British Columbia and Vancouver Island

By Steven C. Walske

///Postal Rates on Mail from British Columbia and Vancouver Island via the United States, 1858-1870
Postal Rates on Mail from British Columbia and Vancouver Island via the United States, 1858-1870 2017-04-19T15:17:34+00:00
Re-printed in the
Western Cover Society publication,
Western Express, Vol. 61 No. 1 Whole No. 239
(March 2011), pages 39-46.

This article was originally published in the
U.S. Philatelic Classics Society publication,
The Chronicle, No. 212, Vol. 58, No. 4
(November 2006), pages 289-297.

Postal Rates on Mail from British Columbia and Vancouver Island via the United States, 1858-1870

Located on the western edge of Canada, the two British Crown Colonies of British Columbia (BC) and Vancouver Island (VI) were isolated geographically and postally from other Canadian provinces in the 1858-1870 period. Consequently, virtually all mail to foreign destinations from the two colonies was necessarily routed through San Francisco, California. Since neither colony had a postal treaty with the United States (US) before July 1870, colonial postage plus US postage had to be paid separately on mail transiting through the US. That gave rise to interesting mixed frankings, and a composite rate structure which was complicated by changing rates in both the US and the two colonies. These composite rates ended with the July 1, 1870 US-BC Postal Treaty.

This article will examine and explain the composite rates on mail leaving BC and VI in the 1858-1870 period. Much of the rate information has been derived from Alfred Deaville’s 1928 work, The Colonial Postal Systems and Postage Stamps of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, 1849-1871. This has been correlated with US rate information from a number of sources (see the Bibliography), and a census of 273 BC and VI outbound covers which passed through San Francisco.

The postal system in BC was administered by VI until August 1860, and rates in both colonies were governed by VI regulations until July 1862. Curiously, VI never had a formal postal ordinance, and BC operated without one until June 1864. Listed below is a summary of key postal dates and events in the two Colonies during this period:

November 19, 1858 Colony of British Columbia established
November 24, 1858 Victoria Post Office Notice:
2½d rate on foreign mail from VI post offices
2½d per ½ oz. rate on foreign mail from BC post offices
July 19, 1862 British Columbia Postal Notice:
2½d per ½ oz. on foreign mail from New Westminster
5d per ½ oz. on foreign mail from the Fraser River offices
Higher rates on mail from farther upcountry
June 20, 1864 British Columbia Postal Ordinance:
3d per ½ oz. rate on foreign mail from New Westminster
9d per ½ oz. rate on foreign mail from other locations in BC
November 17, 1866 Union of British Columbia and Vancouver Island
April 2, 1867 United Postal Ordinance:
5¢ per ½ oz. on mail from Victoria, New Westminster and Langley
12½¢ per ½ oz. on mail from the BC Fraser River offices
25¢ per ½ oz. on mail from the Cariboo region (Williams Creek)

Since BC domestic rates were based on distance, Figure 1 (derived from a drawing by Gerald Wellburn) shows the locations of the various up-country post offices relative to the main post offices at Victoria, VI and New Westminster, BC.

Figure 1. Map of British Columbia and Vancouver Island.

Figure 1. Map of British Columbia and Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island Colonial Postal Rates
The November 1858 VI Postal Notice set the VI colonial postage rate of 2½ pence. This rate remained in force until April 1867, although it was converted to 5 cents in early 1863 when VI changed to a decimal currency. It was applied without regard to weight on all mail leaving Victoria for foreign destinations, and was recognized on letters either by means of a hand-stamped frank or a VI postage stamp. US postage stamps were available in Victoria, and were added to outgoing letters to prepay the US portion of the postage.

British Columbia Colonial Postal Rates
Even though mail from BC to foreign destinations passed through Victoria on its way to San Francisco, VI colonial postage was not assessed. Only the BC domestic rates were applied, and Table I shows the domestic rates in BC during this period. Colonial postage in BC was typically paid by colonial postage stamps, although rare “Paid” franks are known, perhaps during periods when postage stamps were unavailable. US postage stamps were also available in New Westminster, and were usually applied there to prepay US postage on outgoing mail. On January 1, 1866, BC converted its currency from pence to cents, at a rate of 6¼ cents per 3d.

