The Brazilian Empire:
An Introduction to the Study of Internal Postage Franking

By Dr. Klerman Wanderly Lopes

Brazil lacks publications that inform the philatelist interested in our postal history and shed light upon the several decrees and regulations which ruled postal taxes collection during its imperial time. As a follow-up to a previous article about Brazil’s International Postal Agreements, this is the result of a survey I undertook on its Internal Postage Taxes. I looked for topics of relevance within the scarce bibliography available on this matter, hoping that someday other studious people may unite all the knowledge bequeathed by the preceding researchers.

1. Decree of January 20th, 1798, Establishing Maritime Postal Services.

Established Regular Maritime Postal Service between Portugal and Brazil and created Land Mail as part of Postal Services.

The Portuguese Navy Premises in Lisbon were the starting point of two postal ship lines to Brazil, created on March 1st, 1798. They left that port every two months:

a) One line headed for the Northern Ports, carrying letters and goods to-and-fro the Provinces of Pernambuco, Paraíba, Maranhão and Pará;

b) The other line headed for the ports of Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, thence returning to Portugal, making a call at Bahia’s port (Salvador) whenever possible.

Fifteen days was the average stop time for ship repair at the ports of Salinas and Rio de Janeiro.

As this service was considered un-profitable, it was discontinued between the years of 1798 and 1803, and during that time 16 Maritime Postal Brigs circulated between Portugal and Brazil, namely: Vigilante, Príncipe Real (Royal Prince), Faetonte (Phaeton), Alvacora (Tunafish), Voador (Flyer), Postilhão da América (America’s Messenger), Gavião, Netuno (Neptune), São José Espadarte (St. Joseph’s Swordfish), Paquete Real (Royal Sailship), Espadarte Brilhante (Shining Swordfish), Lebre (Hare), Santo Antonio Olinda (St. Anthony of Olinda), Caçador (Hunter), Diligente and Boaventura (Bonaventure).

Sea Postage for Brazil and Portugal:

• up to 4 oitavas[1]  (14,34 grams) – 80 Réis[2]
• up to 6 oitavas (21,52 grams) – 120 Réis
• up to 8 oitavas (28,69 grams) – 160 Réis
• over 8 oitavas – 160 Réis for ounce fraction

Note: One ounce (28,699 grams) was divided into 8 “oitavas” (eights).The Insurance fee was 20 Réis , paid to the postman.

[1] Portuguese primitive measure of weight.
[2] Réis = Portuguese and Brazilian primitive currency

Postage Rates in Minas Gerais State

As of June 30th, 1799:

From Vila Rica (Ouro Preto) to:
• Sabará - 37,5 Réis
• S. João Del Rey - 37,5 Réis
• Villa do Principe - 75 Réis
• Paracatu - 75 Réis

As of July 19th, 1801:

• Letters weighing up to 4 oitavas - 75 Réis
• Over 4 oitavas - 80 Réis

As of April 8th 1805 Regulation:

Letter postage was charged in relation to weight and distance. Letters weighing up to 2 oitavas were charged 20 Réis to be delivered within a perimeter of 10 léguas. The amount went up 5 Réis at each 10 léguas increase in distance. Letters over 4 oitavas were charged 30 Réis for the first 10 léguas. 10 Réis were added to every 2 oitavas in weight and another 10 reis, at each 10 leguas increase in distance.

May 8th 1809 Instruction

Postage rates from Rio de Janeiro to the main Cities of the State of Minas Gerais (letters up to 4 oitavas):

• São João D’El Rey - 80 Réis
• Vila Rica - 100 Réis
• Marianna - 120 Réis
• Tamanduá - 125 Réis
• Sabará - 140 Réis
• Campanha - 140 Réis
• Pitangui - 145 Réis
• Vila do Príncipe - 200 Réis
• Tejuco - 230 Réis
• Paracatu - 280 Réis

Postage fees in the main cities of Minas Gerais:

• From Vila Rica to Marianna - 20 Réis
• From Vila Rica to Tejuco - 30 Réis
• From Vila Rica to Sabará - 40 Réis
• From Vila Rica to S. João D’El Rey - 50 Réis
• From Vila Rica to Vila do Príncipe - 100 Réis
• From Vila do Príncipe to Tejuco - 25 Réis
• From S. João D’El Rey to Tamanduá - 45 Réis
• From S. João D’El Rey to Campanha - 60 Réis
• From S. João D’El Rey to Pitangui - 65 Réis
• From S. João D’El Rey to Paracatu - 200 Réis
• From Tamanduá to Pigangui - 40 Réis
• From Pitangui to Paracatu - 135 Réis

Places that lacked central postal administration, Provincial and Municipal administration controlled independent mail transport lines, sometimes using occasional travelers.

