Uganda Cowries

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The Uganda Cowries, also known as the Uganda Missionaries, were the first adhesive postage stamps of Uganda. Because there was no printing press in Uganda the stamps were made on a typewriter by Rev. E. Millar of the Church Missionary Society, in March 1895, at the request of C. Wilson, an official of the Imperial British East Africa Company. After Millar received a much-needed new ribbon, the color of the typewritten characters changed from black to a violet color. The stamps were valid for postage within the Kingdom of Buganda; in adjoining kingdoms and provinces they were used only for communications between officials of the Church Missionary Society.

The values of the stamps varied, but all were denominated in cowries, Cowries is the unit of currency there and actually means seashells.

The design was simple, showing just the initials of the jurisdiction and a number for the denomination. Only a small number of the genuine stamps seem to have survived. Pen initialed, surcharged values exist.

Wilson’s embryonic postal system for Uganda commenced operations on March 20, 1895. A single letter box was set up in Kampala, at Wilson’s office. Letters with European addresses were dispatched once a month and they arrived at their destinations some three months later.

Military Forces assumed the operation of the mails in June, 1896. The Uganda Missionaries were then followed by a typeset issue from a printing press in November, 1896, after the British Foreign Office had gained control of the government. A recess printed issue from De La Rue & Co. appeared in 1898, featuring a detail from von Angeli’s 1885 portrait of Queen Victoria.

Because of created on a typewriter instead of a printing press, Philately world have special interest on these stamps.

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