British Columbia and Vancouver Island


The first and only stamp issued (in 1860) for use in both British Columbia and Vancouver Island, which were separate colonies at the time. The numeral “10” cancel was used in Williams Creek, British Columbia.

Historical Dates

  • 1848 (Jan 13): Colony of Vancouver Island established (also called Vancouver’s Island)
  • 1858 (Aug 2): Colony of British Columbia established
  • 1860: Stamp issued for use in both colonies, inscribed British Columbia & Vancouvers Island
  • 1865 (Sep): Vancouver Island stamps issued
  • 1865 (Nov): British Columbia stamps issued
  • 1866 (Aug 6): The two colonies unite under the name British Columbia and use British Columbia stamps
  • 1871 (Jul 21): British Columbia enters the Dominion of Canada and uses Canadian stamps

The British Colony of Vancouver Island (also known as Vancouver’s Island) was established in 1849. There was previously a Hudson’s Bay Company outpost at Fort Camosack, built in 1843, which later became Fort Victoria in 1846.

The Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858 caused an influx of settlers to the mainland, via Vancouver Island, and after this, British Columbia was made a new colony on the mainland. In 1866, the two colonies were united as British Columbia and, in 1871, it became a province of the Dominion of Canada.

In 1860, the separate colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia issued a postage stamp inscribed with the names of both British Columbia and Vancouver Island.

This stamp, often called the “unified stamp”, was issued for reasons of economy, with both colonies having sufficient customers to justify the printing of stamps, but not enough to justify separate issues for each colony. The single stamp was denominated 2½ pence, depicting Queen Victoria, and was surface-printed in a brownish-rose color by De La Rue.

Here are the contents of a letter from the Governor of Vancouver Island requesting the first stamps for use in the two colonies.

Governor James Douglas to Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Secretary of State for the Colonies
[received in London 25 July]

Victoria, Vancouver’s Island
8 June 1859

Great inconvenience is Experienced in dealing with the postal arrangements both in this Colony and in British Columbia in consequence of our not being provided with Colonial Postage Stamps. Checks cannot be applied to guard against fraud without inconvenience, delay and expensive machinery; and indeed so long as the prepayment of postage is made in coin no check or supervision is really effectual.

2. Partly to correct the evil we have hitherto employed the Postage Stamps of the United States, but for obvious reasons the use of them in a British Colony should not be continued longer than really necessary.

3. I am therefore induced to apply to you with the hope that you will kindly issue the necessary directions that we may be supplied with Stamps from Her Majesty’s Stamp Office, designed to serve both for Vancouver’s Island and British Columbia. The expense, which I understand would not be heavy, we would gladly repay, and the plates could remain in England so that a fresh supply of Stamps could be obtained when the first stock was exhausted.

4. To lessen expense we propose to have only one description of Stamp, of the value of Two Pence Halfpenny and of such design as may be deemed most fit by those competent to judge. A rough sketch is forwarded herewith.

5. We would ask for a thousand Sheets of Stamps as a first supply, presuming there will be about 240 in each Sheet,and if the Post Office Authorities in England would kindly permit a supply of about Three Dozen obliterating Dies, with a proportion of Ink & Boxes, to accompany the Sheets, it would add greatly to the benefit conferred upon the Colonies, and would increase the obligations we should feel.

I have the honor to be
your most obedient and humble servant
James Douglas

The original documents:

These documents are from the Humanities Computing and Media Centre, University of Victoria, British Columbia. The subject is the Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871.


Flag of the Colony of Vancouver Island.
Used only in 1870-71


Flag of British Columbia.
Used in the 1860’s

Map of British Columbia in 1860, with the original boundaries, up to the Simpson River.

Map of British North America, 1860

Map of British North America, 1860, showing British Columbia with the original boundaries, terminating at the Simpson Rver in the north.

Wikipedia Links:

  1. Colony of Vancouver Island (1848-66)
  2. Colony of British Columbia (1858-66)
  3. Colony of British Columbia (1866-71, after merger)
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