the first message was send between Queen Victoria of G.B. and president Buchanan of the U.S.A. . So the success of the Atlantic Cable and Underseas Communications, already active in 1850 became a fact. Thomas Edison improved the transmission in 1874 with his quadruplex which made it possible to send 4 messages at once. Many countries and continents were connected by this company and communications speeded up. Other inventions have put this one to the background but they remained the most important one for the railways.

The stamps

As mentioned before the first telegraph stamps were issued in 1853 by the English and Irish magnetic Telegraph Co. And in the U.S.A. the first issue was in 1859 by the New York City and Suburban Printing Telegraph Company.

First Telegraph stamp of England (source www.Linns.com) and for the U.S.A. (auction site Eric Jackson).

On June 1st 1862 there was a proposal in the U.S.A. to charge each telegram with 1 cent for the first 10 words for a price up to 20 cents and 3 cents for the first 10 words for a price up to 20 cents from October 1st 1862. From December 26th 1862 the use of revenues for specific purposes was abandoned and most of the stamps were used for all purposes except for telegraph charges so the tax on telegrams was abandoned on August 1st 1864.

Brown 1c and greenish blue 3c tax stamp from the U.S.A. (found on the auction site of Eric Jackson).


The first Dutch telegraph stamps came into the public in 1877 and they were discontinued already in 1920. During the 20th century the modernizing of the Society will give a declining use of these stamps. The most modern one recorded is in Hiscocks publication in 1979 and issued by the Dominican Republic. During that era the following forms of telegraphic usage can be found:

  1. (private) telegraph stamps
  2. postage stamps cancelled on telegrams
  3. postage stamps overprinted for telegraph usage
  4. revenue stamps cancelled on telegrams
  5. revenue stamps cancelled on telegrams
  6. revenue stamps overprinted for telegraph usage

For the 1st group there are fine examples on top of the page. For others I would refer to the work of Hiscocks.

You may not always recognize the 2nd group but there are numerous examples. An example of this was for sale at www.ebay.com.The 3rd group is smaller was as an example an overprinted stamp from Transvaal.

Australian 2/6 postage stamp with telegraph cancel Burnie dated 1953 and overprint of series 1901 on postage stamp of series 1896-97.

The 4th group is not completely listed in the works of Hiscocks, maybe because there was little to find about it. Transvaal is mentioned (1901) but there are older examples of usage recorded. Also from Crete during the Ottoman era and as independent State used by the Eastern telegraph Company. There are also Ottoman revenues on telegram forms. I will try to give more information later.

A: Crete

During the Ottoman era there were 2 attempts made by the Atlantic Cable and Underseas Communications in 1859 but both failed. In 1866 there was a report about a new cable from Chios to Crete. Place: unknown. In 1871 there was the construction of a cable from Canea – Rettimo and Sitia to Rhodos. In 1889 another report of a cable between Candia and Canea. These actions were carried out by “The Eastern Telegraph Company Ltd.” I couldn’t find anything in catalogues of Vlastos and Karamitsos. Even the book for Crete has no special chapter and examples of cancellations appear only if in combination with another subject. As far as I know there are cancellations from Canea, Sitia and Rettimo; all of them coastal places at the North side of the island.

Example of cancel; on Ottoman 10 para Proportional Fee of 1891 with hand-stamp type VI and an example of a 10 lepta with overprint type III (1911).

B: Ottoman Empire

Maybe there is literature of this area for telegraph stamps and telegraph usage of the Ottoman Empire and Turkey but considering the fact that I only collect the revenues, the chances of getting connected with this literature is small. That’s why I liked the purchase of 2 totally different documents. The first one was affixed on a document and the back side shows paper traces and parts of the gummed side. It has been torn off roughly or rudely cut off. The used language is partially Arab and French.

The 2nd document is torn from a booklet, similar to the one shown from Crete. And also like Crete from “The Eastern Telegraph Company Ltd”. The amazing site of the Atlantic Cable and Underseas Communications reports the construction of a cable to Constantinople in 1855, directed by the Ottoman Government. (See also http://www.atlantic-cable.com/.) Beyond that date I can’t trace anything in that direction. That concerns also for “The Eastern Telegraph Company Ltd”. In both cases they may had various offices with a vast network throughout the country.

