Woodford and the Time before the First Issue

The Florida Islands in the center of the Solomon Islands. Image: Thanks to Wikipedia

The man responsible for the first stamp issue of the British Solomon Islands was Charles Morris Woodford—adventurer, naturalist, colonial administrator, and philatelist. He was appointed the first Resident Commissioner for the newly formed British Solomon Islands Protectorate in 1896, and established his residency in Tulagi in the Florida Island group. When Woodford arrived in the Solomons, no postal service was available in the islands. Letters for the outside world were entrusted to personnel on passing ships, along with the money required for postage. When the ships arrived in Australia, the letters were stamped and mailed.


In the early days of the Protectorate, when there were only 40 or so European residents, this procedure was satisfactory, but, as the number of settlers grew, Woodford began to search for a more reliable method. His first approach was to procure a quantity of New South Wales stamps. Settlers would purchase postage; and Woodford would stamp their letters, give them a Tulagi postmark without actually canceling the stamps, and place the letters in a sealed bag addressed to the Postmaster in Sidney. There, the letters were given Sidney cancellations and forwarded to their destinations.

From Gisburn

In 1906, while visiting Sidney, Woodford acquired a handstamp bearing the impression: BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID. Subsequently, this handstamp was applied to letters in Tulagi, along with the Tulagi postmark, and Woodford’s personal check was sent in each sealed bag to cover the postage cost for the letters contained in it. In Sidney, New South Wales stamps were affixed adjacent to, or on top of, the handstamp. The reason was that the British Solomon Islands were not a member of the UPU prior to 2 September 1907.

Early Outgoing Mail

(Place mouse cursor on images and allow pop-ups! - SKF numbers refer to Don Franks : Check List

1898, 4 February - SKF 018 - Image thanks to Harmer of London auction catalogue, 15 October 1985

Western Pacific High Commission envelope addressed to Port Moresby. O.H.B.M.S. imprint lined out in blue pencil. Also blue pencil marking "2dCW" (Charles Woodford?). The N.S.W. 1897 2d stamp cancelled with duplex "SYDNEY FE 15 NOON 98", Brisbane (FE17/98), Cooktown (FE 25/98) and Port Moresby (13 MCH 98) datestamps on reverse. Writer unknown.

4 February 1898 [ SKF 018 ]


4. 2. (189)8 cover Port Moresby.

[ SKF 018 ]

1898, 15 February - not in Don Franks - Image thanks to "KunYu"

Western Pacific High Commission envelope addressed to the famous English architect H.J. Paul (many churches etc.), London. Dated by Woddford 16 Jan 1898. Postage Paid and normal Sydney postmarks 15 February 1898. High Commission Solomon Islands on reverse and London arrival postmark MR21 98.
Carried to Sydney by the Burns Philp steamer TITUS and to London by the mail steamer CUZCO.

15 February 1898


15. 2. (189)8 cover London.


15 February 1898


15. 2. (189)8 cover London.

1904, 18 April - SKF 024 - Image thanks to Robson Lowe auction catalogue, 18 June 1985

O.H.B.M.S.cover to Baroda, India dated 18.4.04 CM Woodford at lower left. N.S.W. ½d and 1d pair tied by Sydney duplex JU 22/04 (three strikes). Tuticorin and Baroda c.d.s. on reverse.
The cover was most likely brought to Sydney by the Burns Philp &, Co. steamer Moresby which was on the New Hebrides / Solomon run and entered Sydney Harbour on June 22.

18 April 1904 [ SKF 024 ]


18.4.(19)04 Woodford cover to the State Gardens in Baroda, India. The Superintendant there at this time was Mr. G.H. Krumbiegel whom we see again as addressee on some 1908 Woodford covers. Most surely the content of the letter dealt with botanical issues.

[ SKF 024 ]

1906, 2 May - SKF 027 - Image thanks to Harmer of London auction catalogue, 15 October 1985

Cover to Basingstoke, readdressed to London, PAID handstamp and franked N.S.W. 2d with Sydney duplex type cancellation of May 2 06. On front and backstamped Basingstoke JU 10/06. Also backstamped London S.W. JU 11/-6. Flap embossed "GOVERNMENT RESIDENCE / TULAGI". According to the N.S.W. Government index of vessels arrived the UPOLU entered Sydney harbour on May 1, 1906. So this letter written by Woodford was most likely carried by this ship..

2 May 1906 [ SKF 027 ]


Woodford cover to the Basingstoke redirected to London.