Postage values were handwritten on the envelopes, and a postmark determining their origin, was stamped on them. No matter how many postal administrations (Cities) a letter went through, the previous postage was always scratched out and a new one was written on it. Whenever available, a stamp was also used. Postage was paid by the addressee who might refuse to receive the mail, and thus disengage himself of any debt.

2. “CARTA REGIA” (Royal Decree) OF SEPTEMBER 24, 1817.

Created regular mail services between the Provinces of São Pedro do Sul and São Paulo.

a) Between the Court and São Paulo:

• up to 4 oitavas – 100 Réis
• 50 Réis increase at every 2 oitavas

b) Between São Paulo and Santa Catarina:

• up to 4 oitavas – 150 Réis
• 75 Réis increase at every 2 oitavas

c) Between Santa Catarina and Porto Alegre:

• up to 4 oitavas – 100 Réis
• 50 Réis increase at every 2 oitavas

Note 1: From Rio de Janeiro to Porto Alegre

• up to 4 oitavas – 350 Réis
• 175 Réis increase for every 2 oitavas

Note 2: In order to check speed of mail delivery, it was permitted to put the remittance date at the back of envelopes. Pre-paid postage was made possible for mail delivery through private postal agents.

• Brazil`s independence from Portugal was proclaimed on September 7th, 1822.

•For Postal purposes, Portugal began to consider Brazil as a foreign country as of July 19th, 1828.

3 – DECREE OF MARCH 5TH , 1829

Established rules for Postal Central Administration:

Postage and postal lines were introduced in the whole Brazilian territory.

A) Sea Postage

A tax charged on outgoing mail from the Port of Rio de Janeiro to other port cities within the Empire; it was added to land postage of letters coming from other cities:

• up to 2 oitavas– 20 Réis
• 20 Réis increase at each 2 oitavas.

B) Land Postage

• Mail taxes were calculated in relation to weight and distance from the Court.

• A basic 10 Réis fee was charged on letters weighing up to 2 oitavas for distances up to 15 léguas; the same amount was added to postage fees for every 2 exceeding oitavas and for every exceeding 15 léguas added to the distance covered.

• Two-way postage fees could be either prepaid by the sender, and in this case a stamp marked “Franca” was stamped on the letter, or when received by the addressee. Prepayment was mandatory for letters so-called “Seguras” (registered).

Postage rates for letters up to 2 oitavas, starting off from Rio de Janeiro (Court):

• 1st rate – Santo Antonio de Sá – 10 Réis

• 2nd rate – Friburgo and Cantagallo – 20 Réis

• 3rd rate – S. João D’El Rey, Barbacena, Queluz, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Macahé and Campos – 40 Réis

• 4th rate – São Paulo (North and South of the Province and villages), Ouro Preto, Marianna, Tamanduá and Province of Espírito Santo – 50 Réis

• 5th rate – Sabará, Villa de Campanha and Pitangui – 70 Réis

• 6th rate – Iguape and Villa de São Mateus – 80 Réis

• 7th rate – Villa do Príncipe and Paranaguá – 100 Réis

• 8th rate – Tejuco (Diamantina) – 110 Réis

• 9th rate – Matto Grosso, Goyaz and Paracatu – 120 Réis

4 – DECREE N. 254, OF NOVEMBER 29, 1842

New Postal Regulations  (With supplements of 21st December, 1844)

Introduced the use of postage stamps, prepaid postage fees , and unified mail postage rates throughout the country, regardless of distance (as determined by the Emperor D. Pedro II: “no subject of the Empire shall be punished for living away from Court” ).

Weight Land rates Sea rates
Up to 4 oitavas 60 Réis 120 Réis
Up to 6 oitavas 90 Réis 180 Réis
Up to 8 oitavas 120 Réis 240 Réis

The use of Bull’s Eyes (Olho de Boi) stamps began in Court (Rio de Janeiro) on August 1st 1843, at the cost of 30, 60 and 90 Réis . Their remittance to Post Offices in other cities began on September 1st, 1843.

• To every 2 oitavas increase in letter weight 30 Réis were added to land postage and 60 Réis to sea postage rates.