Table I – British Columbia Domestic Postal Rate Table, 1858-1871
Rate Start
Date
Rate
Basis
Vancouver
Colonial
Postage (1)
BC
Colonial
Postage (2)
Fraser River
Region
Postage (3)
Up-Country
Region
Postage (4)
Cariboo
Region
Postage (5)
24-Nov-58 VI Post Office Notice 2½d (5¢) 2½d n/a
19-Jul-62 BC Post Office Notice 2½d 5d 12d 24d
20-Jun-64 BC Postal Ordinance 3d 6d 6d 6d
2-Apr-67 United BC/VI Postal (6)
Ordinance
5¢ (7) 5¢ (7) 12.5¢ (7) 12.5¢ 25¢
All rates are per ½ ounce. “d’ signifies pence.
  1. Postal rate from Victoria, Vancouver Island (VI) to British Columbia (BC), and for foreign mail addressed to or originating from Victoria.
  2. Postal rate from New Westminster, BC to Victoria. VI colonial postage was not assessed on foreign mail to or from BC.
  3. Postal rate between New Westminster, BC and the BC Fraser River post offices at Langley, Hope, Yale and Douglas.
  4. Postal rate between New Westminster, BC and the up-country BC post offices of Lytton and Lillooet.
  5. Postal rate between New Westminster, BC and the Cariboo region BC post offices (notably, Williams Creek).
  6. British Columbia and Vancouver Island merged into a single Crown colony on November 17, 1866. The combined colony of British Columbia then became a province of Canada on July 20, 1871.
  7. The 5¢ rate paid the colonial postage to or from the port cities of Victoria, New Westminster, Nanaimo and Langley.
Note: Table I was submited by Steven C. Walske 12-Jul-06
The original Table I contained in this article can be found here.
All tables on one page can be found here.

United States Postal Rates on Mail from BC and VI via the US
The US rates applicable to mail from either VI or BC during this period are shown below:

Table II – US Rates on Mail Leaving British Columbia & Vancouver Island, 1858-70
Rates Shown are the US Postage to the Destinations Listed
Rate Start
Date
Rate
Basis
Adopted in
BC & VI
US US
>3K mi.
Canada
West
Great
Britain
Nova
Scotia
New
Brunswick
PEI
1-Apr-55 US Act Jun-58 10¢ 15¢ 29¢ (1) 15¢ 15¢ 15¢
1-Jul-63 US Act Aug-63 15¢ 24¢ 15¢ 15¢ 15¢
Mar-64 US-Canada
Treaty
Jul-64 10¢ 24¢ 15¢ 15¢ 15¢
1-Jul-64 US Act Jul-64 10¢ 10¢ 10¢ 24¢ 15¢ 10¢(2) 15¢
1-Jan-68 US-GB
Treaty
Feb-68 10¢ 10¢ 10¢ 25¢(3) 15¢ 10¢ 10¢
Apr-68 US-Canada
Treaty
Jul-68 10¢ 10¢ 25¢ (3) 10¢
1-Jul-70 US-BC
Treaty
Jul-70
All rates are per ½ ounce.
(1) 1 shilling, 1 ½ pence postage due was assessed in Great Britain on unpaid mail.
(2) This rate became effective on August 1, 1864.
(3) 25¢ in British Columbia stamps was the fully-paid closed mail rate from British Columbia to Great Britain.
Note: Table II was submited by Steven C. Walske 12-Jul-06
The original Table II contained in this article can be found here.
All tables on one page can be found here.

The combination of the rates in Tables I and II yields six composite rate periods for mail leaving BC and VI to foreign destinations.

First Composite Rate Period – November 1858 to July 1862
During this period, the composite rates were dictated by the November 1858 Victoria Post Office Notice, and the US Act of April 1855. Figure 2 illustrates these rates.

Figure 2 - April 1861 cover from New Westminster, BC to Halifax, Nova Scotia via San Francisco on May 1.
Figure 2 – April 1861 cover from New Westminster, BC to Halifax, Nova Scotia via San Francisco on May 1.

