General issues: French colony 1886-1946, French department 1946-1947
Country name on general issues: Guy. Franç., Guyane, Guyane Française
Special issues: Compagnie des Transports Aériens Guyanais
Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes
Population: 32 000 in 1900, 250 000 in 2014
Political history French Guiana
French Guiana is located in South America. Before colonization the population consisted of several Amerindian peoples. The most important of these were the Arawak and the Carib – peoples widely found along the northern coast of South America and in the Caribbean. The first Europeans to explore the future French Guiana were the Spanish in the late 15th century. In the 17th century both the French and the Dutch have a limited presence in French Guiana. By the end of the 17th century the territory is established as a French colony. Attempts by the French to develop the colony in the 18th century are less than successful. During the Napoleonic Wars French Guiana was occupied by the British and the Portuguese. French Guiana was restored to France in 1817.
From 1817, French Guiana is developed as a plantations colony. Slaves are brought from Africa to man the plantations. The short economic boom comes to an end when, in 1848, slavery is abolished. At the time French Guiana employed 13 000 slaves in a total population of 19 000. The former slaves leave the plantations to settle in the cities or in the interior – those that settle in the interior establishing the population group of the Maroons. Although laborers are brought from China and India many plantations are left. French Guiana has, from 1852, become notorious for its penal colonies – a regime that will exist until 1946. In 1853, gold is discovered in the interior – gold mining will be at its height between 1910 and 1930 and signals the final end of the plantations economy.
The borders with Suriname and Brazil are established in 1891 and 1900 respectively. A section of the border with Suriname is disputed until today. The interior in 1930 was split off as the separate French territory of Inini – Inini will be reintegrated in French Guiana in 1946.
With the reorganization of the French Empire in 1946 French Guiana becomes a French overseas department with a status equal to that of the departments in metropolitan France. The population at the time was 22 000. Currently French Guiana is a French overseas region. As such it is part of the European Economic Union with the Euro as its currency. The space center that was built in the 1960’s has contributed to the economy, accounting for over 15% of the GDP. The economic benefits of being a part of France have brought many immigrants to French Guiana from the neighboring countries and the Caribbean. The population has grown to 250 000 in 2014. Although the economy is little developed, French Guiana has the highest per capita GDP in South America.
Postal history French Guiana
The first stamps to be used in French Guiana are the general issues for the French colonies, used from 1860. The first stamps are issued in 1886 – the general issues for the French colonies overprinted ‘Déc 1886/Guy. Franç’ and a new face value. Similar provisionals with different dates of issue appear until 1888. In 1892, the overprint is changed to ‘Guyane’. The first stamps inscribed ‘Guyane’ are also issued in 1892 – stamps of the ‘Navigation & Commerce’ design common to the French colonies. In subsequent years several large sets will be issued in the style of the French colonies. Between 1941 and 1944, stamps were prepared by the Vichy regime in France. As these stamps were never actually put on sale in French Guiana only the mint specimens are listed in the catalogs. The last stamps are issued in 1947 – from 1947 French Guiana will use the stamps of metropolitan France.
Special issues have appeared in 1921, stamps issued by the ‘Compagnie des Transports Aériens Guyanais'‘Guyanese Air Transport Company’ . These are stamps of local design and print issued in very small numbers for the air post carried on flights between Cayenne and St. Laurent. All these issues rank in the high to very high catalog value ranges.The issues are listed in the Michel and Yvert & Tellier catalogs.