• Judicial letters were charged half the cost if sent by sea and one-fourth, by land.

• Books and other printed matter cost one-fourth of letter rates.

• The rate of surface mail that used both sea and land transportation was the sum of both.

• All mail sent to the same city, town, or village, was charged half land postage fees.

• Postage was prepaid, and the words “Prepaid Postage” (Porte Pago) or “Franca” were written on mail during the time which preceded the first stamps.

• The Decree did not apply to letters or other kinds of documents transported by British vessels.

• Mail sent by immigrants to relatives in their countries of origin were exempted from postage fees.

• Individual letters shipped from abroad were charged an internal fee of 30 Réis each, which were handed to the Merchant Ship Commander, as a bonus.

• Newspapers paid 10 a Réis postage (10 Réis “slanting numerals” stamps, available as of October 26th , 1846).

• Law 396 of 2 of September of 1846 in its art. 2 determined that the letter that was sent by sea and land paid only the maritime transport

• As a curiosity, mail collecting boxes were placed at the main Post Offices in August 1849 – yellow ones for letters for foreign countries, red ones for land mail (outside the Court only), and green ones for sea mail. Boxes for local mail (Court) were placed next to the treasurer’s room.

On May 18th, 1849 the following changes took place:

Up to 4 oitavas - 30 Réis
Up to 6 oitavas - 50 Réis
Up to 8 oitavas - 70 Réis , and a 20 Réis increase at every 2 oitavas.

• Brazilian newspapers were tax-exempted, whereas books, lotteries, calendars, almanacs and other kinds of lithographs and brochures were charges one-fourth of letter postage rates.

Post Ordinance of May 18th, 1849

It determined prepaid postage exemption for mail to foreign countries – confirmed by the Anglo-Brazilian Convention of January 12, 1853, chapter five.

5 – DECREE 637, 0F SEPTEMBER 27TH, 1849

Created a tax for home mail delivery.

• Besides the usual postage fee for unsealed letters, additional 20 Réis were charged to those addressees who received mail at home. A 20 Reis stamp was issued for this specific end, available as of August 23rd , 1850. At first those stamps were not sold to the public. They were cancelled with two crossed lines before being passed to the mailman in charge of collecting postage fees from the addressees.

• In 1866 this stamp began to be sold for ordinary use.

• As of July 1st, 1854, the use of 10 and 30 Réis Cat’s Eye (Olho de Gato) blue stamps became mandatory in single postage of printed matter and newspapers. The use of this type of stamp on conventional mail, was forbidden until March 1856.

• 280 and 430 Réis stamps were made available beginning on December 15th, 1861.

Note: As a curiosity and at the same time to give an idea on how expensive postage fees were at that time, the average wage of mailmen working at small post offices was a little higher than 430 Réis per month. The purpose of this comment is to draw the reader’s attention to the need of a careful examination of letters with excessive postage values, something rather common in our milieu.

6 – DECREE 3443 OF APRIL 12TH, 1865.

Introduced new Postal Regulations and included postage rate changes.

• Unified postage rates of 80 Réis for 15 grams or fraction was introduced for mail delivery within the Empire, regardless of distance, either by sea or land.

For heavier mail the rates were:

• Up to 30 grams – 160 Réis
• Up to 60 grams – 320 Réis
• Up to 90 grams – 480 Réis

• Letters over 90 grams were charged a supplementary fee of 160 Réis for each additional 30 grams or fraction, besides the regular fee of 480 Réis.

IMPORTANT: Apparently, the above-mentioned postage rates never went into effect. Decree 3675 of June 27, 1866, established a single postage rate of 100 Reis for the biennium 1866-1867. As the D. Pedro “Black Beard” (Barba Preta) stamps series were issued on July 1st, 1866, single postage letters bearing 80 Réis stamps of such series cannot be admitted.

• Letters coming from abroad from non signatory countries to Postal Conventions, were charged a 30 Réis extra tax, besides the regular unified postage rate.

• Letters circulating within the same city (Urban Post) paid a small single postage fee of 50 Réis for 15 grams or fraction.

• Wedding, birth and death lithographed or printed notifications, business cards, circular letters, folders and leaflets as well as other kinds of written communication, paid a 20 Réis postage fee per 10 grams or fraction. As of April 28th, 1880 postage rates went up to 20 Réis per 15 grams or fraction. This type of mail was dispatched open and prepaid.

