Minimum rates in the Levant’s Countries under French Mandate. Part 2.

About rates, so here is the situation regarding our small postal rate shown in ”ALMANACH FRANCAISE 1938″ published in Beirut by the “Imprimerie Catholique” (fig 9 and 10).

9fig 9

10fig 10

As you can observe, are mentioned additional prices depending on the weight for the amounts of 20, 25, 50 and 75 cents of Piastre. This explains why this stamps values were issued since 1930. To confirm the fact that the rate was not increased, also under the economic pressure made by the war, we can use as witnesses the two wrappers below (fig. 11 and 12).

11fig 11

12fig 12 (from Albert Massaad collection)

The first was sent from Damascus on 6 June 1940 to the Hexagone immediately before the armistice between France and the two Axis powers, occurred on June 25. The second was sent on 29 December 1941 from the small post office of Darahoun-Harissa, in Lebanon, in the period that the Levant territories was administrated by the Free French Forces of De Gaulle. It was addressed to Lyon, in the Free French territory of Vichy. At that time the mail transport from the Levant to Europe essentially occurred through the Simplon-Orient Express railway via Beirut-Aleppo-Istanbul-Constanta-Vienna. In those months this transport route resulted blocked then the wrapper returned to Beirut where was applied the justificatory seal “RETOURN A L’ENVOYEUR FAUTE D’ACHEMINEMENT” (Return to Sender Lack of Routing).

Unfortunately I do not have examples of the minimum rate used in the last years of war and in the first ten years of Lebanon and Syria independence. But I can show an envelope containing Periodicals-Writings, sent from Tripoli city on 14 March 1957, to the famous lawyer J. Rahme, established near the port of Tripoli (fig 13).

13fig 13

The envelope was franked for 50 cents by a value of ½ Piastre blue representing a cedar, issued in September 1955. This is the new minimum rate for Newspapers and Periodicals-Writings up to 60 gram. Is interesting to observe through any catalog of Lebanese stamps, that since 1947 for many of the new stamp issues, the lower value issued was the 50 cents (½ Piastre). This type of value was printed without interruption until 1974, in fact the last was to be issued on 18 October 1974. This means that the rate of 50 cents was used continuously until the outbreak of the civil war. To confirm, here follows four examples of minimal rate applied (fig 14, 15, 16, 16a and 17).

14fig 14

Newspapers sent from Tripoli on 11 May 1960 to Becharre, franked with ½ Piastre stamp “Cedar”, issued on December 1958.

15fig 15

Envelop for Periodicals-Writings sent from Djounieh on 6 December 1962, with ½ Piastre stamp “Cedar forest”, issued on October 1961.

16fig 16

16afig 16a



Envelope for advertising, equated to Periodicals-Writings, sent from Beirut on 3 November 1965 to the P.O. Box 359 located in Beirut Post Office. Franked with ½ Piastre stamp “Pets”, issued on 10 September 1965. Unfortunately, only the smokers could appreciate the power of “Ex’Oil”.

17fig 17

Envelop for Periodicals-Writings sent from Darahoun-Harissa on 22 December 1965, with ½ Piastra stamp “Flowers”, issued on 1964.

Finally two examples franked for 1 Piastre. The first was sent from Mar Maroun Monastery in Annaya on 2 January 1974 and was franked by International Tourism Year 1 Piastre stamp. The second, sent from Tripoli to Beirut on 29 September 1975, was franked by pair of 50 cents ceder stamp, the last with this small value issued on 18 October 1974 (fig 18 and 19).

18fig 18

19fig 19 (from Abdallah Absi collection)

From the shape of the two objects you can be deduced that they weighed between 61 and 75 grams, and therefore required the second weight echelon, corresponding to doubling the minimal postal fee.

Bernardo Longo lente

Clear and legible address is important….

They say that luck favors the open minded. For that, we need to stay open and curious because modern postal history can still surprise us. I bought this cover (Fig. 1 -2) recently.

1fig 1

2fig 2

At first, it looked like a banal Beirut airmail cover heading to France in 1959 with a transit journey in Holy-Land. But then I realized quickly that this cover was misguided : Bethune (a town north of France) was misread as Bethlehem.

The error has been facilitated by the absence of transcript of the country of destination (France). This was rectified only later with a blue pen on the front cover: “Pas de calais, France

The result, many Palestinian and Jordanian postmarks affixed in the back of the cover!

