Quick reference

General issues: French colony 1882-1893

Country name on general issues: Tahiti

Special issues: Local issues Tahiti 1903-1915

Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1882-1893

Population: 22 900 in 1885[1]The figure quoted is the total population of the – French – Settlements in Oceania.

Political history Tahiti

Postal history Tahiti

Please click on the image to enlarge

Tahiti is located in the central south Pacific Ocean and is the main island of the Society Islands. In 1791, a native kingdom was established on Tahiti – which would expand and came to include the windward group of the Society Islands, the Tuamoto Archipelago and part of the Austral Islands. The first Europeans to explore Tahiti may have been the Portuguese and the Spanish in the 16th century. British and French explorers visited Tahiti in the 18th century. The French were the first to establish a lasting presence when they proclaimed a protectorate over the kingdom of Tahiti in 1842 – the protectorate of Tahiti & Dependencies, also called the Society Islands protectorate.

Aside from Tahiti, the French gained possession of several more groups of islands in the region after 1842 – some being annexed as colonies from the start and some initially being protectorates. These possessions, as a whole, went by the name of ‘Établissements de l’Oceanie’[2]‘Settlements in Oceania’ . The kingdom of Tahiti – the most important Settlement – was annexed as a colony in 1880, the monarchy being deposed. Subsequently, between 1880 and 1903, the French gradually established centralized colonial administration over all Settlements in Oceania. Finally, in 1903, the name of the colony was changed to ‘Établissements Français de l’Oceanie’[3]‘French Oceania’ .

The reputation of Tahiti as an an earthly paradise was probably gained in part because of the paintings the French painter Paul Gauguin made on island in the 1890's. Shown is a painting called 'Arearea', painted in 1892.

The reputation of Tahiti as an earthly paradise was probably gained in part because of the paintings that the French painter Paul Gauguin made on the island in the 1890’s. Shown is a painting called ‘Arearea’ painted in 1892.

French Oceania became a French overseas territory in 1946 and gradually moved towards self government. In 1957,  the name was changed to ‘Polynésie Française’[4]‘French Polynesia’ . French Polynesia gained self government in 1984 and in 2003 became a French overseas collectivity.

Economically, the colony, at the time, depended on subsistence agriculture, fishing and manufacturing. Later, exports were developed, including copra – derived from coconuts, vanilla, pearl oysters and pearls. The population majority is Polynesian. Europeans settled in increasing numbers in the 1880’s – Chinese followed in the 1890’s.




Postal history Tahiti

Postal history Tahiti

1893 – French colonies overprinted ‘Tahiti’.

The first stamps to be used in Tahiti were the general issues for the French colonies from 1862. The first stamps issued for specific use in Tahiti appeared in 1882 – general issues for the French colonies overprinted ‘Tahiti’. Stamps overprinted ‘Tahiti’ would be issued until 1893. Just as the Settlements in Oceania were often designated as ‘Tahiti’, the stamps overprinted ‘Tahiti’ would seem to have been used not only in Tahiti proper, but also in the post offices that were set up in the other Settlements in Oceania. By 1893, a total of five post offices existed. In 1893, the issues overprinted ‘Tahiti’ were superseded by issues with the designation ‘Établissements de l’Oceanie’, of which the first appeared in 1892 – please refer to the profile of French Oceania.

In 1903 and 1915, stamps were again issued overprinted ‘Tahiti’. The 1903 issues were stamps of French Oceania overprinted ‘Tahiti’ and a new face value. The 1915 issues were stamps of French Oceania overprinted ‘Tahiti’ and a red cross – semi postals for the benefit of the Red Cross. The world wide catalogs list these issues either with French Oceania – Michel – or with Tahiti – Scott, Stanley Gibbons and Yvert & Tellier. Although I have not found resources that explicitly address the issue, I assume the Tahiti issues were issued under the authority of French Oceania for local use in Tahiti.

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