Tasmanian Philatelic Society

Established 1900

Tasmania – Postal History timeline 1803 – 1853

An brief summary of Tasmanian postal history from first settlement to the introduction of adhesive postage stamps in 1853

This brief summary traces the early postal history of  Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) from first settlement to the development of a “modern” postal system in 1853.  At that time pre-payment of postage using adhesive postage stamps was introduced. Detailed regulations for the Postal system were also introduced following a major report on current arrangements in 1848.

The colony changed its name to  Tasmania  in January 1856 and Representative Government with an elected Parliament was also introduced in the same year.
The following summary is based mainly on “Tasmanian Postal Acts and Regulations” Parts 1 and 2 by A.E Orchard, Magpie Publications and “Tasmania: The Postal History and Postal Markings ” Part 1 and 2.
If you require more detailed information please  refer to the above two publications, or consult the original Acts, which are listed in the table below.
This summary of Tasmanian Postal History continues on separate pages under the ‘References” tab on the website.
See 1853 to 1868, 1868 to 1880 and 1880 to 1890

1803 Lt Bowen establishes settlement at Risdon Cove
1804 Lt Governor Collins begins to move the Risdon Settlement to Sullivan’s Cove where it grew to be the City of Hobart Town, later Hobart
1804 Lt Colonel W Patterson settles on the Tamar. For the first few years there is virtually no postal system. Government administration is based in Sydney.
1808 System for distributing mail established and managed in Sydney as part of duties of a Naval Officer
25/4/1809 Isaac Nichols took charge of the first Post Office (Sydney). Rates – e.g., 3d to send a letter to UK by ship
Dec 1813 Possible appointment in Hobart of Naval Officer Duncan Campbell to manage mails (not confirmed). Rates same as for Sydney EG 8d per letter, 1/6 or 3/- for parcels-inwards fees
1816 Postal service between Hobart and Port Dalrymple (Launceston) established
From 23/10/1816 Robert Taylor, Government Messenger, carries mail between Hobart and Launceston, departing Hobart and Launceston alternate Sundays
1822 John Collicott appointed Postmaster (Hobart)
1822 Local Postal regulations published E.G. letters & Packets >= 1 oz, Hobart to Launceston, 10d
Oct 1822 Charles Abbott appointed Postmaster Launceston, W Brown Postmaster, George Town.
Around this time the first primitive un-dated hand-stamps for endorsing mail were produced for Hobart, Launceston and George Town. Earliest Recorded Date – Hobart 17/12/1822, Launceston 1826, Georgetown 12/9/1823.
1823 Postal Services extended to Clyde and Coal Rivers, New Norfolk, Macquarie District. Duties performed by Chief Constables
1825 Van Diemen’s Land became a separate Colony & local Postal system was free to develop in its own way.
  • First Postal Act created a Government Post Office. Previous arrangements had been private business arrangements. Not proclaimed until 1832.
  • Inland postal rates based on the English Scheme – distance carried x weight.
  • Rates – e.g. Town letter, 1d, Hobart – Launceston 1d, 2 oz or less
  • 1828 Act proclaimed and tenders for deliveries from Hobart to Launceston called
  • 20 Post Offices established and Post Masters appointed
  • Letters having postage paid or due, marked in red or black respectively
  • First Hobart un-dated handstamp appears to be been discontinued
1834 Postal Act 1834

  • Formal establishment of a Government-run postal system headed by a Postmaster-general
  • Rates increased
  • Setting of a 2d Town letter rate and delivery service within Hobart and new rates for Inland services
  • Free Postage provided for Official mail and establishment of a list or officers having free franking privileges.
  • Payment to Ship Captains of 1d per letter taken in or out of the colony
  • Free delivery service for mail delivered within town limits – Hobart and Launceston
  • Convicts used as mail messengers
Nov 1834 Many rates reduced after 1 month of operation of the 1834 Act. e.g. letter Hobart – Launceston dropped from 1/- to 9d, the 1932 rate.
John Collicott appointed Postmaster-General and Postmaster of Hobart Town
  • Hobart GPO and Launceston PO moved to better premises.
  • Hobart Cnr Elizabeth and Collins St, Launceston Cnr St John and Patterson St.
  • Mails to Victoria and from there to England put on a more regular basis.
  • Mails elsewhere were sent as opportunities arose. Daily mail service to New Norfolk established.
  • First undated handstamp of Launceston appears to have been discontinued
1837 Tenders called for daily mail service Hobart – Launceston.Time allowed -18 hours one way.
A series of dated hand-stamps issued for Hobart including for Ship letters, paid and unpaid Country letters, Paid and Unpaid Country Letters and Free mail
1839 2d Town post established for Launceston
1839 Tenders called for 14 brass hand-stamps with moveable figures. Included Mis-sent to Hobart Town, pre-paid ship letter, Free, Paid, 2d post paid, ship letter inward, un-paid, 2d post unpaid.
Capt F C Smith replaced Collicot as Post Master General
1840 Date stamps for Hobart and Launceston thought to be issued early 1840 after the Tender of 1839. Includes Unpaid and Paid Ship and Country letters for Hobart, Unpaid and Paid City post for Launceston and Hobart
Sep 1841 Act to amend the Act of 1834 (Victoria Regina No 15, Anno Quinto)
Altered rates on Inland and Ship letters, established uniform and equal rate on letters based on their weight without reference to distance Rates – e.g.
Inland letters 4d per half oz, Town letters Hobart and Launceston 2d, Ship letter 4d ( routine mail only – much more expensive options also offered).
Free men instead of Convict messengers employed to deliver mails due to problems with the Convict messengers.
1843 Further tender called for date stamps similar to the 1839 set
1846 Report on the Post Office in Van Diemen’s Land forwarded to London. The report provides a detailed history of the post office to that date and was to be the basis for substantial changes over the next few years. New date-stamps issued for Hobart and Launceston including Inward and Outward Ship letters, Paid and Un-paid Country letters and Free letters for Hobart, and a general-purpose stamp for Launceston
1851 1 Oct – two Notices gazetted which introduced a number of changes including:a Registration service for mail at a fee of 6d per letter,
New Receiving Houses for Hobart, Launceston and Country areas – initially only able to receive un-paid Town and Inland letters
  • Postal Act of 1853 (31 Aug 1853, 17th Victoria No 6 )- the most significant change to the postal system of Van Diemen’s Land to date.
  • Introduced compulsory pre-payment of mail by the use of adhesive postage stamps- Town letters – 1d per half oz, Inland Letters – 4d per half oz, Ship Letters – 4d per Half oz, Registration 1/- on letters and packets, rates for packets, documents
  • Detailed regulations for the operation of the postal system published
  • First postage stamps issued 1 November 1853, 1d and 4d Courier issues, printed by The Courier Newspaper ( Best) and engraved by C W Coard.
  • First Allocation of Barred Numerals issued to most existing Post Offices for cancellation of Mail, name of Post Office and date of postage to be endorsed on cover and introduction of datestamps foreshadowed ( but not to be actually introduced in practice for another 12 years)
XX xx

Hobart Town First Handstamp

Undated circular handstamp, identical to the Sydney, NSW handstamp.
Triple 8d ship letter plus 8d for postage Portsmith to London.
Local postage rates were not marked on letters until 1832. The handstamp represents payment of the 1/- postage per outgoing ship letter.