Straits Settlements (1867 – 1946)

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Fast Facts

Region: Far East
Group:South East Asian Archipelago
Classification: Colony (UK)
Prior Regime: Separate British Settlements
Key Dates:
  1824, Mar 17 – Anglo-Dutch Treaty
  1826 – Straits Settlements established under East India Company
  1867, Apr 1 – Established as a Crown Colony
  1942, Feb 15 – British surrender to Japanese
  1945, Sep 12 – Japanese surrender to British
  1946, Apr 1 – Dissolved into Malaya, Singapore and British Borneo (July 15)
Following Regime: Singapore, Federation of Malaya and British Borneo
Current Country: Singapore, Malaysia
Scott Catalogue: (Straits Settlements) #1-271, B1-B2, J1-J6
Pick Catalogue: (Straits Settlements) #1-18, s75-s225


Victoria Dock, Tanjong Pagar Singapore, 1890s
The Straits Settlements began in 1826 when Malacca and Penang, the two British settlements in Malay Peninsula, joined together with Singapore became the Straits Settlements, under the control of British East India Company.  By 1932, Singapore had became the centre of government for the three areas, under the jurisdiction of Colonial Office in London, the Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony on 1 April 1867.   The Cocos (or Keeling) Islands were placed under the Straits Settlements in 1886 and Labuan in 1906.

Singapore became a major port of call for ships sailing between Europe and East Asia, especially with the increased usage of the steamship in the mid-1860 and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.  It also became the main sorting and export centre in the world of rubber.    Singapore experienced unprecedented increases in proserity and trade around the closing of the 19th century.  In 1921, the British constructed a naval base, which was soon supplemented by an air base.
FE - Straits Settlements Map

The island’s peace and prosperity ended with World WarII, when the Japanese  bombed the sleeping city in the early hours of December 8th, 1941.  Japanese troops advanced rapidly down the Malay peninsula, often outflanking their opponents through the jungle. Singapore fell to the Japanese on February 15th, 1942. It was renamed Syonan (Light of the South) by the Japanese and remained under Japanese occupation for three and a half years until the end of the war.  In September 1945, the British returned to Singapore until the dissolution of Straits settlements ended on April 1st, 1946.  Singapore became a Crown Colony. Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union and in 1948 a part of the Federation of Malaya.


The stamps of India were used from 1854 until the first issue of Strait Settlement stamps which were first released on 1 Sept 1867. They were Indian stamps overprinted with a crown and with various rates of postage. The first stamps that were issued with the inscription “Straits Settlements” were issued during December of 1867.  Due to abrupt changes in postage rates, a series of overprints had to be created to handle the changes. Various stamps were issued that bore the potraits of the British Monarchs: Queen Victoria (1867-1899), King Edward VII (1902-1911), King George V (1912-1936) and King George VI (1936-1941). All these issues followed the key plate common design of many British commonwealth issues.


In 1837, the Indian rupee was the sole official currency in the Straits Settlements, as it was administered as part of India. However, Spanish dollars continued to circulate and 1845 saw the introduction of coinage for the Straits Settlements using a system of 100 cents = 1 dollar, with the dollar equal to the Spanish dollar or Mexican peso. In 1867, administration of the Straits Settlements was separated from India and the dollar was made the standard currency.  The Government of Straits Settlements, was first authorized to issue currency notes  in 1897 and notes were issued to the public on 1 May 1899. Both the Chartered Bank and Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank continued to issue banknotes, which circulated side by side with the official currency.  All notes were freely exchangeable with the Mexican dollar or the various other silver coins that were legal tender in the Colony.  Through the various British monarchs, currency was issued and printed by Thomas de la Rue & Co. Ltd of London.  In September 1933, a commission was appointed to consider the participation of the various Malay States, including Brunei, in the profits and liabilities of the Straits Settlements currency.  It was recommended that the sole power of issuing currency for the area should be entrusted to a pan-Malayan Currency Commission. This recommendation was adopted and in 1939 and the Malayan dollar became legal tender in the Straits Settlements.


Straits Settlements Stamps from CS Philatelic Agency
Banknotes from Straits Settlements from ATS notes
History of Currency of Singapore
Map of the Straits Settlements


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4 Responses to Straits Settlements (1867 – 1946)

  1. Jorge Mir says:

    Good information. It is very useful, thanks.

  2. Niall Mackay says:

    Dear Michael,
    We have come across some bank notes for the Government of the Straits Settlements, all 10 cents notes. Would they of any use or value to anyone ?

    Niall Mackay

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