This article was written by C.A. Howes in 1911 and should prove useful to collectors of the following period.
The “Eastern Republic of Uruguay,” whose full name has generally appeared on its stamps, is the smallest of the South American republics but has nevertheless loomed large in the eyes of stamp collectors. Its early issues have for years given food for thought and study to specialists, and its later issues, with few exceptions, have been so attractive in both design and execution that they have proved general favourites and made the country popular among all classes of collectors.

The first stamps of Uruguay are not common enough to prove a puzzle to young collectors, with their simple inscription DILIGENCIA, but many have wondered on seeing them in the catalogue why they were so labelled. The answer has become generally known at the present day, for the early mail service of the country was carried on by stage-coaches (French diligences) whose routes radiated from Montevideo, and the first stamps were thus appropriately inscribed. Mr. Griebert, in his magnificent work, tells us that these first three stamps were lithographed in Montevideo and issued on October 1, 1856. One die was engraved for the 60 centavos, and thirty-five transfers made to the stone, which printed sheets of seven horizontal rows of five stamps. All these impressions were naturally alike, but to print the 80 centavo stamps, the figures 60 were removed from the stone and 80 substituted by hand, thus introducing 35 minor varieties into this value and enabling it to be plated.

The same thing occurred with the 1 real stamp, next printed, only the whole bottom label was removed in this case and a new one substituted which was apparently transferred 35 times from a new engraving. In transferring, the label was irregularly placed so that 35 minor varieties of this value can be detected.

A second variety of the 60c, which has had scant catalogue recognition, is given its proper credentials. This has larger lettering, fewer rays around the “sun,” and a series of parallel short dashes at the sides instead of the Greek fret. It seems to have appeared about a year after the first type, and was doubtless due to the stone having been cleaned after the other lot was printed and the possible loss of the first die, as this one is an entirely new engraving It is of great rarity.

The above three values were the rates, respectively, for single, double and triple letters for inland correspondence. In November, 1857, rates of 120, 180 and 240 centesimos for similar letters to Buenos Ayres were published, and in March of 1858 stamps of the new values appeared. These were inscribed “Montevideo” at the top and “Correo” ‘at the sides in block letters. These stamps were also lithographed, the 120 and 180 centesimos in sheets of 78 (13 horizontal rows of 6 stamps each) and the 240 centesimos in a sheet of 204 (17 horizontal rows of 12 stamps each). The first two values have a tête-bêche in the sheet-curiously enough it is number 8 in the top row in each case. The 240 centesimos had something-which was removed. The sheet of this value was made up as follows: a block of 30 transfers (5 horizontal rows of 6) was made from the die; six blocks were then applied to the stone, two horizontally by three vertically; then the top two rows of a block were added below at the left, and the next two rows at the right. Now something was amiss with the 23rd stamp in each block, for it was erased from the stone! Thus there are blanks where stamps numbers 41, 47, 101, 107, 161, 167 and 203 in the sheet should be. It has always been said that the 180 centesimos existed as an error in the color of the 240, and the blanks would seem to prove that such was the case and that the error was discovered and corrected. But the noted Dr. Wonner never believed in the so-called error and Mr. Griebert agrees with him. Yet the above described sheet shows that something once existed!

In 1859 prepayment of letters was made obligatory. The same tariffs were kept in force, but a new issue of stamps in one design and of the six values used previously, made its appearance. The lowest four values were issued on June 26, the 180c, on Oct. 19, and the 240c on Nov. 1, 1859. The square design was similar to the preceding issue, but had the lettering in much smaller and thinner Roman type. These stamps are quite familiar to the majority of collectors. They were lithographed as before in sheets of 204 stamps, seventeen horizontal rows of twelve. Mr. Griebert says the 60c and 100c were produced from the same stone by altering the figures, and the same was the case with the 120c, and 180c. Each pair of values, therefore, shows identical minor varieties which do not appear in the other pair or in the 80c and 240c, which were printed from separate stones. A block of 20 transfers was used in making up the stones, so there are that number of minor varieties of type.

Evidently the thin figures of value were not distinct enough for practical use, for in 1860 the same stamps began to appear with heavier numerals-what would be called “bold face” in the printing office. The values and colors remained as before, save that the 240c was not included. The stamps were lithographed as usual, but were now printed in sheets having four panes of 48 stamps each, in eight horizontal rows of six. A block of twelve transfers was used this time in making up the stone, so there are but that number of minor varieties of each value. The 120c is found bisected and used as a 60c stamp, probably because of a shortage of the latter value.

