A History of the Cayman Islands Post Office
The Cayman Islands Post Office was perhaps one of the first sources of income for the government.
The first post office, now known as the General Post Office, was established on 12th April 1889 with Custos (governor) Edmund Parsons at its helm. The revenue recorded that year was £15. A year later, the revenue nearly doubled to £26.
Prior to 1889, a Jamaican merchant named George Orwitt acted as a postal agent for the Cayman Islands in Jamaica, facilitating the mail process as far back as 1859. Mail destined for Cayman residents was first addressed to Mr. Orwitt, who then delivered letters to ships bound for the Cayman Islands. This arrangement stayed in effect until the opening of the General Post Office in George Town.
The postage rate during that period was based on Jamaica’s rate, both for local and foreign letters and parcels. The postal rate for mail between Cayman and Jamaica was 1d (pence) for letters and ½d for postcards. The foreign rate was 4d per half ounce. But the rate changed in the early 1900s because “a tariff revision” took effect in Jamaica. The new rates were 2 ½d per half-ounce for foreign mail and 2d for the registration fee.
But it was not until 19th February 1901 that stamps bearing the name of the Cayman Islands first appeared. Prior to that, the stamps used said Jamaica Postage.
With its own stamps, Cayman’s postal revenue increased considerably, from £268 pounds in 1900-01 to £585 just a year later. In fact, the islands’ first stamps were used three months before their official date. “The stamps were dispatched from England on 17th August, 1900 and the receipt of the stamps was acknowledged on 20 November of that year. The three month delay between their receipt and the official date of issue seems to have due in part to the Colonial Office being unaware that Specimen copies had already been distributed to members of the UPU and they had therefore, delayed giving instruction for their issue to the Governor of Jamaica.”
In 1898, a post office was opened at Stake Bay, Cayman Brac. After that, the history books all agree that relatively little is known about postal services within the Cayman Islands or about mail pickup and delivery services between George Town and the outlying areas of Grand Cayman until the late 1920s. This was perhaps due to the high cost of postage and the sporadic nature of rural mail.
Evidence from the Colonial Reports, suggests, however, that sub-post offices did exist. For instance, East End had a postal branch but little is known about where the building was located or who was in charge. It was reported that on the 1st March 1909, the “East End postal facility was closed due to the lack of patronage.” (Colonial Report 1908-1909)
The report further states, “A limited postal service was offered as stamps may be obtained at two offices in East End – George Wood and Police Constable Watler.”
Additionally there is postmark evidence that post offices were operating in Bodden Town by July 1909 and West Bay by May 1913.
On 27 February, 1908 the Commissioner made a number of recommendations to reduce the inland postage rate from 1d to 1/4d for postcards and for every two-ounces of printed matter, and the restoration of mail service (including the transportation of freight) between George Town and rural post offices began. This process was done by horse-drawn wagons between George Town and Bodden Town and on horseback to the other eastern districts. “Both wagoners and messengers riding on horseback carried stamps,” according to 1908-1909 Colonial Report. It was during this period that the first private letterboxes were installed in the General Post Office and rural post collection canceling stamps came into use.
In the late 1930s, the islands went through their first boom and many changes took place within the Post Office. More boxes were received and censors began reading the mail because of World War II.
In 1939, the construction of a new Government Office Building was completed by Rayal Bodden and the General Post Office, which was located the Court House of the time (now the Museum), moved to the site that it still occupies today. The estimated cost was £2,000 for the facility that housed three government departments – Customs, Treasury Post Office and Government Saving Bank.
To meet the demands of increasing postal activities in the Cayman Islands, several district post offices and agencies were opened: Little Cayman, 1934; West End, 1936; Creek, 1937; Savannah, 1962; South Sound, 1962; Hell, 1962; Spot Bay, 1963; Watering Place, 1976; Old Man Bay, 1985; and Gun Bay, 1986.
In addition, many different markings began to appear on mail: “Air Mail; First Class Air Mail; Express Delivery, Special Delivery and Mis-sent Mail.” Cayman began to receive its first shipment of airmail as early at 1935 via Jamaica by Pan American Airways.
During the 1970s, the islands experienced another major boom and the General Post Office took over the entire space of the building it occupied. A postal mail van service to the districts was introduced in 1975. An additional 416 new private letter boxes were installed. This brought the total to 1,588. Today there – is a total of 2,897 at the General Post Office and 11,000 mail boxes throughout the Cayman Islands.
In 1974, special cachets commemorating the first flights from Cayman Brac to Kingston by Cayman Islands Airways began appearing on the mail. In fact, there is one for Southern Airways’ first flight from Miami to Grand Cayman and the Concorde.
It was not until the 1990s that the post office again modernised itself. Between April and August 1995, a new logo was introduced, and a Post Office Kiosk at the GPO, the Seven Mile Beach and Airport Post Office and Mail Processing Centre were opened. Mail drops boxes were also introduced during this period. A new postage rate came into effect, increasing local mail from 5¢ to 15¢.
During the turn of the century, many of the sub district post offices were rebuilt to modernise the facilities.
In fact 2006 was a busy year for the Postal Service as a new postal rate took effect on 1st July for local and international mail. And what is seen as an historic move, the Cayman Islands Post Office introduced a new seven-digit alphanumeric postcode system on Wednesday, 9th August 2006That same day the Post Office changed its name to Cayman Islands Postal Service, as part of a process of updating the image of the Post Office.
The History the Cayman Islands Post Offices – Ivan Burges
The Postal History of the Cayman Islands – Thomas E. Giraldi and Peter P. McCann, PH.D.
Post Office establishment dates
|East End||1908 Closed 1909-1913|
|Old Man Bay||1985*|
* Postal Agencies
Cayman Islands Postmaster Generals
|1984-1993||Cynthia Sterling Pearce|
|1981-1982||Mercedes Jackson (acting)|
|1976-1981||Noel A. Johnson|
|1970-1976||Hope Glidden Bodden|
|1957-1965||Clarence V. Thompson|
|1945-1957||Ernest O. Panton|
|1932-1945||Albert (Bertie) Panton|
|1922-1931||Ronald J. Watler|
|1908-1909||William G. McCausland|
|1904-1906||Cuthbert H. Bodden|
|1896-1904||Reginald E. Bodden|
|1889-1896||Edmund Parsons (Custos)|