Bermuda became a British Crown Colony in 1707. Following British tradition, in 1865 when Bermuda produced its first regular issue postage stamp, the stamp featured the then current British sovereign, Queen Victoria. For the next 36 years, all postage stamps and postal cards issued by Bermuda bore Victoria’s portrait.
Figure #1 shows an 1885 half pence postal card franked together with two additional half pence stamps of the 1880 regular issue series making up the foreign post card rate to London, England. The card, posted in Hamilton, Bermuda, took more than a month to reach its destination.
From October 1899 until May 1902, Great Britain engaged in a military conflict with the two South African Afrikaner (Dutch) republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. This conflict was known as the Boer War. During the war, more than 5,000 Afrikaner combatants captured by British forces were shipped to prisoner of war camps located in Bermuda. Figure #2 shows a one pence postal card sent from Hamilton, Bermuda, to Krugersdorp, Transvaal, in December of 1901. On the card are two censor marks, one from Bermuda and one from Transvaal. The card was in transit for more than a month. Although postal censor markings from Bermuda used during World War I and World War II are relatively common, Boer War censored cards from Bermuda are rare and highly desirable.
After a reign of more than 63 years, Queen Victoria died on January 22, 1901. She was succeeded by King Edward VII. Breaking with tradition, Bermuda did not issue a single postage stamp during Edward’s 9-year reign which featured his portrait. Instead, only two new issues of stamps were produced from 1901 until 1910; one featured the Hamilton drydock, the other featured a caravel, a small, highly maneuverable sailing ship. Figure #3 shows a picture postcard franked by a half pence drydock stamp sent from Hamilton to Marian, Ohio, in 1907. The half pence stamp pays the foreign printed matter rate which also applied to postcards with a written message of fewer than 5 words.
Figure #4 is of a registered postcard dispatched from Hamilton to Hanover, Germany, in 1914. This card was franked with a single one pence drydock stamp which paid the foreign postcard rate, and two additional one pence caravel design stamps which paid the registry fee.
Upon the death of Edward VII in 1910, George V became King of the British Empire. In 1935, King George celebrated the 25th year of his reign. To celebrate the occasion, silver jubilee stamps were issued by Great Britain and all her colonies. Figure #5 shows Bermuda’s one- and one-half pence jubilee stamp on a picture postcard paying the foreign surface postcard rate from Hamilton to Washington, D.C. The card was cancelled with a “Come to Bermuda, the Islands of Rest” slogan postmark. The card also bears a Library of Congress receiving mark.
George V died in June of 1936 and was succeeded by Edward VIII who ruled for only 6 months before advocating the throne in December 1936. No stamps from Bermuda were issued during his brief reign.
Edward VIII was followed by George VI who ruled until 1952. Figure #6 shows a 3 pence George VI stamp used on a picture postcard sent from the St. George’s Post Office, Bermuda, to Longmeadow, Massachusetts, in 1952. The 3 pence stamp pays half the foreign airmail letter rate which was accepted as the foreign airmail postcard rate.
On February 6, 1952, Elizabeth II became Queen of the British Empire. Starting in 1962, Bermuda issued a series of 18 stamps depicting various Bermuda landmarks. Figure #7 shows a picture postcard posted in October of 1969 from the Perot Post Office in Bermuda to Ostersund, Sweden. The 10 pence stamp from the 1962 series features the design of a Bermuda cottage from c. 1705. The stamp pays the then current 10 pence foreign airmail postcard rate. One year later, Bermuda adopted a decimal currency system. An example of this change is depicted in Figure #8. This shows the same 1962 series 10 pence stamp, now overprinted and revalued to 10 cents, used on a picture postcard in 1970 and sent via airmail from Hamilton to Kingston, New Hampshire.
From 1865 through 1949, Bermuda issued 142 different postage stamps. Since the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, Bermuda has issued more than 600 additional stamps. While many of these stamps are attractive, none are particularly rare and most have been produced for sale unused to collectors. Still, if you are looking for a new area of collecting, you might enjoy a study of the early postcards and backsides of Bermuda. Until next time, may the postcard gods smile on you!