A change in the currency of the country in 1852 was finally responsible for the new issue which, after nearly two years’ delay, appeared in 1864. It will be noted that the new centesimo values (06, 08, 10 and 12) bear the same ratios to each other as the former stamps of ten times their nominal face. The new design was anything but artistic or beautiful. The exact date of issue is in doubt, but Mr. Griebert considers it to have been about the end of February, 1864. The stamps were lithographed by the firm who had done all the previous work for the Postal Department, Messrs. Mège and Willems of Montevideo. The 6c sheets were in four panes, each of 56 stamps (eight horizontal rows of seven), but the 8c had panes of 64 stamps (eight by eight). The 10c and 12c were doubtless similarly arranged, but details seem to be lacking. The 8c sheets had several têtés-bêche, one pane at least having the right half (32 stamps) inverted, giving eight pairs of têtés-bêche down the middle. The 12c of this issue is known cut in two and used for its half value.

Changes in the postal rates, by which they were made multiples of 5c, and which were published on Sept. 6, 1865, were responsible for the first surcharged stamps. A new issue was ordered in England, but as it could not arrive in time, the current set was overprinted, without regard to former values, with the new denominations. Thus the 12c became 5c, the 8c became 10c, the 10c became 15c, and the 6c became 20c. The new figures were printed in black over the old figures of value, and thus appear twice on each stamp. The tête-bêche varieties of the 8c stamp were taken into account and the surcharged figures properly placed. Many errors of surcharge occurred, as a glance at the catalog will reveal, but most of them are said to be very rare. For this reason there are many bogus varieties and surcharges in existence which should be guarded against. This provisional issue appeared on January 1, 1866, when the new rates went into effect, but were soon superseded by the new permanent stamps.

This new set, which arrived and was issued January 10, 1866, was lithographed by Messrs. Maclure, Macdonald and Co., of London. The four values were first engraved, each stamp separately on its plate, and then transferred to the stone for printing the supply by lithography. The 5c was engraved in a plate of 100, ten rows of ten; the 10c in a plate of 50, ten rows of five each; the 15c in a plate of 35, seven rows of five; the 20c is still unknown. As a consequence of the separate engravings, as many minor varieties exist as there were stamps on the original plates. The most prominent of these are: in the 5c, the “white flag” (no lines in the top of the 5), CENTECIMOS without the initial C and also without the final S, as well as with a small s, and the left side of the arms, below the horse, not filled in; in the 10c, the I omitted, and also an I for the T in CENTECIMOS. The sheets of the 5c contained 100 stamps, as engraved, but the size of the printed sheets of the other values is unknown. The 10c stamp was cut in two and used for its half value, and even the 15c seems to have had one third of the stamp used for 5c occasionally, while the 20c, doubly unfortunate yielded a half for 10c or even a quarter for 5c rates.

On Oct. 1, 1866, the 1c stamp appeared, due to the inauguration of this rate for newspapers. It was produced by the same firm as the other numeral stamps, but was lithographed from two different stones apparently, one containing two panes of 72 stamps each, and the other one pane of 176 stamps (sixteen horizontal rows of eleven). Impressions from the two stones can be separated by several minor differences, but in general by the clearness of the first and the blurring in the second, or in pairs or more by the wider spacing (nearly 1 mm.) of the first stone.

Evidently the plates or transfers must have been sent to Montevideo, for we find the local lithographers supplying printings in 1868, according to Mr. Griebert, and with new sheet arrangements; thus the 5c is printed in sheets of 190, ten horizontal rows of 19, and the other three values in sheets of 200, ten rows of 20. Both the English and local printings were supplied imperforate and perforated, the first stamps thus treated having come from England in March, 1866. The perforation gauges from 12 to 13 1/2, the larger gauges chronicled (8 to 10 1/2) being trials perforations, according to Mr. Griebert. The spelling of “centecimos” with a second “C” is stated to have been an error of the English engravers.

On January 8, 1877, a new and finely engraved set of stamps was issued which had been engraved on steel by the American Bank Note Co., of New York. It omitted the 15c value, but added a 50c and 1 peso. The latter value was not issued until May 1, 1879, because of a curious error. The engravers had transposed the two sides of the coat of arms, making the “quarterings” come on the wrong sides. The error was discovered and the stock burned, only a few specimens escaping. The sheets were of 100 stamps, (ten by ten), and were rouletted, instead of being perforated; a means of separation that seems to have appealed to Uruguay and Chile, for some reason or other. Both the 10c and 20c are known bisected for their half values.

