Netherlands East Indies Exhibitions.


Richard Wheatley FRPSL

Part 1.

Colonial Exhibition Semarang 1914.

This was the first of the large exhibitions to be held in the colony and the only one before the Great War. It took place between 20 August and 30 November 1914 at Semarang, which is a major port on the north coast of Java.

It was publicised by special postmarks, which were employed to cancel the stamp. Quite often an additional strike was struck alongside or upon the reverse of a cover. These special ‘hammer’ type handstamps were used for this exhibition at 15 main post offices, 9 of which were on the island of Java.

Banjermasin (Borneo) Bandoeng

Batavia Buitenzorg

Cheribon Djokjakarta

Koetaradja (Sumatra) Makasser (Celebes)

Medan (Sumatra) Padang (Sumatra)

Semarang Soerabaja

Solo Weltevreden

A. A. Shiller in ‘Nederland East Indies Postmarks & Cancellations’ states the period of use as "August to November 30th. However I have one of these marks from Medan dated 2-4-14 and two from Weltevreden dated 18-6-14 (fig 1) and 28-3-14 (fig 2). So it is clear that the special handstamp was in use well before the exhibition, which is what one would expect.

Fig 1. Exhibition postmark of Weltevreden 18-6-14.
5 cent postal stationery card to a retired major in Holland.

Fig 2. Exhibition postmark of Weltevreden 28-3-14.
Picture post card franked 2 cent, to Holland.

Stamp Exhibitions.

During the inter-war years in the Netherlands East Indies invariably the Dutch language appears in the postmarks and special handstamps. This made sense, for the majority of the business and correspondence was carried out in Dutch. Very occasionally an Indonesian (Malay) word or expression may appear, these being used for convenience, as the indigenous word was in common use and there was no point in attempting a translation into Dutch.

Malang 1930.

The first postage stamp exhibition (postzegeltentoonstelling) to be held in this country was in 1930, at the town of Malang in east Java. It was a two day affair, from 18 to 19 January.

Advance publicity for the event was provided by a special ‘hammer’ type handstamp, which was used from 11 June 1929, but strangely only at Malang post office (fig 3). It was then used during the exhibition at the temporary branch post office.

Fig 4. Soerabaja handstamp used in violet on the first day of the exhibition.
5 cent postal stationery card with promotional cachet for the 10 to 12 day airmail
service to Holland. Delivery locally within two hours of posting.

Soerabaja 1931.

The first exhibition was followed up the next year with another postzegeltentoonstelling, this time over three days (3 to 5 April 1931) in the large port of Soerabaja, again in east Java. As before, a similar special ‘hammer’ type handstamp was used for publicity prior to the event (fig 4). This was only employed at Soerabaja post office, from 12 March to 2 April in black ink. For the three days of the exhibition, the special handstamp was used at the temporary branch post office using violet ink.

           Fig 3. 1930 handstamp used at Malang                               Fig 7. Centenary of the postage stamp 1940

Batavia 1937.

After the initial flurry of enthusiasm for stamp exhibitions there was a gap of six years before the next one.

On this occasion it was held in Batavia in west Java, during the Pasar Gambir (Indonesian for annual fair). This was held from 27 to 31 August 1937. During the course of the fair a temporary branch post office was set up using a special large circular ‘hammer’ type handstamp (fig 6). This handstamp features the Pasar Gumbir pavilions and is known used in red and black ink.


Fig 6. 1937 Batavia handstamp in black used on 2nd day of the exhibition. Franked
75 cents for registration, express and airmail

Batavia 1940.

By 1940 philately was well established in the Netherlands East Indies and there was a national philatelic society (Vereneging). For the centenary of the first postage stamp, the society produced a special ‘hammer’ type handstamp (fig 7). This is a translation of the Dutch inscription.

Eeuwfeest Postzegal - Centenary Postage Stamp

Ned. Ind. Ver(eneging) - Nederlands East Indies Society

Verzamelaars - collectors

A special post box was placed in the branch post office in the Hotel des Indes, Batavia. This special handstamp in violet cancelled all letters placed in the box on 6 May 1940. It is reported that about 4,000 covers were serviced..

© Exhibition Study Group 2002