Figure 2 was prepaid 2½d colonial postage in New Westminster, BC by means of a British Columbia and Vancouver Island 1860 2½d pale rose stamp (Scott #2). This curious stamp was issued jointly by the colonies of BC and VI, and was valid for use in either colony. An additional 15 cents for US postage was paid in cash at the time of posting. BC cancelled the stamp with the blue oval “PAID” marking and noted “15 Cents PP” (Postage Paid) in manuscript, since US stamps were not available in BC at this time. The letter was then forwarded to San Francisco along with the cash to pay the US postage. The San Francisco post office added 1857 Issue 5¢ brown (Scott #30A) and 10¢ green, Type V (Scott #35) stamps for the US postage to Nova Scotia. It was carried overland to Detroit, where the red “U. STATES” entry marking was applied. The letter arrived in Halifax on May 29.

Second Composite Rate Period – July 1862 to August 1863
During this period, US rates were still governed by the April 1855 Act, but BC introduced new domestic rates per their July 1862 Postal Notice. BC domestic rates to New Westminster were required to be prepaid on letters leaving the colony from up-country post offices, and letters originating in New Westminster were prepaid 2½d BC colonial postage. Figure 3 shows an example of these rates.

Figure 3 - June 1863 cover from Yale, BC to San Francisco, California
Figure 3 – June 1863 cover from Yale, BC to San Francisco, California

Figure 3 was prepaid 5d domestic postage from Yale, BC to New Westminster by a British Columbia and Vancouver Island 1860 2½d pale rose pair, which was cancelled by the numeral 4 of Yale. US postage of 3 cents was also paid in cash at the time of posting, as indicated by the red crayon “3c” marking. The letter was processed through New Westminster on July 4, which marked it “PAID”, and added the US 1861 3¢ dull rose stamp (Scott #65). San Francisco cancelled the US stamp with its duplex marking on July 10. This was just after the July 1, 1863 US rate change, but since the rate to San Francisco remained the same, the US franking was adequate.

Third Composite Rate Period – August 1863 to June 1864
During this period, the July 1862 BC Postal Notice rates remained in effect. On July 1, 1863, however, the US lowered its postal rates per the July 1, 1863 Act. This change in rates was received in BC or VI sometime in August 1863, so that is when they began to be applied. Figure 4 gives an example of these rates.

The June 1864 cover in Figure 4 was prepaid 5d BC domestic postage from the Cariboo region (far north of Lytton) by a British Columbia and Vancouver Island 1860 2½d pale rose pair, which was cancelled by the numeral 10 of Williams Creek, BC. US postage to Canada West of 15 cents was also paid in cash at the time of posting, as indicated by the red crayon “15c” marking and the Williams Creek “PAID” marking. The letter was processed through New Westminster, which added the US 1861 10¢ green (Scott #68). Since the US rates to Canada West dropped to 10 cents from 15 cents in July 1864, New Westminster added only the correct prevailing postage. San Francisco cancelled the US stamp with its duplex marking on July 19, and the letter arrived in Aylmer on August 11.

Figure 4 - June 1864 cover from Williams Creek, BC to Aylmer, Canada West via San Francisco on July 19.
Figure 4 – June 1864 cover from Williams Creek, BC to Aylmer,  Canada West via San Francisco on July 19.

Fourth Composite Rate Period – July 1864 to March 1867
In July 1864, both the June 20, 1864 BC Postal Ordinance and the July 1, 1864 US Postal Act came into effect in BC and VI. The US Act raised US domestic postage to 10 cents, and the BC Ordinance set a new structure for BC domestic rates. The new BC rates on mail leaving the colony were the 6d domestic rates between New Westminster and the up-country post offices, plus 3d colonial postage. Letters originating in New Westminster were only charged 3d colonial postage. Figure 5 illustrates these rates.

Figure 5 - September 1866 cover from Williams Creek, BC to Aylmer, Canada West (Michael Perlman collection).
Figure 5 – September 1866 cover from Williams Creek, BC to Aylmer, Canada West
(Michael Perlman collection).

Figure 5 was prepaid 12½¢ BC domestic postage from the Cariboo region to New Westminster plus 6¼¢ BC colonial postage (BC had converted to decimal currency on January 1, 1866) by a BC 1865 3d blue strip of three (Scott # ), which was cancelled by the numeral 10 of Williams Creek, BC. At this time, the BC 3d stamps were being sold provisionally at 6¼¢. Although 10 cents US postage to Canada West was also prepaid in cash, the former practice of marking the amount paid in red crayon had been discontinued. The letter was processed through New Westminster on September 14, which added the US 1861 10¢ green. San Francisco cancelled the US stamp with its duplex marking on September 19, and the letter arrived in Aylmer on October 10.

