Martinique: The First Distinctive Issue

Martinique is part of the Lesser Antilles island group of the Caribbean and was discovered by Columbus in June 1502 but not colonised until the French founded a settlement in 1635. The island lies directly north of Saint Lucia, northwest of Barbados and south of Dominica. Before 1886 Martinique used the French general stamp issues and later, provisional stamps were created by surcharging French denominated stamps and the word ‘MARTINIQUE’ or an abbreviated form, ‘MQE’. The widely recognised French ‘Tablet’ colonial design was introduced in November 1892 with the inscription ‘MARTINIQUE’.

However, it was not until December 1908 that the first distinctive Martinique stamps were issued, featuring three designs. The low values (1c, 2c, 4c, 5c, 10c, 15c, 20c) featured a Martinique woman, middle denominations (25c, 30c, 35c, 40c, 45c, 50c, 75c) featured a scene overlooking the capital, Fort de France, and the franc denominations (1f, 2f, 5f) featured a woman carrying a basket of sugar cane on her head. Each stamp is typographed in two colours and is surrounded by a border also incorporating the ‘MARTINIQUE’ inscription as well as the denomination and the words ‘REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE’ or ‘RF’. The definitive series remained in use until 1933.

Martinique 1908 20c stamp featuring a Martinique woman
1908 20c featuring a Martinique woman
Martinique 1908 5f stamp featuring a woman carrying a basket of sugar cane
1908 5f featuring a woman carrying a basket of sugar cane

In 1915, the 10c denominated stamp was surcharged with a ‘5c’ overprint accompanied by a red cross in aid of the Red Cross during World War I. During the 1920s numerous provisional surcharges were applied and in 1922 the series was refreshed with colour changes and new denominations as postal rates rose.

Martinique 1915 10c stamp with Red Cross and 5c overprinted surcharge
1915 10c with Red Cross and 5c optd. surch.

The series was eventually superseded by an equally distinctive issue in January 1933, again featuring three designs – a native village at Basse Point, Government House in Fort de France and two Martinique women in local head-dresses.

Martinique 1922 15c stamp with 0.02 overprinted surcharge
1922 15c with 0.02 optd. surch.
Martinique 1923 75c stamp with 85 overprinted surcharge
1923 75c with 85 optd. surch.
Martinique 1924 2f stamp with 25c overprinted surcharge
1924 2f with 25c optd. surch.

Today, Martinique remains an integral part of the French Republic and an Outermost Region (OMR) of the European Union. Indeed, its currency is the Euro and the population speak predominantly French and/or a French-based creole.

To view postal issues of Martinique, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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