Tete, Portuguese Colonial Province (1913 – 1920)

ALBUM – View my Tete, Portuguese Colonial Province album
TRANSITION CHART – Mozambique Area

Fast Facts

Region: Southern Africa
Group: Mozambique Area
Classification: Colony, Portuguese
Prior Regime: Province of Zambezia
Key Dates:
  1498, Mar 1 – Vasco da Gama lands on Mozambique Island and “claims” the region of Portugal
  1544 – Settlement at Quelimane founded
  1752 – Colony of Moçambique, Zambesi and Sofala separated from Portuguese India in Goa
  1892, May 20 – Zambezia Company concession created
  1894 – Zambezia Province established by combining Tete and Quelimane
  1920 – Zambezia Province split to form the Provinces of Tete and Quelimane
Following Regime: Portuguese Mozambique Colony
Scott Catalogue: (Tete) #1-40
Pick Catalogue: none
Currency: 100 centavos = 1 escudo


Portuguese Government Gunboat on the Zambesi River, Used to Preserve Order Among the Natives, Tete, Mozambique, Africa
Portuguese Government Gunboat on the Zambesi River, Used to Preserve Order Among the Natives, Tete, Mozambique, Africa
Vasco da Gama, on his monumental voyage around the Cape of Africa to India, landed in Mozambique on 1 Mar, 1498 and “claimed” the area for Portugal. Portuguese activity began in 1505, and in 1544, a settlement was founded at Quelimane. Throughout the 16th, 17th, and much of the 18th century, Mozambique was not well developed, as it was used more as a stopping off for ships going to and from India.

Until 1752, Portugal’s possessions on East Africa’s coast were administered by Portuguese India in Goa, but this changed when the region was placed under a Captain General who resided in the City of Mozambique. The Portuguese began to trade slaves (mainly destined to the French Mascarene islands, Mauritius and Reunion). With the loss of Brazil in 1822, and the slave trade being outlawed, Portugal began focusing more on its African possessions. Although the slavery was outlawed in Europe, the Portuguese continued a very lucrative slave trade with the Arabs and Ottomans until 1877.

During the Scramble for Africa in the 1880s, Portugal had to cede much of the territory it claimed in East Africa to Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company and British East Africa Company, however Portugal’s claim over Mozambique was affirmed by the Berlin Conference of 1885. At this time, Mozambique’s infrastructure was developed with much assistance from the British, as both British Central Africa/Nyassaland and Northern Rhodesia both depended on railroads and roads connecting these areas with the ports of Beira and Mozambique.

SAF - Zambezia MapIn 1891 the Portuguese shifted the administration of much of the country to large private companies which were granted control over mining, fishing, infrastructure, communications and taxing locals. The largest charters were given in 1891 to the Mozambique Company to administer the southern part of the country from Beira for 50 years and the British owned Nyassa Company for 35 years to control the territory north of the Lurio River. In 1892, the Zambezia Company was also established to administer the middle area of the country around the mouth of the Zambezi River. While the Zambezia Company was never officially chartered, it became the largest of the three.

The Province of Tete was one of the most remote areas of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, and was established far up the Zambezi River, primarily to trade gold and ivory with the Munhumutapa Kingdom. In 1894, Tete was joined with Quelimane to form the province of Zambezia, and Quelimane (which was on the coast), became its capital. During the life of this province, great upheaval was experienced in Portugal. On 5 Oct, 1910, a coup d’état was organized by the Portuguese Republican Party which ultimately deposed the constitutional monarchy and established a republican regime in Portugal. This can be seen in the stamps issued in the Province, as they were overprinted “REPUBLICA” beginning in 1911.

In 1913, the regions of Tete and Quelimane began issuing separate postage stamps along side of those issued from the province of Zambezia. In 1920, Tete again became a separate province, as Zambezia was broken up.


SAF - Tete, Portuguese Colony StampALBUM
During this time period, the colony of Mozambique was not yet centralized and communication between the various Portuguese outposts was difficult. Therefore, the individual provinces of Mozambique: Inhambane (1895-1914), Lourenço Marques (1895-1920), the city of Quelimane (1913-1922), Tete (1913-1914), and Zambezia (1894-1917) issued their own stamps, as did the Mozambique Company (1891-1942) and the Nyassa Company (1897-1929).

In 1913, the territory of Tete issued it’s first stamps. As with many other Mozambique provinces, the Vasco da Gama issues (8 denominations) from 3 different Portuguese Colonies (Macao, Portuguese Africa and Timor) were surcharged with the new currency of Portugal and overprinted “REPUBLICA” and “TETE”.

In 1914, these stamps were replaced with the common Portuguese Ceres design. This design was used in Portugal and throughout the Portuguese colonial empire. Fifteen separate denominations were issued from 1/4c to 1e.

When Tete was split off from Zambezia to form separate provinces in 1920, stamps of Zambezia, Tete and Quelimane were replaced by stamps of Moçambique Colony.


Portuguese currency was used in Tete


History of Mozambique – Hubert de Vries heraldry
The British Ultimatium of 1890

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