Fifth Composite Rate Period – April 1867 to January 1868
During this period, the US July 1864 rates remained in place, and the April 1867 BC Postal Ordinance came into effect. The new rates, expressed in decimal currency, were comparable to those in the1864 BC Postal Ordinance, except that the colonial postage was reduced to 5 cents, and the rate from the Cariboo region to New Westminster was increased to 25 cents. Unlike the 1864 Ordinance, however, only the domestic postage was required to be prepaid on mail leaving the colony, and the 5 cents colonial postage was not added to the internal rates. Figure 6 illustrates these rates.

Figure 6 - September 1867 cover from Victoria, BC to California.
Figure 6 – September 1867 cover from Victoria, BC to California.

Figure 6 was prepaid the 5 cents colonial postage applicable to a letter from Victoria to the US in September 1867. The BC franking is a Vancouver Island 1865 imperforate 5¢ rose (Scott # ), cancelled by the blue long oval “Post Office Paid Victoria Vancouver Island” marking. A US 1861 10¢ stamp was also added in Victoria to pay the postage to California. This 10¢ rate reflects the application of the US 1864 Steamship rate to mail from BC rather than US domestic rates, as had been the case previously. San Francisco cancelled the 10¢ stamp with its duplex postmark on September 11.

Sixth Composite Rate Period – February 1868 to July 1870
On January 1, 1868, a new US-Great Britain Postal Treaty became effective which included provisions for mail from BC. It set a fully-prepaid closed mail rate from BC to Great Britain via the US of 25 cents per ½ oz. which could be prepaid in BC stamps. BC also interpreted this as applying to mail from BC to the US and Canada, but was corrected by the US post office on February 21, 1868, and the old system of adding both US and BC postage to letters leaving the colony was reinstated for those destinations. No covers from this period with full prepayment in BC postage stamps to the US or Canada are known, although covers showing the 25 cents prepaid rate to Great Britain have survived. Figure 7 illustrates this rate.

Figure 7 - February 22, 1868 cover from Victoria, BC to Scotland.
Figure 7 – February 22, 1868 cover from Victoria, BC to Scotland.

Figure 7 was posted in Victoria on February 22, 1868 with a 25 cents franking made up of Vancouver Island 1865 perforated 5¢ (Scott # ) and 10¢ (Scott # ) stamps, cancelled by the blue long oval “Post Office Paid Victoria Vancouver Island” marking. This franking fully prepaid the postage from BC to Great Britain.

Conclusion
It has been shown that six composite rate periods can be defined for mail from BC or VI to foreign destinations in the 1858-1870 period. This information can be useful in analyzing covers of this period, and in determining the dates of usage when year dates are not present in postmarks.

Bibliography

  1. Robson Lowe, Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps, Volume V North America, 1973, pp. 547-581.
  2. Alfred Stanley Deaville, The Colonial Postal Systems and Postage Stamps of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1849-1871, (Victoria, BC: Charles F. Banfield, 1928). Reprinted by Quarterman Publications, Inc.
  3. Daniel Eaton and Jack Wallace, The Stamps & Postal History of Vancouver Island & British Columbia, the Gerald Wellburn Collection, 1987.
  4. Charles G. Firby Auctions, “Postage Stamps & Postal History of British Columbia & Vancouver Island, The Collection Formed by Dr. Robert V.C. Carr of Youngstown, Ohio”, January 15, 2000 auction catalog.
  5. Charles Starnes, United States Letter rates to Foreign Destinations, 1847 to GPU-UPU, (Louisville: Leonard H. Hartmann, 1989).
  6. James J. Holbrook, United States Mail and Post Office Assistant Volume I October 1860-September 1866, (Chicago: Collectors Club of Chicago, 1975).
  7. Reports of the Postmaster General, 1864-1867. Wierenga Reprint.
  8. Jane & Michael Moubray, British Letter Mail to Overseas Destinations, 1840-1875, (London, England: The Royal Philatelic Society of London, 1992).

Corrections