From the earliest days of colonization, Seychelles was viewed as part and parcel with its neighboring island nation of Mauritius. When the French began colonizing the islands in 1770, commands and directives came from French administrators based in Mauritius. Even the change of power from French to British rule in the early 19th century offered little change. While some control passed to colonists living in the Seychelles, directives still came from overseers in Mauritius.
Sometimes the smallest, and seemingly most insignificant moments, can offer a glimpse at a changing future. Consider something as small and easily ignored by most as a postage stamp. Postage stamps are used around the world to mark letters for delivery, and few people give them much thought. For the Seychelles, the first postage stamp issued marked the start of the formation of its own identity.
During much of the 19th century, mail service to and from the Seychelles was unreliable and irregular. The first post office was opened in the Seychelles in Victoria on 11 December 1861, but with no regular steamer ships servicing the islands mail delivery had no set schedule. It was not until the Messagerie Maritimes boat service took over the mail contract in 1866 that a reliable source of transportation was established for mail to and from the islands.
At this time, postal service in the Seychelles was still controlled from Mauritius. Postal service was coordinated from Mauritius and the postage stamps issued for letters originated from the Seychelles came from Mauritius as well. Slowly but surely, the postal service in the Seychelles was granted autonomy from Mauritius.
By 1877 a colonial report issued by the Mauritius Postal Service showed that 14,184 letters went to and from the Seychelles that year, 543 of which were registered. In 1884 the post office in Seychelles was granted autonomy from the service in Mauritius. By 1890, the colony of the Seychelles was ready to introduce its own stamp.
The first stamps to originate from the Seychelles were issued on 5 April 1890 and marked the continuation of the Seychelles move toward establishing an identity separate from that of Mauritius.
Issuing the first stamp directly from the Seychelles was a momentous occasion for the Seychelles, but it didn’t change much in terms of postal service among the islands. The post office opened in Victoria in December 1861 remained the only post office in the country until the early 20th century.
Prior attempts had been made at opening local post offices to cover local and inter-island mail, but with little lasting effect. The first local post office was opened in 1893 and was manned by police officers pulling double duty. The task of coping with incoming mail and dispatching outgoing mail proved too much for the police, on top of other duties, and the service was closed in July 1894.
It was not until Sir Ernest Bickham Sweet-Escott took over as administrator of the Seychelles that true improvements began to take place in postal service. Beginning in 1899 he introduced changes to postal service and launched a new Inland Post Service that relied upon the ships of the British India Steam Navigation Company, who had earned a postal contract in 1895, to ship letters.
Over the coming decades, the postal service in the Seychelles would begin issuing more and more of its own stamps as well as expanding its coverage and services. By 1920 the postal service is said to have expanded from the islands of Mahé and Praslin to cover all the outlying islands within the Seychelles.
From One Little Stamp
From that one little stamp issued in 1890 from the nation’s sole post office in Victoria, the people of the Seychelles slowly began to craft an identity all their own. Not just as a colony within the British Empire, but also as an independent nation.
By 1903 the islands of the Seychelles became a separate crown colony in the British Empire, ending a nearly 100 year dependency with Mauritius. The postal service of the Seychelles would continue to offer postage stamps honoring the islands themselves as well as the British royals that served as the head of state for the islands.
Upon the nation’s independence from Britain in July 1976, the country’s postal service began to offer a more independent and representative set of postage stamps to the populace. While British royals were still honored with commemorative postage stamps from time to time, stamps from the Seychelles took on a more local flavor.
In addition to stamps that commemorate significant events from the around the globe, such as Olympic games the nation participates in, the postal service in the Seychelles now offers stamps with a distinctly local touch. The most common stamps issued in the country today feature the splendor of the local flora and fauna, as well as commemorative issues depicting significant Seychellois figures past and present.