Cayman Islands: Tempting the Tourists

Tourism has been a predominant theme for a number of recent posts relating to Caribbean issues on this blog – notably Martinique (The Unsinkable ‘Stone Frigate’), Jamaica (Local Artist Comes to the Rescue) and St Lucia (A Case of Unfortunate Timing). In the early 1930’s, these stamp issues were unashamedly targeting a small but wealthy audience with images of exotic flora and fauna and scenes of a tropical paradise. Not only were these issues setting a advertising precedent but in many cases they were also the first pictorial issues for many of the islands.

A further example is the 1935-36 pictorial issue of the Cayman Islands – an island group that lies in the western Caribbean Sea, located between Jamaica and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and directly south of Cuba. It is believed that the Cayman Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus on 10 May 1503 during his final voyage to the Americas. He named the islands ‘Las Tortugas’ after the large numbers of resident turtles. Later the islands were to become known as the Caymans after the caiman (or more specifically, the Cuban Crocodile) that were also once resident around the islands. There was no formal colonisation until the mid-1600’s and in 1670 England took formal control of the Cayman Islands along with Jamaica under the terms of the Treaty of Madrid. The close association with Jamaica remained as the islands were administered as a dependency of the Crown Colony of Jamaica until the it’s independence in 1962 when the Cayman Islands reverted to separate Crown Colony status.

Understandably therefore, the Cayman Islands used Jamaican stamps from 1889 and postal autonomy was not established until 1900 with the issue of typographed key-type stamps featuring the head of Queen Victoria. Aside from the 1932 issue commemorating the Centenary of Assembly of Justices and Vestry, the 1935 issue of twelve stamps was the first pictorial set based on five designs with each featuring an oval-shaped medallion portrait of Kind George V derived from a master die used for the 1925-29 issue of Northern Rhodesia. The medallion is surrounded by rope acknowledging the local production of thatch rope traditionally fabricated from the unopened leaves of silver palms.

The five designs feature images of an island map (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) and Queen Conch shells (indigenous to the Caribbean where the sea snail is valued as seafood) and Palm trees as well as vignettes of Hawksbill Turtles scurrying down a beach (featured image), a Cat Boat (a sailboat with a single gaff rigged sail on a single mast) and a colony of Red-Footed Boobys. The Hawksbill Turtle is one of several species that can be found the Caribbean Sea although sadly they were hunted to near-extinction and is now critically endangered. The Red-Footed Booby is a seabird which is noted not only for their brightly coloured feet but also their reputation for clumsy take-off and landing manoeuvres, despite being agile in flight. Little Cayman and Cayman Brac remain home to large populations of both Red-Footed and Brown Booby’s.

The twelve stamps with denomination from ¼d to 10s, were released in two stages and all were recess-printed by Waterlow & Sons on paper with Multiple Script CA watermark, perforated 12½.

  • ¼d Map of Cayman Islands [Black and Brown]
  • ½d Cat Boat [Blue and Green]
  • 1d Red-Footed Boobys [Blue and Red]
  • 1½d Queen Conch Shells [Black and Orange]
  • 2d Cat Boat [Blue and Purple]
  • 2½d Hawksbill Turtles [Blue and Black]
  • 3d Map of Cayman Islands [Black and Green]
  • 6d Hawksbill Turtles [Purple and Black]
  • 1s Cat Boat [Blue and Orange]
  • 2s Red-Footed Boobys [Blue and Black]
  • 5s Hawksbill Turtles [Green and Black]
  • 10s Queen Conch Shells [Black and Red]

To view postal issues of the Cayman Islands, 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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