British Solomon Islands stamps and postal history

British Solomon Islands Stamps 1907 Large Canoe 2d. pair imperforate between SG 3a

The large group of Pacific islands collectively known as the British Solomon Islands Protectorate lies to the east of New Guinea, between latitude 5° S. and 12° 30' S. and 155° and 170° E. longitude. It comprises a double chain of islands in more or less parallel lines separated by the long channel of water known in modem times as “The Slot”; extending for 900 miles from Bougainville Straits in the west to Fakata (Mitre Island) in the extremity of the Santa Cruz group, and north and south for 430 miles from Ontong Java Atoll (Lord Howe Island) to Rennell Island. The latter incidentally is generally recognised as the world’s finest example of a “raised atoll”, i.e. a coralline island raised from the sea-bed by volcanic action. The total area of the Protectorate is approximately 249,000 nautical square miles, of which the land occupies some 11,000 square miles.

When Charles Woodford took up his appointment as first Resident Commissioner in 1896, no postal service of any kind was in existence. The white population of traders and missionaries comprised some 40 persons, and the transmission of correspondence was entirely dependent on the goodwill of masters or supercargoes of passing vessels, who would accept letters, and cash for postage, and then affix the stamps and post the letters when the vessel arrived in Australia. If it was an inter-island vessel, the letters and money would eventually be handed over to an official of the Burns, Philp vessel which called at the islands from Sydney at approximately six-weekly intervals.

This haphazard arrangement was both unsatisfactory and uncertain, and when the Government (in the persons of the Resident Commissioner and his small staff) took over, some other method of dealing with corre-spondence became essential.

As the only overseas communication was with Sydney, the New South Wales GPO arranged to forward all letters for the Commissioner in a sealed bag. He, on his part, made up a similar bag, containing the letters and the necessary cash to pay the postage fees; and on arrival in Sydney the Post Office undertook the stamping of the letters and forwarded them to their destination. The amount of such correspondence was small, and covers from this period can only be identified by contemporary endorsements on the envelopes. Otherwise there would be nothing to distinguish them from ordinary letters posted in Australia.

The First Large Canoe Stamps (1907) of British Solomon Islands

British Solomon Islands 1907 Large Canoe 2 1/2d orange-yellow pair of stamps imperforate between SG 4b

In the decade following Mr. Woodford’s appointment, the white popu-lation of the Protectorate showed a steady increase. Trading stations were set up by Messrs. Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd., in connection with their business as traders and shipowners, and coconut plantations were estab-lished by Messrs. Levers Pacific Plantations Ltd.

The gradual development of the islands was reflected in the increase of correspondence, and the provision of postage stamps had become a necessity.