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The British Postal Service in the Levant, 1857-1923

Introduction

Purpose of Exhibit: To illustrate the establishment and development of the civilian British Postal Service in the Ottoman Empire from 1857 (when the first British PO was opened in Constantinople after the end of the Crimean War) until 1923 (when all foreign post offices were abolished in the new Republic of Turkey).

Historical Background: Great Britain was among the Powers that operated their own Post Offices on sovereign Turkish territory in the 19th century. This anomaly of national post offices operating in the Ottoman Empire was due to the so-called Capitulations. The term "Levant" is used to describe the Ottoman Ports.

Postal Background: A civilian British Post Office was first established in Constantinople in 1857, a year after the closure of the Army Post Office which was set up during the Crimean War. In the following years, four more offices were opened in the Levant: Smyrna in 1872 (now Izmir in Turkey), Beyrout in 1873, Stamboul in 1885 a Constantinople sub-office and Salonica in 1900 (now Thessaloniki in Greece).

The Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and especially the outbreak of WW1 severely affected the Levant postal network, causing the indefinite closure oi the Offices by the Sublime Porte in September 1914. It was only in 1919 that the British re-established civilian POS in Smyrna and Constantinople. The former was burned down during the destruction of Smyrna in September 1922, white the latter closed permanently in September 1923.

The exhibit is organized by Post Office and divided in two periods: Part I: 1957-1914 (The pre-war post offices, the effect of war on British Levant mail), Part II: 1919-1923 (The post-war post offices).

Original research: The exhibit reflects considerable original research in the PO Archives in Mount Pleasant, London and new discoveries are regularly reported in "The Overprinter" Journal of the Great Britain Overprints Society of which the exhibitor is the Levant Research Coordinator. A brief synopsis on British Levant postal history was also published in Gibbons Stamp Monthly (June 2010, pp 55-58).

The most important items are shown in red frames. Highlights include:
  • The earliest recorded letter from Turkey bearing a postage stamp (Smyrna, 1843)
  • The only recorded cover showing the 6d Reg'n Fee per item (Constantinople, 1864)
  • The earliest recorded letter from Smyrna (March 1873)
  • Mixed franking entire letter (GB + FR) via the French Post in Alexandria (Beyrout, 1875)
  • The unique Transatlantic Triple Rate PSRE to Canada (Smyrna, 1883)
  • The unique "Post Office 5myrna" window notice (Smyrna, 1905)
  • The only recorded Insured cover from British Levant (Constantinople, 1911)
  • The only recorded Express cover from British Levant (Salonica, 1914)
  • A unique pair of covers franked with the rarest shades of KGV 2d "Indigo Blue on Toned Paper" (Smyrna, 1920) and "Dull Prussian Blue" (Smyrna, 1922)


(link)

Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Forerunners
PART ONE, 1857-1914

BPO CONSTANTINOPLE

Pre-UPU Period: 1857-1875
  1. First Month of Office
  2. Mail to Great Britain - via French Packet to Marseilles
  3. Mail from Great Britain - via Marseilles and French Packet
  4. Mail to Great Britain - Quick Route via France
  5. Mail to Great Britain - via Belgium
  6. Mail to Malta
  7. Mail to Malta - Rate Increase
  8. Mail to Other Destinations - US/India
  9. Mail to Other Destinations - Gibraltar
UPU Rates: Sterling Period 1875-1885
  1. Postcard Rate
  2. Letter Mail - Single Rate
  3. Letter Mail - Double/Triple Rate
  4. Letter Mail - Registration
UPU Rates: Mixed Period 1885-1914
  1. Introduction of Stamps Surcharged in Turkish Currency
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Frame 2

PART ONE, 1857-1914 (cont)

BPO CONSTANTINOPLE (cont)

UPU Rates: Mixed Period 1885-1914 (cont)
  1. Postcard Rate
  2. Postcard Rate - Taxed
  3. Letter Mail - Single Rate
  4. Letter Mail - Single Rate Taxed
  5. Letter Mail - Multiple Rates
  6. Letter Mail - Multiple Rates/12 Piastres high value on cover
  7. Letter Mail - Rate Change, October 1907
  8. Special Services - Acknowledgement of Receipt
  9. Special Services - Insured/Declared Value
Postal Stationery and Special Forms
  1. Postcards - Unoverprinted
  2. Postcards - Overprinted
  3. Postcards - Foreign postcards used in British Levant
  4. Registered Envelopes - Unsurcharged
  5. See sheet 29
  6. Registered Envelopes - Surcharged in Turkish Currency
  7. See sheet 31
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Frame 3

PART ONE, 1857-1914 (cont)

BPO CONSTANTINOPLE (cont)

Postal Stationery and Special Forms (cont)
  1. Special Form for Turkish Customs
Instructional Handstamps
  1. Not Called For/Duplicate/Paquebot
Unusual Destinations
  1. India/Danish West Indies
  2. New South Wales/Tasmania
BPO STAMBOUL

