Egypt: Egyptian Ports

In the nineteenth century, international trade relied heavily on ships and so ports became important places through which that trade flowed. Strong trade links required effective communication systems and with telephony and radio still to be discovered and electrical telegraphy still in its infancy, this demand fell to the postal system. Established trading nations such as France and Great Britain added overseas ports to their reach, serviced by the ‘paquet-boats’. Apart from the polar regions, Post Offices were opened on every continent in the world creating the first dedicated international communication system.

Great Britain 1859-78 2½d Stamp Cancelled 'B02'
Great Britain 1859-78 2½d Cancelled ‘B02’

As we have discussed in earlier blogs, Egypt was of particular interest as it offered communication channels to the east and therefore was of particular interest to both the French and the British – with slight differences in approach. The British chose to issue British stamps at its foreign Post Offices and used cancellations to indicate the point of origin. Postmarks on British stamps used in Egypt carried the code ‘B01’ (featured image) for the Egyptian port of Alexandria and ‘B02’ for Port Said.

France 1899 4c Stamp Optd. Alexandrie
France 1899 4c Optd. Alexandrie
France 1899 3c Stamp Optd. Port-Said
France 1899 3c Optd. Port-Said

In 1899, the French chose to use its ‘Peace and Commerce’ definitive postal stamp issues at their Post offices in Alexandria and Port Said, each with an overprint identifying the name of the port; fifteen stamps made up the set for each port. A new set of definitive stamps was issued in France in 1900, consisting of three designs named after their designers, ‘Blanc’, Mouchon’ and ‘Merson’. Each of these key plate designs offered space for the location to be detailed without the need for overprints. These stamps were introduced in French Post Offices in Alexandria and Port Said in 1902.

France 1902 2c Stamp 'Blanc' design, Port-Said
France 1902 2c ‘Blanc’ design, Port-Said
France 1902 15c Stamp 'Mouchon' design, Port-Said
France 1902 15c ‘Mouchon’ design, Port-Said
France 1902 50c Stamp 'Merson' design, Alexandrie
France 1902 50c ‘Merson’ design, Alexandrie

In 1915, the 10c denominated ‘Mouchon’ was issued for both ports with a 5c additional surcharge to support the Red Cross. This was indicated on the stamp with a red cross and the 5c surcharge. This surcharge was prompted by the World War I conflict which has extended into the Middle East.

France 1915 10c Stamp Optd. & Surch. Red Cross Fund, Port-Said
France 1915 10c Optd. & Surch. Red Cross Fund, Port-Said

The French continued to use French currency on these stamps until 1921 when the Egyptian currency in milliemes was overprinted onto the French stamps. The French closed its Post Offices in Egypt in March 1931 but in the 10 years from 1921, three sets of ‘Blanc’, Mouchon’ and ‘Merson’ stamps were issued for Alexandria (two in 1921 and another in 1925) and two for Port Said (one in 1921 and another in 1925), the differences between each set being the design of the local currency surcharge overprints.

France 1921 2c Stamp Surch. 15m, Alexandrie
France 1921 2c Surch. 15m, Alexandrie
France 1921 30c Stamp Surch. 10m, Alexandrie
France 1921 30c Surch. 10m, Alexandrie
France 1921 2f Stamp Surch. 60m, Port-Said
France 1921 2f Surch. 60m, Port-Said

The 1921 and 1925 surcharges were overprinted in figures and words. The two 1921 issues for Alexandria show the overprints on one line on the first issue and on two lines on the second issue. The 1921 Port Said overprints were only produced on two lines. A further modification occurred on the 1925 issues for both Alexandria and Port Said with an overprint of three bars through the French currency.

France 1925 3c Stamp Surch. 5m, Alexandrie
France 1925 3c Surch. 5m, Alexandrie

The 1927 issue, comprising six stamps for each port, had a further change to the ‘Blanc’, Mouchon’ and ‘Merson’ design. The overprinted surcharges were no longer used and the local denomination was inserted in the key plate previously occupied by the French currency value. The only additional stamps issued by the French during this period was a set of three ‘Mouchon’ stamps for each port each with an additional charge of 5m in support of the ‘French sinking fund’; a response to the crippling economic circumstances brought on by the aftermath of World War I, the cost of building the Panama Canal and the start of the Great Depression.

France 1927 15m Stamp, Alexandrie
France 1927 15m, Alexandrie
France 1927 15m Stamp Optd. & Surch. Sinking Fund, Alexandrie
France 1927 15m Optd. & Surch. Sinking Fund, Alexandrie

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

Published by billmandsphilatelycom

William (Bill) Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 60 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the British Commonwealth including most notably, the issues from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. However, he also has specialist interest in the postal history of Egypt, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Sarawak, Sudan and the Italian States as well as a fine collection of overprints.

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