1858 postal treaty - Britain & Liberia

Given my other post - asking how early international postage was organised and managed - elicited a nil response from everyone, I thought I'd better try to find out for myself.

What I found out may be of interest to others. (?)

Prior to the creation of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874, it appears that countries set up individual postal treaties - bilateral arrangements between themselves and each other country, setting responsibilities, procedures etc.

One such was established on January 20, 1858 between Great Britain and Liberia.

The basic system sets out that letters up to 1/2 ounce from Britain to Liberia would cost 6d (6 old pennies in British pre-decimal currency) with 5d covering British postage and 1d for Liberian.
For mail coming from Liberia to Britain the rate is specified as 12 (US) cents with 2c for Liberia postage and 10c for British. (Scott #2 is 12c)

In terms of accounting procedures, the arrangement specifies that detailed records be kept by both countries in terms of the mail coming in and going out (detailed by different categories of mail) and that every 3 months accounts between the two countries postal agencies be settled (using "British money") based on who owed what to who. It would be interesting to find out if such records were accurately kept in Liberia!

The Convention must have been every bureaucrats' dream-come-true given the amount of technical detail that it contains in its 13 pages. Details are specified in terms of dealing with insufficient postage, missing postage, registered letters, newspapers, book post, undeliverable mail etc.

There is also a detailed table showing rates (in British money) for mail posted in Liberia but going via Britain to a third country destination and vice versa (presumably showing all known postal destinations at that time). A letter from Monrovia to Schwartzberg-Sondershausen via Britain for example would require postage of 1 shilling (=12d, pennies) whilst one to California would require postage of 1 shilling and 6 and one half d.

Of course, it's also interesting that this agreement was signed some two years before Liberia actually had any postal stamps or a postal department. Apparently, similar postal arrangements were also made by Liberia with France and Germany around this time.

This could make an interesting article for the LPS Journal!


  • Thanks for the information and I agree, it would make for a great article!
  • Has anyone any information about the France and Germany treaties? (or any others)

    Apparently the US didn'ty have one in spite of the links with Liberia until the UPU
    Perhaps because there was no regular direct shipping between the US and LIberia at that time
  • Hi Mik,

    I think I did an article on this. There was earlier agreement in 1853 also. The rate to the USA was 65c (24c to UK, 36c Atlantic crossing, 5c USA) then 45c in late 1853 (16c Atlantic crossing). Liberia got nothing.

    The interesting thing is that prior to 1864, the UK did not credit the USA for domestic postage. They did in 1865.

    I have an 1868 wrapper to Paris, franked 18c. It is a bit of a conundrum.
  • I sold a copy of this treaty in 2015. It is six pages long and I kept scans of each page. If anyone would like a copy let me know.
  • Marty, I'd appreciate a copy
  • I'm looking at the first Postal Treaty between Bryant & Liberia and trying to get my head around exactly how packet mail would have worked prior to 1860
    Suppose I had mail in Monrovia to go to GB or USA on a GB packet ship before 1860

    How would I have paid for the postage? (no Liberia stamps at that time)
    The single rate to GB would have been 6d (=12 cents) but who would I actually pay this to?
    The Liberia post office (after 1854)? An agent for the company? The ship's captain?

    And what about before Liberia had PO's in 1854?
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