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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.