Registered letters were introduced as a new type of postal service. Besides ordinary postage rates, they were charged an extra 200 Réis fee in stamps. The same service and taxes were extended to printed matter, books and parcel posts in general.

Registered money letters, Treasury or Bank Notes, lottery tickets or any document with value to bearer, paid: postage fees (100 Réis for first rate, and so forth) , registration fees (200 Réis ), plus 2% on the declared value, being 200 Réis for the first declared 10.000 Réis , and additional 100 Réis for each 5.000 Réis or fraction. The registered document value was always expressed on the envelope.

• Newspapers were charged 10 Reis per copy.

• Stamps bearing the Emperor’s effigy were issued ( Black Beard perforated series) as well as envelopes and wrappers with postal stationery.

• 100 Reis “Black Beard” stamps began to be sold to the public on July 1st , 1866.

• The use of “Mute” cancellations was authorized on July 1st , 1866 (Decree 3348) – Important: It had never been used before.

NOTE 1 – Reference was made in a letter sent to Portugal through British Post (1864), to the use of PP (Port Payée) cancellation instead of stamps, meaning the payment of internal postage from the Province of Maranhão to the Province of Pernambuco.

NOTE 2 – As stamps with D. Pedro’s effigy or “Black Beards” run short in Rio de Janeiro in October, 1866, the use of “Goat’s Eyes” remaining from previous printings, was authorized. Most of them came from the Central Post Office already perforated before being put to sale.

7 – DECREE 3903, OF JUNE 26TH , 1867

1st Art. – It set a single postage fee of 100 Réis for letters weighing up to 15 grams, for both land and sea surface mail within the Empire. Local urban mail postage fee was kept in 50 Réis .

2nd Art. – Incoming or outgoing mail to countries not subject to international Postal Conventions, would pay the same postage taxes as those charged by foreign countries on letters coming from Brazil, plus an additional tax whenever the transportation was made by a Brazilian Ship.

• Envelopes (Postal stationery) bearing the Emperor’s effigy in relief, costing 100, 200 and 300 Réis, were put to sale on July 1867.

• The amount due for insufficient mail postage began to be charged in double.

Note: Paraguay’s War – Letters coming from war zone only were exempted of postage, and had special maritime handling. They had the “Franca” cancellation stamped on.

8 – DECREE 7695, OF APRIL 28, 1880.

Created the Post-card.


• Internal – 50 Réis 
• Foreign – 80 Réis



1. NOVA MONTEIRO, F. – Achegas à históriados correios brasileiros. Boletim Filatélico Bandeirantes, 1(2-4), Mar. 42; 2(2-3) Abr. 42.

2. GUATEMOSIN, Dorvelino – Catalogo Brasil. 1933.

3. VIEIRA, Armando M.O. - Subsídios para a história do Correio marítimo português. Núcleo Filatélico do Ateneu Comercial do Porto. 1988.

4. DREYFUSS, Gilbert – Sobre correspondências do Brasil para o exterior com selos brasileiros e indica;áo de taxas. Brasil Filatélico, (156), out./dez. 1978.

5. SAADI, A. Sant”Anna – Histórico sobre os selos “Olho de Gato” ou “Coloridos”. Brasil Filatélico, (186), out./dez. 1978.

6. SANTOS, A.G. & MOENS, J.B. - Des postes et des timbres-postes du Brésil . Le timbre-Poste (51-52). Reprinted in Brasil Filatélico (170-172), between Oct. 74/June 75

7. MAGALHÃES, A. Guedes – Cartas vindas ao Brasil pelos paquetes transatlânticos. Porto: Victor Simarro, 1977.

8. VIEIRA, A. M. O. – Paquetes a vapor para o Brasil. Porto: Núcleo Filatélico do Ateneu Comercial do Porto, 1991.

9. MACHADO, L. G. Gonçalves – Introdução ao estudo da pré-filatelia Brasileira. ArGe Brazilien, 1983.

10. NINITCH, N. – Zoran. A União Postal Universal: sua fundação e desenvolvimento. Brasil Filatélico, (96), set. 1952.

11. PAULA SOBRINHO, J. F. de Paula – História postal de Minas Gerais. Belo Horizonte: O Lutador, 1997

12. GUIA Postal do Império do Brasil: publicação oficial. Tiphographia Nacional, 1880.

13. BRASIL 1844-1846: Compêndio dos inclinados. Belo Horizonte: Walter G. Taveira, 1999

Copyright © 1999 Klerman Wanderly Lopes