General issues: German colony 1897-1919, Australian occupation 1914-1915, North West Pacific Islands/Australian civil administration 1915-1925, New Guinea/Australian mandated territory 1925-1942
Country name on general issues: Deutsch-Neu-Guinea, Deutsch-Neuguinea, N.W. Pacific Islands, New Guinea
Currency: 1 Mark = 100 Pfennig 1897-1919, 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1914-1942
Population: 480 000 in 1912, 675 000 in 1940
Political history New Guinea
New Guinea is located in the southwest Pacific Ocean. As a political entity, New Guinea consists of the northeastern part of the island of New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago and the northernmost part of the Solomon Islands. The indigenous population consists of a large number of tribal peoples of mainly Papuan and Melanesian descent. The first Europeans to explore New Guinea were the Portuguese and the Spanish in the 16th century. The first Europeans to claim the territory were the Germans, who proclaimed a protectorate in 1884. Initially, the protectorate was administered by the German New Guinea Company – a chartered company. As the company proved not to be able to make its efforts profitable, the administration of New Guinea was transferred to the German Empire in 1899. The territory administered as New Guinea would, subsequently, go through a number of changes. In 1899, Germany acquired the Caroline and Mariana Islands from Spain and these came to be administered as districts of New Guinea. Also, in 1899, Germany ceded part of the northernmost Solomon Islands to Great Britain. In 1906, the Marshall Islands – a German possession since 1886 – were attached to New Guinea. For the location of these island groups, please refer to the map of Colonial Oceania.
During WWI, Australian forces occupied New Guinea proper in 1914. The Caroline, Mariana and Marshall Islands were occupied by Japan – with the exception of Nauru, one of the Marshall Islands, that was occupied by Australian and New Zealand forces. The Australians first established military administration. Civil administration was established in 1915. New Guinea was administered as part of the North West Pacific Islands – an entity that was envisaged to also include the Caroline, Mariana and Marshall Islands. However, only New Guinea and Nauru would effectively be under Australian administration – the other islands being administered by Japan. Furthermore, Nauru was transferred to Great Britain in 1916. Germany formally ceded its possessions in the Pacific at the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and New Guinea was made a League of Nations mandated territory in 1920 – Australia being the trustee.
During WWII, New Guinea was occupied by Japan in 1942. After Allied forces recaptured New Guinea in 1944-1945, New Guinea was again administered by Australia – from 1946 as a United Nations trust territory. In 1949, New Guinea was administratively unified with Papua – the southeastern part of the island of New Guinea and an Australian territory since 1906 – to form the territory of Papua & New Guinea. The name was changed to Papua New Guinea in 1971. Papua New Guinea gained self government in 1973 and independence within the British Commonwealth in 1975.
Economically, the indigenous population depended on subsistence agriculture. First German, and later Australian, planters exploited coconut and cocoa plantations. The indigenous peoples form the vast majority of the population with only a small minority being of European descent.
Postal history New Guinea
The first stamps to be used in New Guinea were the issues of the German Empire in 1888 – which are recognized by the cancels. In 1897, the first stamps were issued for New Guinea – issues of the German Empire overprinted ‘Deutsch-Neu-Guinea’. In 1901, definitives appeared of the common ‘Hohenzollern’ design – a design used throughout the German colonies. Stamps were issued until 1919. The issues since 1914 were sold only at the philatelic bureau in Berlin.
As Australia occupied New Guinea in 1914, the available stock of ‘Hohenzollern’ issues were overprinted ‘G.R.I'‘G.R.I. stands for ‘George Rex Imperator’ or ‘George King & Emperor. and a new face value in the British currency. The available stock included issues for New Guinea, but also for the Marshall Islands. Scott lists these issues under New Britain, which suggests that they have only been used on the island of New Britain – at the time the most important of the islands that make up New Guinea.
In 1915, stamps were issued for the North West Pacific Islands – Australian stamps overprinted ‘N.W. Pacific Islands’. These issues were used in New Guinea and in Nauru until Nauru was transferred to the British in 1916. In New Guinea, the N.W. Pacific Islands issues were used until superseded by the issues for the mandated territory of New Guinea in 1925.
The signature design element of the subsequent issues for the territory of New Guinea is the bird of paradise. The New Guinea issues were used until 1942 – during WWII the post offices were closed. After WWII, Australian stamps were used. Australian stamps were withdrawn in 1953, shortly after the first issues for the united territory of Papua & New Guinea appeared in 1952. The issues of the territory of Papua & New Guinea were superseded by the issues of independent Papua New Guinea in 1975.
For an overview of the political and postal developments in the form of a diagram, please refer to the country diagram of the South West Pacific.