15th September 2015 Egypt Maritime Mail – John Davis

At the last meeting we welcomed John Davis from the Worcester Philatelic Society who gave a display of the Maritime Mail of Egypt.

Egypt is the interconnecting point of three continents – Europe, Africa and Asia and so the maritime connections with this country were critical in the distribution of mail. In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened and this increased the importance of Egypt from a mail perspective.

The display opened with a Merchant Venturers Letter from Venice to Alexandria in 1420 followed by a number of others between Italian Merchants in Alexandria, Venice and Livorno.

At that time most mail went via a quarantine station and a photo was shown of the sanitation facility in Valetta Harbour in Malta – it was believed that mail arriving from India and the Middle East could transport disease hence the need for sanitation.

Various markings were used in the 19th century to designate maritime mail. The early postal markings were in Italian due to the first Postmaster General being Italian and a mark showing “Poste Egiziane Uffizio Natante” was used until 1865. Then for a short time this changed to “Pleine Mer” this time in French with slight differences in the mark between Port Said and Suez. In early 1866 a lozenge mark consisting of dots called “The Retta” was used with examples shown from Greece, Cyprus and India.

In 1891 the term “Paquebot” became the universal symbol for maritime mail by the UPU with a number of different types being displayed. Alexandria, Egypt’s largest port had a circular date stamp incorporating the word paquebot which is considered a rather rare mark.

Most of the material shown to this point was focussed on the north of the Suez Canal and now a number of items were displayed showing mail from Port Tewfik and Suez in the south which used a large number of cartouches and date stamps.

At the end of the first half we were shown numerous items of mail that had been transported by Khedivial Mail Line. This company went through numerous name changes including the Pharonic Mail Line before finally becoming part of the United Arab Maritime Company when President Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal and all Egyptian shipping in 1952.

After the break we were shown a wide range of examples of mail from various shipping lines and various routes. These included a large number from the Lloyd Shipping Group. This mail all had a destination of Egypt or had been posted in Egypt or on a ship bound to or from the country.

The next meeting is on 6th October when Nick Bridgewater will display on the subject of “The Ottoman Empire and Albania”.

For more information contact J. Davies 01295 255831.