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...

Monday, July 10, 2017

Belgian Congo - Bud's Big Blue

Punch magazine, 1906
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations
King Leopold II (page 1, top row) ranks high in BB’s gallery of rogues and scoundrels. He deemed himself founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State. Although promising other European leaders he intended to improve conditions for natives, he committed atrocities and stole the Congo’s wealth for his private use -- ivory first, then rubber. He cited Sir Henry Morton Stanley’s explorations (page three, rows two and three) to justify his claims of ownership. Ten million or more Congolese died as the result of forced labor for rubber extraction (page two, last stamp).

The Baluba, Bangala, and Mangbetu models used for Congo stamp drawings look happy, though, as if demonstrating the enlightenment and benefits of Belgian rule. And the featured wildlife appears prosperous. The true story comes to light, not from the stamps themselves, but from the shameful, deliberately obscured history behind the stamps.

The supplement pages show six railway parcel post stamps. Although similar to Belgian parcel posts, these are private issues. No doubt such trains carried tons of rubber from central Congo to the Atlantic.

Census: 138 in BB spaces, 8 tip-ins, 76 on supplement pages.

Jim's Observations
Belgium Congo stamps, for the most part, are "classic" African Pictorial issues featuring African animals (Elephants and Watusi cattle), natives (Bangala Chief, Ubangi Woman), landscape (Oil Palms), and transportation (River Steamer on the Congo River). Well designed  and highly attractive to the stamp collector, one would suspect from the beginning these issues were a not insignificant source of income for the Colony.

Big Blue has a nice selection indeed; and, although prices are sometimes moderately high ($2+-$10+), the Colony has no listing candidates for "most expensive  stamps in Big Blue". 

But a word of caution: The 1894-1927 Belgian Congo stamp issues and designs are an identification challenge for the Big Blue collector. To that point, all my feeder albums had misplaced stamps for these issues. 

Congo Blog Post and Checklist

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Have a comment?


  1. Great post. But haven't you forgotten the Confederate States?

    1. I suspect Bud is bundling the Confederate States as part of the U.S.

  2. Jim is correct. Since we're following the 1969 edition of Big Blue, the US Confederate States scans will appear with the US section, as they do in the album. The US section will be posted last, even though it comes first in BB 1969.

  3. Wonderful page! Let's not forget that Joseph Conrad's famous work "Heart of Darkness" was written about his time on a Belgian steamer going up the Congo River into the Congo Free State (it was later adapted to the Vietnam War for "Apocalypse Now!"). That King Leopold II sure was a bastard (I've heard that Belgian people still spit on his grave to this day!