The first form for 16 words was dated 21-10-1907 and does not show a station.. The tax stamp, a 10 para type “fixed fee”of 1900 had probably the same usage as for the U.S.A. as a tax for a telegram or a receipt stamp. The value of 10 para has been in use on Crete for a long time.

Part that was affixed on a telegram on 21-10-1907. Station unknown.
Receipt for a telegram on Pera Station on March 10th 1923.

The 2nd document is better to identify ad reports the station of Pera. Pera (being now Beyoglu) was the station at the European side in the Bosporus in British territory and connected with Üsküdar at the Asian side of the Ottoman Empire. Beyoglu is now melted with Istanbul. They used a similar type of cancel like the ones for Crete. The use of a 1 piaster revenue type “fixed fee” of 1916 on March 10th 1923 is shortly before the proclamation of the republic on October 29th of that year. The difference with the last document is the sum of points or “parts”. On the internet you will find these documents now and then for a reasonable price.

C: Orange Free State

For this chapter it’s better for me to refer to a special issue for telegraph stamps of the Orange Free States Study Circle. This was issued some years ago and almost in full colour with many illustrations. I can’t show many examples of the unoverprinted revenues because I do not have many of them. The left one below is a similar cancellation that can be found on postcards but in a larger diameter/ The right one has a better appearance to explain it’s usage.

Telegraphic cancellations on the 1/- revenue of series 1878.

D: Transvaal

The best reference for cancellations ; periods of usage etc is the work of Drysdall. He describes the history of telegraphy ; offices and cancellations. The first line was constructed during the British occupation and connected Utrecht with newcastle and a line to Pietermartizburg and Durban with a marine cable. This line was completed on June 12th 1879. later on they extended the connection to Pretoria (september 18th 1879 and Marthinus Wesselstroom (1880).

Rates: for Transvaal and later by a treaty in 1879 they were signed by Natal; Orange Free State and later on the Cape Colony.

Announcement of the National Government No 131 on September 1st 1879 in the Transvaal Government Gazette:

  • Normal message: 1/- first 10 words+ 6d for each 5 words maximum.
  • Encrypted messages: double rate of normal messages
  • Press releases: 1/- first 20 words+ 6d for each 10 words maximum

Examples below are used during the 2nd South African Republic (1881 – 1900) were they used up the old stock of the 1st British occupation (1877-1881). Despite of that telegraphic used revenues of that era are scarcely found.

Transvaal 1878: Telegraph cancels from Pretoria (3-4-83) and Marthinus Wesselstroom (16-4-83).

At the 2nd British occupation in 1900 the British used up the old revenue stamps issued in 1886 and provided them with the overprint “V(ictoria) R(egina) I(mperia). During that time you will find almost only ARMY TELEGRAPH cancellations with a capital code for each station that was opened during the Boer war. Examples of cancellation fragments below show f.i. “P”and “PR” (Pretoria) at the left and “M” (Military station) at the right. The most known data vary from may 31st 1900 in Johannesburg to August 15th 1902 in Belfast.

Transvaal 1900: Revenue stamps of 1886 overprinted “V.R.I.” and ARMY TELEGRAPH cancels.

The 5th group is well documented by Hiscocks but only existing for a few countries:

  • Ecuador (several series 1895 – 1944);
  • El Salvador (1899);
  • India (1881-1882);
  • Marocco- Marruecos (1935-38);
  • Natal (1902);
  • Nicaragua (1908-1912);
  • Orange Free State (1886-1888);
  • Orange River Colony (1901);
  • Panama (1919);
  • Philippines (1881);
  • Portugal-Macao; -Africa and – India (1919);
  • Sarawak (1933-1935) and
  • Transvaal (1901-1903).

I have found only examples of the bold printed areas so I will discuss them briefly. (See part two of this article.)


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