From the outset I have to admit that I am not an avid collector of Australian Colonial postcards, nor do I have much knowledge of ship routes from Brisbane to what I would call exotic places. The purpose of this paper is to see if readers can add information to the content of this paper.

This 1898 postcard is listed as Higgins & Gage #10 and has the printed 1d (2 corners) brown QV to which the ½d green A.S.C. 27 stamp has been added. The postcard has a sepia photograph of workers in an ‘Arrowroot Field, Pimpana’ and in the lower left of the photo there is a very faint ‘QUEENSLAND 1832’. The card is addressed ‘To the/ Postmaster/ Tamatave/ Madagascar” and the stamps are postmarked ‘BRISBANE/ MR 7/ 3 30 PM/ T.C. A transit double circle with thick long bars postmark is shown on the front for ‘COLOMBO/ MR 26/ 02/ with a maltese cross at the base, as well as a blue TAMATAVE/ 3/ MAI/ (0)2/ MADAGASCAR postmark for the final destination (Figure 1).

The two sharp strikes of the Brisbane postmark were applied at the Telegraph Counter and it is a Type 1, 24 mm in diameter. Campbell Queensland Cancellations (1977) states that ‘it is not known under what circumstances mail was accepted at the Telegraph Counter at the G.P.O., but such practice was evidently in vogue…framed circular date-stamps with ‘BRISBANE’ round the top and ‘T.C.’ at (the) foot are known cancelling stamps from 1894 to after 1912 (p. 147). In Campbell’s second edition (1990) he combines his two Type 1’s (both 24 and 24.5 mm T.C.’s), with a group use from 1894 to September 1905 (p. 152-3). This information was not updated in the 1997 Supplement.

The reverse has the message “Dear Sir – I should be so pleased if you would kindly send me a pictorial post card from Madagascar in exchange for this – addressed to Miss M. Perry, Folkestone, Bowen Hills, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia”. A transit mark for Mauritius/ 2/ AP ( )/02 is also on the reverse (Figure 2).

One wonders whether the Postmaster could resist such a polite and naive approach? A map of the region is shown with the 3 ports of call identified with an arrow, Colombo, Mauritius and Tamatave, Madagascar, which is now named Toamasina (Figure 3).

Madagascar is rarely in the news and my knowledge of the worlds’s fourth largest island was virtually zero prior to researching this postcard. It is situated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique and has an area of 587, 040 sq. km. It was an independent nation but it became a French colony in 1896, regaining its independence in 1960. Its natural resources are graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, forestry and hydropower.. Its estimated population in 2004 was 17.5 million people, the median age being only 17.5 years, with a life expectancy at birth of 56.5 years. I could find no population figures available for 1902.

The 2 official languages are French and Malagasy, so there are doubts whether the postmaster was able to read the message. The government type is a Republic with a President and the capital is Antananarivo, and the legal system is based on French civil and traditional Malagasy law. Having discarded past socialist economic policies, Madagascar has since the mid 1990s followed a World Bank and IMF led policy. This strategy has placed the country on a slow and steady growth path from an extremely low economic level.

Madagascar’s climate is tropical, with two seasons. During the rainy season (December-April), the island receives between 30 to 355 cm of rainfall annually. During the dry season (May-November), average midday temperatures range from 77 degrees F (25 degrees C) in the highlands and 86 degrees F (30 degrees C) on the coast. Along the Eastern coastal plains, high humidity is tempered by almost-constant ocean breezes. Its agricultural products are coffee, vanilla, sugarcane, cloves, cocoa, rice, tapioca, beans, bananas, peanuts, and livestock products. This should give the reader a sufficient taste of the Island!

This paper has been published in The Queensland Stamp Collector, August-October 2004, Volume 21, Issue 83, pages 11-13.

Categories: Postcards, Postmarks