The 1c stamp became exhausted, and on November 10, 1880, a lithographed copy was issued, produced locally by Sr. Pena of Montevideo. The sheet had 100 stamps, but they were arranged in twelve horizontal rows of eight, with four extra ones added at the bottom. The stamp is normally rouletted, but can be found wholly imperforate or partly imperforate – horizontally or vertically.

Owing to a new rate on letters to Paraguay, Chile and Brazil, a stamp of 7c was issued on August 25, 1881. It was the first portrait stamp of Uruguay, and presented Dr. Joaquin Suarez, President 1843-52. It was poorly lithographed to the extent of a million copies by Sr. Pena, in sheets of 180 (twenty horizontal rows of nine). It was normally perforated 13, but maybe found imperforate or part perforate – horizontally or vertically.

Two stamps for newspaper postage next appeared, the 1c on May 15, 1882 for local use, and the 2c on July 1 for foreign use, it having the letters U. P. (Union Postal) on it. These rather neat little stamps were lithographed by Mège and Aubriot in sheets of 100, and each stamp bears its sheet number. They both exist perforated, imperforate or part perforate as before.

On March 1, 1883, the President of the Republic, Gen. Maximo Santos, was honored with a 5c stamp bearing his portrait. It was lithographed by the firm last mentioned in sheets of 150, six horizontal rows of seventeen, with three horizontal rows of sixteen beneath, the three end spaces being blank. The stamp is normally perforated, with the usual varieties already detailed for previous values.

Again some local productions by the firm already mentioned appeared on March 16, 1883 – a 1c – and on April 1, 1883 – a 2c and 10c. The two low values were not unattractive, but the 10c evidently copied from the Argentine 8c of 1877, was hardly a “thing of beauty.” The head was that of the celebrated Gen. Artigas, “Protector” of the young Republic. All three values were lithographed in sheets of 100 (twenty horizontal rows of five) on a thin, transparent paper, though the 1c and 2c come on a thick paper, which is rare. All values are perforated, but can be found imperforate, and the 1c and 2c part perforated horizontally. The 10c was bisected for use as a 5c.

In the latter part of 1883 the 5c stamps ran out, and the Administration once more began to surcharge, a habit which has been more or less prevalent since. A stock of the 5c of 1876, which was on hand but had been withdrawn from circulation, was therefore utilized, but with a “habilitating” surcharge because of their having been retired. The stamp was issued Sept. 24, 1883, overprinted “1883 Provisorio” in two lines reading up. The overprint is found inverted (reading down) and also “interverted” – the word and date having changed places. Stamps are also known with either word or date missing, and in pair without surcharge on one stamp. Red surcharges or horizontal surcharges are trial prints and were not issued. 1 cent stamps next ran out, and the 10c of 1877 was utilized surcharged “Provisorio – 1 centesimo – 1884” in three lines. Itt was issued on Jan. 15, 1884, and is found with inverted surcharge.

Still the new issue expected from New York failed to arrive, and the 2c ran out as well as the provisional 5c. The first was supplied by the remainders of the 2c of 1882 overprinted “Provisorio – 1884” in two lines and issued on Jan. 25, 1884. It can be found with inverted overprint, in a pair with one stamp unsurcharged, and imperforate. The 5c value had to be supplied by a new stamp. It was lithographed by Mège and Aubriot, as usual, in sheets of 100 (twenty horizontal rows of five). This stamp comes in two types, the first having been issued on Jan. 25, 1884, and the second on April 9, 1884. The most apparent difference between the two lies in the lines of the background and the rays of the “sun,” which are much closer together in the first stamp. The second stamp is also on a thin paper. Both stamps were normally perforated, but both can be found imperforate and the second type horizontally imperforate.