In a chronological order, we find:

  • Jerusalem 6: 26 Feb 59
  • Amman 2: 28 Feb 59
  • Jerusalem 5: 2 Mar 59
  • Bethlehem 2: 2 Mar 59
  • Jerusalem 6: 3 Mar 59
  • Ramallah 3: 3 Mar 59

Reminder of polical/military background :

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip became distinct geographical units as a result of the 1949 armistice that divided the new Jewish state of Israel from other parts of Mandate Palestine.

3fig 3

From 1948 to 1967, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, was ruled by Jordan (Fig.3). During this period, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian military administration.

In the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Israel took control of the western part of Jerusalem, while Jordan took the eastern part, including the old walled city containing important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites (Fig. 4 and 5)

4fig 4

5fig 5

Covers from Bethlehem with Advertisment to visit the Holy Land part of Jordan Kingdom.

Beirut 25 Fev.1959 – Jerusalem 26 Feb.1959

It is obvious that the cover from Beirut (Fig.1) could not have reached Jerusalem by land, or at least not in one day. It had to be flown over. Jerusalem had it’s own airport. After the creation of the state of Israel and the loss of Lydda airport as the main international gateway of Palestine coupled with the division of the country, Transjordan found itself without any major civil international airport (and without any civil aviation facilities as a matter of fact).

6fig 6

To this effect, a former RAF base at Kolundia was chosen to house the new Jerusalem airport. Hence, the Kingdom by the end of decade had 2 international airports Amman and Jerusalem. The latter, however, took precedence over Amman at attracting major international airlines (MEA, Misr Air, Air Liban, Kuwait Airways) as most of the religious sites were located In the West Bank rather than in Amman (Fig.6).

7fig 7

Fig.7: An advertising in an Arabic magazine for MEA, informing about a 3 daily flight from Beirut to Jerusalem. These flights went on till 1967 when Jerusalem fell in Zionist hands.

8fig 8

8afig 8a

Another possible competitor to have carried the mail from Beirut to Jerusalem is the Arab Airways (Fig.8 and 8a) or to be more specific its successor Air Jordan of the Holy Land (Arab Airways and Air Jordan merged on 1 December 1958).

10fig 10

9fig 9

Fig 10 Arab Airways timetable effective from 23 August 1953. Fig 9 Arab Airways Air-routes plan.                                               Chronologically after arrival in Jerusalem, the cover is directed to Amman. Why? For administrative or other reasons? I don’t have the answer. Yet. Nevertheless the cover continues all the way to Bethlehem, before probably noticing the error and correcting its path. Strange how nobody intervened earlier! Bethlehem is probably where the correct destination was marked. The cover returns to Jerusalem and continues to Ramallah (probably because Jerusalem International Airport was closer to Ramallah around 15 Km than the center of Jerusalem) before its final destination? We’ll never know.

What a digression I made from a common courier who has gone astray. On the other hand it is still difficult for  me to believe that 60 years ago, Jerusalem was only an hour by plane from Beirut and that daily flights were scheduled. So close but so far…




Minimum rates in the Levant’s Countries under French Mandate. Part 1.

As promised here comes the article of the minimum domestic rates, fixed by the Postal Administration of Levant’s Countries that were under French Mandate, extended also after their Independence.

Ever since I approached the postal history of Lebanon, I was intrigued about the issuance of really small face value stamps, such as E.E.F. stamp of 1 mills Egyptian Pound or those of 10 cents of Syrian Piastra. I thought that these were issued as complementary values to complete certain tariffs. By the time I noted with joy that instead they were used alone to paid certain postal items, subject to preferential rates. They were Newspapers and Periodicals-Writings (circulars, bulletins etc. sent on a regular basis).

I have not recorded documents franked by 1 mills E.E.F. stamp value in Egyptian currency, as well as I have not recorded the stamps overprinted T.E.O., both on French stamps than on those of the Levant, followed by the first O.M.F. value issue also they in Egyptian currency. I recorded, and I keep them tight in my hands, different 10 cents value stamps. One of the most interesting that I have is applied on an envelope addressed to the supermarket Orosdi Back in Beirut. This is the French 5 cents yellow-orange “seeder”, overprinted on four lines “O.M.F. Syrie 10 Centiemes” killed by “BEYROUTH #15” cancel on 24 July 1923 (fig 1).


(fig 1)

The envelope probably contained a prices bulletin, periodically sent from some manufacturer to the well-known large shop.


