Australian States – Tasmania







Quick reference

General issues: Van Diemen’s Land/British colony 1853-1856, Tasmania/British colony/Self government 1856-1901, Tasmania/Australian state 1901-1913

Country name on general issues: Van Diemen’s Land, Tasmania

Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1853-1913

Population: 81 500 in 1856, 188 600 in 1911

Political history Tasmania

Postal history Tasmania

Please click on the image to enlarge

Tasmania is an island state located in Oceania – off the south coast of Australia, separated by the Bass Strait. Prior to colonization, Tasmania was inhabited by Aboriginals who were organized in small bands. The first European to explore Tasmania was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in 1642. He named the island Anthony Van Diemensland – Anglicized to Van Diemen’s Land – after his sponsor, the governor of the Netherlands Indies. In the late 18th century, both the British and French explored Van Diemen’s Land. The British – who had already settled in New South Wales on the Australian mainland – established the first settlement in 1803. The main purpose apparently was to forestall French colonization of the island.

The first British settlement was a penal colony. More settlements followed in subsequent years – also penal colonies. Free settlers started to come to Van Diemen’s Land in significant numbers, in the 1820’s, and took possession of ever more land.  The Aboriginals resisted European expansion in what is called the ‘Black War’ which escalated in the late 1820’s. The Black War resulted in the near extinction of the Aboriginal population – the remaining Aboriginal population was relocated to Flinders Island – off the northeast coast of Tasmania – in 1831. The Aboriginals became fully extinct in 1876.

Politically, Van Diemen’s Land – first a dependency of New South Wales – became a separate colony in 1825. In 1856 self government was granted and the name was changed to Tasmania – apparently to set the now self governing and prospering colony apart from its history as a penal colony. Tasmania joined the federal dominion of Australia – officially the Commonwealth of Australia – in 1901 and has been a state of the Australian Commonwealth to this day.

Postal history Tasmania

1905 – Mount Wellington just outside of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania.

Economically, the first significant activity had been sealing and whaling. From the 1820’s, sheep farming, small scale agriculture, forestry and fishing became the mainstay of the economy. In the second part of the 19th century, mining – copper, tin and zinc – developed. Modern day Tasmania has a diversified economy with services as the most important sector. The relatively small scale of activities, and isolation from the mainland, have resulted in slower development than other Australian states. Tasmania ranks lowest in terms of per capita GDP.

The population – from the first settlement until today – is largely of British descent. In recent years, Tasmania has known less immigration than the other Australian states – 90% of the population is Australian born, compared to a national average of 75%. Although the common view is that the last Aboriginal of Tasmanian descent died in 1876, Aboriginals have asserted themselves in recent years with an increasing number of the population declaring themselves to be of Aboriginal descent.

Postal history Tasmania

Postal history Tasmania

1855 – Van Diemen’s Land – Chalon Head

The first stamps were issued by Van Diemen’s Land in 1853. They are called the ‘Couriers’, after the H. & C. Best newspaper printers in Hobart that printed this first issue. The stamps show the portrait of Queen Victoria – the 4 pence denomination is of octagonal shape. A second set of stamps was issued in 1855. These and further issues until 1870 are of the ‘Chalon Head’ type, using a portrait of Queen Victoria by Alfred Edward Chalon.[1]For more about the Chalon Heads, please refer to the profile of Nova Scotia. Revenue stamps were officially admitted for postal use in 1882, although revenue stamps are known to have been used postally from their first year of issue in 1863. A set of attractive pictorials was issued in 1890 and reissued until 1913. The stamps of Tasmania were superseded by the issues of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1913.

Until 1871, stamp perforation was done by a number of private companies, which led to a large number of perforation varieties – 80 varieties are known. Furthermore, the issues of Tasmania come in many different shades of color and watermarks – making Tasmania a domain for specialists.

The stamps of Van Diemen’s Land were used on Norfolk Island in 1854 and 1855.

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