At last the new stamps from the American Bank Note Co. came and were issued on May 1, 1884. They were in sheets of 100 stamps (ten by ten) and rouletted. Four values bore large figures as a center, and one the arms, but the 7c had a more pleasing likeness of Gen. Artigas than we saw before, and the lOc showed a portrait of President Santos. The 5c of the series was not issued until Dec. 19. M. Jean explains this as follows: This stamp was printed in violet instead of blue, and the Government refused them, sending them back to New York with an order for the blue. The latter were printed, but the engraving company returned the violet stamps with them, and evidently made the Government accept them, for both stamps were issued, the blue ones on Dec. 19, 1884, and the violet ones on Dec. 1, 1886 – perhaps because the blue were used up. The blue stamp is found imperforate horizontally and the 20c bisected for its half value.

After three years the 10c stamps ran out, and a new one was ordered of Sr. Godel of Montevideo, and issued October 17, 1887. It was lithographed in sheets of 100, and printed in violet of several shades. It is normally rouletted but occurs imperforate horizontally.

On January 1, 1888, the American Bank Note stamps appeared in changed colors, and the 10c in a new design as well. The 5c stamp ran out in October, 1889, and on the 14th of that month the 5c violet was issued for general use with the simple surcharge “Provisorio”. One stamp, has an inverted A for a V. Red surcharges are only trial prints.

A change of heart had come over the Government, which ordered its next set from Messrs. Waterlow and Sons of London, who produced a series of great beauty. The 2c and 5c were issued December 1, 1889, and the rest of the set on May 1, 1890. The 1c can be found imperforate or horizontally imperforate, and the 5c either horizontally or vertically imperforate.

Again the 5c stamps ran out, and the Sc violet of 1886 was surcharged diagonally in red “Provisorio – 1891” in two lines. The surcharge is found inverted, and both normal and inverted on the same stamp; also with date “1391” once on the sheet, and with various letters and figures missing. It was issued on August 19, 1891.

Next, the 1c and 5c failed, the former being supplied from the 1c of 1888 surcharged “Provisorio – 1892” – in two lines, and the latter by surcharging the 7c of the then current issue “CINCO – Centésimos – Provisorio – 1892” in four lines. Both surcharges wwere in red and both stamps were issued January 18, 1892. Many errors occurred in each case including inverted surcharge, ordinary and inverted surcharge on the same stamp, double surcharge “Previsorio” (e for o), wrong dates on the 5c, etc.

Once more the 1c became exhausted, and the 20c of the then current issue was utilized by surcharging “UN – Centésimo – Provisorio – 1892” in four lines in black. The date can be found with a stop between 18 and 92, and “centésimos” with a circumflex instead of acute accent. The surcharge is also known inverted.

At last a supply of permanent stamps arrived from London, in new and tasteful designs, and the surcharges ceased. These neat little stamps, in only four values, were not in use as long as they deserved to be. The 1c and 2c were issued March 9, 1892, the 5c on April 19, and the 10c on December 15. They were printed in sheets of 100, (ten rows of ten) and perforated, though the ic and 2c have been found vertically imperforate and the 5c horizontally imperforate.

In 1894 a new supply of the first series of stamps made by Waterlow and Sons was received, but in changed colors and with two new high values added. The 1c was received first and issued on May 15, and the remainder of the set issued on June 2. The numbers printed are given by M. Jean as follows :

1c, 3,400,000
2c, 1,000,000
5c, 3,000,000
7c, 50,000
10c, 430,000
20c. 50,000
25c, 25,000
50c, 20,000
1p, 15,000
2p, 5,000
3p, 5,000

For varieties we find the 1c either horizontally or vertically imperforate and the 5c and 10c vertically imperforate.

Somewhat more than a year later the advance guard of another new series, one of the finest productions of Messrs. Waterlow, made their appearance. The 1c showed the full length figure of a gaucho or half-breed, and the 5c a railway locomotive. These two values were issued on October 5, 1895. On December 5 appeared the 2c showing the Solis Theatre in Montevideo, the 7c with a fine steer’s head, the 10c with a “gleaner,” the 20c with an ocean steamship, and the 25c with a figure which may be Minerva. This last value having the center in black, had one sheet printed with the center inverted and about 40 copies were sold and used before it was discovered. It is said that the remaining 60 copies were destroyed. It is therefore one of the great rarities. Finally on January 1, 1896, the remaining values were issued, the 50c with an attractive head of Mercury, the 1p with the national arms, the 2p giving a view of the old fort of San José, and the 3p having a view of the Matriz or cathedral of Montevideo. All values of the issue exist imperforate, and the 1, 7 and 10c horizontally, and the 1 and 5c, vertically imperforate. They were as usual printed in sheets of 100.