[ SKF 027 ]

TULAGI (Vernon Type 1 Cancel) - SYDNEY

1906, 16 July - SKF 031 - Image thanks to Spink London

Tulagi 16 / JY 06 Woodford cover (front) with BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID in rectangle partially obscured by NSW 2d. cancelled at Sydney duplex JY 26 / 06. It was in the Nov 08 Spink, London auction and realized 800 BP.

16 July 1906 [ SKF 031 ]


Tulagi 16 / JY 06 Woodford cover.

[ SKF 031 ]

1906, 24 September - SKF 039 - ("Aore" coll.)

Tulagi 24 SP 06 Woodford cover with BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID in rectangle. Used from May 1906 to February 1907 to denote payment of postage at Tulagi. Mail and cash were then sent to the G.P.O. Sydney where N.S.W. stamps were affixed and cancelled, this mail excepted.
This stampless cover from Tulagi (24 SP 1906) is one of several sent by Woodford on 26 August and 24 September. None of the covers in this mail received a NSW 2d stamp. They were backstamped SYDNEY 8 OC 06, and according to the Sydney Morning Herald this mail was carried by S.S."UPOLU" which arrived on 7 OC 06 with two(!) passengers from the BSIP which is a clear indication of the tiny size of the European population in the Solomons at the time.

24 September 1906 [ SKF 039 ]


24 September 1906 reverse [ SKF 039 ]


Tulagi 24 / SP 06 Woodford cover.

[ SKF 039 ]

Reverse of this cover: Backstamped SYDNEY OC 8 / 06 and TONBRIDGE NO 12 / 06.

[ SKF 039 ]

1906, 24 September - SKF 037 - Image thanks to Prestige Philately, Australia

Tulagi 24 SP 06 Woodford cover with BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID in rectangle. Similar to SKF 039. It was in the Oct 08 Prestige Philately, Belgrave, Australia auction and realized 2900 AU$.

24 September 1906 [ SKF 037 ]


Reverse of this cover. Backstamped SYDNEY OC 8 / 06 and

24 September 1906 [ SKF 037 ]


Envelope to Carlton Club, London. No adhesives. Tulagi c.d.s. 24 / SP 06.

[ SKF 037 ]

Backstamped Sydney OC8 / 06; three line London S.W. straight line machine d.s. NO12 06.

[ SKF 037 ]

1906, 10 December - SKF 045 - Image thanks to Prestige Philately, Australia

Tulagi DE 10 / 06 coverfront of a Woodford cover with BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID in rectangle. Cancelled by Sydney duplex of DE14/06. Pencil note on reverse: "P&S Woodford collection 25/9/1929". Seen in a 2002 Prestige Philately, Belgrave, Australia auction, it realized 2800 AU$.
This letter was not transported with the UPOLU as this ship arrived at Sydney on 28 December 1910. Four days from Tulagi to Sydney is rather fast. In August 1906 the S.S. Malaita was transferred to the New Guinea - Solomon Islands service. According to Sydney records she arrived at Sydney on 14 Dec 1906. Maybe she carried this letter.

10 December 1906 [ SKF 045 ]


Tulagi DE 10 / 06 Woodford cover front.

[ SKF 045 ]

1907, 12 January - SKF 053 - Image thanks to Prestige Philately, Australia

Tulagi JA 12 / 07 piece of a Woodford cover with BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID in rectangle. It was in the 5 Dec 2003 Prestige Philately, Belgrave, Australia auction and realized 320 AU$.

12 January 1907 [ SKF 053 ]


Tulagi JA 12 / 07 Woodford cover piece.

[ SKF 053 ]

1907, 11 February - SKF 055 - ("Aore" coll.)

Piece in the handwriting of F.J. Barnett, the first Treasurer, Collector of customs and Postmaster. Circular datestamp TULAGI - BRITISH SOLOMON IDs FE 11 1907. Framed handstamp BRITISH SOLOMON ISLANDS PAID. New South Wales 2d adhesives are cancelled SYDNEY FE 25 07. Latest recorded use of the PAID handstamp and only double rate. This cover was carried by the first "MALAITA". The two Burns Philp & Co. ships MALAITA (Captain Legge) and TAMBO (Captain Robinson) entered Sydney harbour on 25 February. MALAITA was on the Solomon run and the TAMBO on the New Hebrides run.

11 February 1907 [ SKF 055 ]


Tulagi 11 / FE 07 Woodford cover.

[ SKF 055 ]

Woodford recognized that the volume of correspondence had reached the point that a regular stamp issue was a necessity, and in his budget estimates for 1906-1907 he projected that revenue of £600 would be received from the sale of stamps. His request was approved, even though the revenue projection was reduced to £100. In approving the estimates, the Secretary of State said, "If Mr. Woodford likes to try an issue of postage stamps there was [sic] no reason why he should not do so."