(fig 2)

The second, sent from Beirut on 1 July 1924 to Becharre via Tripoli, was franked with French stamp of 2 cents brown-lilac overprinted “GRAND LIBAN 10 CENTIEMES” (fig 2). It contained advertising messages sent periodically (tempore transit, not vitia).


(fig 3)

The third, was franked with the 10 cent stamp of the first issue printing “Grand Liban”. It was sent locally from Beirut to the well-known travel company Cook & Sons on 9 June 1925 (fig 3).

So far, the pieces shown are envelopes containing bulletins or advertising sent periodically, now we will see the other type of object to which this post preferential rate of 10 cents of Piastre could be applied. These were the periodicals newspapers with weight below 60 grams, shipped with wrapper.


(fig 4)

The first example in my collection, was a wrapper for the newspaper of Catholic Circle printed in Beirut and sent to the prominent lawyer Gabriel Rahme, President of the Catholic Circle in Tripoli. It was sent on 2 January 1926 (fig 4).


(fig 5)

Another interesting use is that one with 10 cents stamp overprinted bilingual “Republique Libanaise” in one-step. The newspaper’s wrapper was sent from Beirut on 17 April 1930 to Paris (fig 5). It should be remember that since 1927 rates for postal items sent from Syria and Lebanon to France and its colonies or possessions, were equivalent to those sent domestically.

As mentioned in the article about 5 cent overprinted “Alaouites”, I suppose that in 1928 the rate for these items was halved, what would explain the overprint of a 5 cent value made in the territories under mandate. Unfortunately I do not have and I never saw wrappers or covers with this rate. Among other things, this rate was again brought back to 10 cents probably in 1930. This is clearly shown by the figure 5 and the two examples below (fig 6 and 7) that were sent respectively on 15 January and 2 June 1933.


(fig 6)


(fig 7)

Although from 1 September 1938 all rates were raised, probably to issues related to social service carried out by the press, it was considered not necessary to increase also our small rates, and this is demonstrated by the wrapper sent locally from Tripoli on 27 November 1940 (in war time), franked with the “Cedar” stamp issued in 1937 (fig 8).


(fig 8)

will continue…..

ALAOUITES: the overprint of 05 for revalue the stamp of 10 centimes.

Alexander Kaczmarczyk, in his remarkable work “The Postal Issues of Syria, Lebanon and the Alaouites 1919-1945“, recorded the 05 centimes overprinted on 10ct stamp (fig 0) made on 2 November 1928, printing in 400’000 copies in sheet of fifty. It also lists two shades of overprint in Red and Carmines and only two glaring errors: double overprint and overprint front-back. A happy coincidence made me discover at the Sunday market of Beirut (سوق الأحد), several full sheets of this small value overprinted. Immediately you could observe the presence of the two different color shades used for overprinting: Red and Carmine. With a more detailed examination it was noted that the sheets with Red overprint, constantly had an error in the position 28 (the eighth stamp of the center strip): “I” and “E” broken in so as to be “ALAOU:TƩS” (fig 1 and 1a).

ofig 0

1fig 1 1afig 1a

Also from the discovered sheets, he takes out one with sloping red overprint, not much, but sufficiently to be able appreciate the slope and, especially, to put well in light the error overprint in position 28 (fig 2 and 2a).

2fig 2  2afig 2a

The stamps with overprint “Alaouites”, were issued the first time in 1925 on French and Syrian stamps and it not be necessary to issue a value of 5 centimes. Only in 1928 came the need to use this small value for domestic rates of newspapers not exceeding weight of 50 grams and covers with advertising papers shipped in more than 200 specimens. The first printing issued was with overprint in Red but had to be small in numbers and therefore it was necessary to resort a new overprint of 5ct on 10ct stamp but by a new typographical cliché. It has different characteristics from the previous one, but the showiest was for the Carmine color. It is much more accurate and no longer appears the error at position 28, but this new plate appears recognizable even for a recurrent flashy flaw in the “0” of 05 at position 31 (Figure 3 and 3a).

3fig 3 3afig 3a

The reduction of rates from 10ct to 5ct was short, in fact I have never seen wrappers franked for 5 centimes, while the few I saw were all franked for 10 centimes (fig 4 and 5). This is also confirmed by the fact that the new series of stamps issued in 1930 did not present a value of 5 centimes.

4fig 4 5fig 5

This happened also in the other Levant’s States under French mandate, but this will be the subject of another future article about this two very small rates. Be patient, please emoticon.

Bernardo Longo