A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Mozambique Company - Bud's Big Blue

Scott #10
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations
In the late 19th century, Portugal, an empire eager to extract wealth from its colonies, admitted that it had no way to exploit all of Mozambique. So, it ceded large swaths of the colony to privately financed companies -- a common colonial strategy under such circumstances. Mozambique Company, one such administrative arrangement, was established in 1891 and financed by British, German, French and South African investors. In exchange for agreeing to develop agriculture, metal and mineral excavation, railways, port facilities, and government services (plus a small percentage of the profits), the Company had complete rights to exploit the lands and people in 51,881 square miles of territory.

As it turned out, Mozambique Company met few of its obligations but it did conscript labor and raise taxes -- main sources of corporate income. It rapidly became a forced labor regime aimed at plundering the region. Although the slave trade had been formally abolished, the Company transformed its prerogatives to corporate form of slavery, violently when it deemed necessary.(1) It even sent conscripts to work in South African mines.To minimize expenses the directorship kept salaries of local European employees low, expecting them to supplement their wages by pillaging the local population.”(2)

Many outraged Africans fled the areas under Company control or, not surprisingly, rebelled against this new form of slavery. Portugal twice sent in the military to quieten matters.

The Company’s main center for administrative control was located in the port city of Beira where it established a postal service that issued stamps and a bank that issued currency.

Beira Post Office, about 1920

The Company built an imposing structure for its main post office. Notice the tram carriages passing by it, a conveyance enjoyed by Europeans in many east African cities. Rickshaw-like buggies jostled along on tracks with African natives pushing.

From 1892 until 1918 the Company used standard Portuguese stamps overprinted or inscribed “Companhia de Moçambique.” The earliest of these, if found in feeder albums, are sometimes reprints. Of the seven showing on the supplement pages (below), I believe to top two to be smooth surfaced reprints and the five others to be originals with chalky surfaces. Reprints command higher prices.

Scott #s 8 and 9 (chalky surface)

Beginning in 1918, the Company issued its own stamps that were designed and printed by Waterlow and Sons, Ltd., a British Company. These stamps show happy Africans tending prosperous plantations, modern transport, and thriving wildlife -- images not remotely consistent the realities described above. However, stamp collectors throughout the world enthusiastically filled their album spaces with these attractive stamps, thereby unintentionally providing the Company with a considerable source of income and a public relations triumph. Many of us, my childhood self included, were transfixed by the beauty of these stamps.

Scott #s 118, 122, 127, 129, and 155

Essays for the first Waterlow stamps appear at the end of the supplement pages. They are colored differently from the stamps that were actually issued. They have the “specimen” overprints and the values punched out.

Selected Waterlow essays

The Company’s philatelic public relations gambits continued. In 1939 seven stamps were overprinted to commemorate a visit from the Portuguese president -- appealing triangles with animals and ships. At the time, the President must have been impressed with what he saw because he awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Colonial Empire to the Company.

Scott #s 196-8

The Company’s last philatelic public relations ploy, and coincidentally their last stamps ever, was the set of seven commemorating the double centenary of the Foundation of Portuguese Nationality in 1140 and the Restoration (that is, separation from Spain) in 1640. (Five showing below, the remainder in the page scans). If these were meant to curry favor in Lisbon, they did not do so sufficiently, for the Company lost its concession in 1942. However, despite its bad financial performance and the Portuguese desire to consolidate control of its colonies, the Company was allowed to continue some farming and commercial operations. But no more stamps.

Scott #s 201-5

Census: 122 in BB spaces, 145 on supplement pages.

 (1) The Mozambique Company’s brutality is detailed in Eric Allina, Slavery by Any Other Name: African Life under Company Rule in Colonial Mozambique (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012). His data come from previously unavailable Company records and interviews with survivors.

(2) Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, Mozambique: From Colonialism To Revolution, 1900-1982 (Avalon Publishing,1983).

 Mozambique Company charity stamps seem contradictory to my foregoing comments, so I put them at end of this post surrounded in black.

Scott #s B1-7
Jim's Observations
The Mozambique Company had the concession from Portuguese government to administer (and extract wealth) from the central portion of Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). The exclusive concession began in 1891, and lasted 50 years until 1941, when it was not renewed.

Among the rights of Mozambique Company, financed largely with British capital, was the ability to collect taxes, and use forced labor on its plantations. These two prerogatives, were, in fact, how the Company made its money. It did little to develop the lands, except for the Beira- Salisbury (now Harare) railway in 1899, and a Nyasaland line in 1922.

One of the other rights? The production of stamps. 

And produce they did, with some 275 stamps issued between 1892-1941. But not just any stamps- you know, the usual uninspired Portuguese colony fare- but bi-colored pictorials engraved in London beginning with the 1918 issue forward.

Wow!...as poor as their administration of the colony was, their stamps are magnificent- and cheap for WW classical collectors to own.

But truth be told, Bud's essay (above) does put a pall on these stamps.

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Comments appreciated!


  1. (This is from Herb..)
    Dear Bud,
    I finally found the time to read your information leisurely about the stamps issued by the Mozambique Company. I always thought they were better stamps than most, but now I have to re-think the whole matter of colonial Mozambique. To be honest I always thought the Portuguese were worse colonists than the British but your essay shows that the financing there was in large part British, and the printing was by Waterlow & Sons Ltd., a company that I have always admired. Very early on, in a recent history seminar, I began to think “The flag follows trade; not that trade follows the flag.” I still think that is generally true. In this case, however, it seems that the “flag” is encouraging trade - and without any compassionate restrictions.
    I think I will probably never fill those pages.

  2. Thanks, Herb, for your keen and compassionate insights. There is, sadly, blood on many of the stamps in our albums. Screaming blood. I've tried, in what I've written for this blog, to give some degree of voice to that blood, lest we collectors in our haste never take notice.