First Period: 1885-1896
  1. Sterling Period: April-July 1885
  2. Mixed Accounting Period from August 1885 - Postcard/Letter Mail
  3. Mixed Accounting Period - Letter Mail: Single/Double
  4. Mixed Accounting Period - Letter Mail: Triple
Second Period: 1908-1914
  1. Mixed Accounting Period - Printed Matter/Sample Post
  2. Mixed Accounting Period - Letter Mail: Double/Quintuple
Unusual Destinations
  1. Finland/Brazil
BPO SMYRNA

Pre-UPU Period: 1872-1875
  1. Mail to Great Britain - via French Packet to Marseilles
  2. Mail to Great Britain - via Vienna (Austrian Packet)
UPU Rates: Sterling Period 1875-1885
  1. Letter Mail - Single
  2. Letter Mail - Triple
UPU Rates: Mixed Period 1885-1914
  1. Letter Mail - Single/Double
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Frame 4

PART ONE, 1857-1914 (cont)

BPO SMYRNA (cont)

UPU Rates: Mixed Period 1885-1914 (cont)
  1. Letter Mail - High Multiple Rates
  2. See sheet 49
  3. Postcards - Taxed
  4. Postcards - Maritime/Paquebot
  5. Printed Matter/Samples
Postal Stationery and Special Forms
  1. Window Notice/Unoverprinted Postcard/Overprinted Wrapper
  2. See sheet 54
  3. Parcel Post/Customs Declaration
Unusual Destinations
  1. Finland/Denmark
  2. North Sudan/ German West Africa
  3. Persia/Guatemala
BPO BEYROUT

Pre-UPU Period: 1873-1875
  1. Mail via the French Post Office in Alexandria
UPU Rates: Sterling Period 1875-1885
  1. Postcard/Letter Mail
  2. Letter Mail - Double/Registered
UPU Rates: Mixed Period 1885-1914
  1. Printed Matter/Postcard
  2. Letter Mail - Single/Double
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Frame 5

PART ONE, 1857-1914 (cont)

BPO BEYROUT (cont)

UPU Rates: Mixed Period 1885-1914 (cont)
  1. Letter Mail - Registration Fee paid in Sterling
  2. Letter Mail - Ship Mail
Postal Stationery
  1. Postcards - Unoverprinted/Overprinted
  2. Postcards - Overprinted
  3. Envelopes - Ordinary/Registered
  4. Registered Envelopes
  5. Used in Foreign Post Offices
BPO SALONICA
  1. Genesis of the Office - Postmaster G.Blunt
Postal Rates 1900-1914
  1. Printed Matter
  2. Printed Matter/Samples
  3. Postcards
  4. Postcards - Royal Naval Mail
  5. Letter Mail - Single
  6. Letter Mail - Double/Triple
  7. Letter Mail - Quadruple
  8. Special Services - Acknowledgement of Receipt
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Frame 6

PART ONE, 1857-1914 (cont)

BPO SALONICA (cont)

Postal Rates 1900-1914 (cont)
  1. Special Services - Express Delivery
Rare Postal Markings
  1. Single-Ring Datestamp/TOO LATE
Postal Stationery
  1. Postcards - Unoverprinted
  2. Postcards - Overprinted
  3. Postcards - Overprinted/Envelope - Surcharged
  4. Registered Envelopes
Unusual Destinations
  1. Java/Japan
  2. Hawaii/East Siberia
EFFECT OF WAR

The Balkan Wars 1912-1913
  1. Outbreak of First Balkan War
  2. The Capture of Salonica
  3. Communications Disruption
  4. Second Balkan War
First World War
  1. Service Suspended (Vienna)
  2. Roundabout Routes
  3. Roundabout Routes
  4. Unusual Destinations
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Frame 7

PART TWO, 1919-1923

BPO SMYRNA 1919-1922
  1. Reopened March 1919
Postal Rates
  1. Printed Matter
  2. Postcards
  3. Letter Mail - Single
  4. Letter Mail - Multiples
Censorship etc
  1. British
  2. Greek
  3. Use of the British PO by the Greeks
Rare GB stamps used in Smyrna
  1. KGV 2d Dull Prussian Blue
  2. KGV 2d Indigo Blue on Toned Paper
Postal Stationery
  1. Overprinted LEVANT Double Postcards
  2. Ordinary Postcard/Envelope
  3. Registered Envelopes
  4. Registered Envelopes
Destruction of Smyrna September 1922
  1. Closure of the British Post Office
  2. Suspension of Mail Services
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Frame 8

PART TWO, 1919-1923 (cont)

BPO CONSTANTINOPLE 1919-1923

Sterling Period Feb 1919 to Aug 1921
  1. Postal Rates - Postcards
  2. Non Letter Mail - Printed Matter/Samples/Commercial Papers/Parcel Post
  3. See sheet 114
  4. Letter Mail
  5. Letter Mail - Orient Express
  6. Rate Increase June 1921
  7. Postal Stationery - Registered Envelopes
  8. Unusual Destinations - British Guinea/China
Piastre Period Aug 1921 to Sep 1923
  1. Postal Rates - Postcards
  2. Postal Rates - Printed Matter (Newspapers)
  3. Special Services - Acknowledgement of Receipt
  4. Special Services - RAF-operated Desert Airmail Service
  5. Postal Stationery - Postcards
  6. Postal Stationery - Registered Envelopes
  7. Postal Stationery - Registered Envelopes
  1. See sheet 127