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Mail dispatch signal flags in Cabo Verde, 1889-1891

Last modified: 2017-11-25 by antónio martins
Keywords: mail flag |
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Presentation

This system was created in 1889 and lasted for two years. Signal flags were used ashore in post offices to indicate the origin and destination of the next mail ship. When a post office was engaged in dispatching, one or several of these flags would be hoisted (the one at the top being the first to be closed and shipped), half masted when the bag was about to be closed.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

These mailbag flags are all very simple in design, as befits signal flags, with some being plain colored and the rest divided into two areas by a vertical division offset from the hoist slightly less than the half of the flag’s width. In the source chart (apparently a secondary source, dated “posthumusly” of 1891, not an original legal instrument), the ratio of these flags, regardless of shape, is ~5:8.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

There are two types of flag in this set:

  • Nine rectangular flags standing for remote/foreign parts, and eight triangular flags standing for Cabo Verde islands (yes, two islands missing). The general pattern seems to be of plain flags for the Barlavento islands and vertically split flags with white fly for the Sotavento islands (with plain white Brava being an exception).
  • The remote/foreign parts, mostly countries (although more likely meant to represent one or selected few harbours in each of them) are symbolized by rectangular flags ~2:3, plain or vertically bicolored. Some of these flags present, in this limited pattern, a simplification of the correspondent contemporary national flag.
  • Santo Antão: plain blue triangular flag
  • São Vicente (and Santa Luzia): no flag
  • São Nicolau: plain red triangular flag
  • Sal: plain green triangular flag
  • Boavista: plain yellow triangular flag
  • Maio: green and white triangular vertical bicolor
  • Praia: red and white triangular vertical bicolor
  • Fogo: blue and white triangular vertical bicolor
  • Brava: plain white triangular flag
For most of these (maybe for all) in practice only a single destination port was meant, not any of several locations on the same local island or remote country (or other named territory).
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

Therefore, yes, there are island flags in Cabo Verde, sort of. Or there were, in the late 19th century: Not as tokens of local government of any sort, but rather signal flags. Curiously, the flag respresenting any given island could therefore be hoisted at anywhere else in Cabo Verde except on the represented island itself…
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

(This kind of signal flags representing origin, destination, and/or registration ports, prosaic and ad hoc as they are, formed the basis for several subnational (any national?) flags worldwide — notably that of Galicia, from the Corunna maritime province ensign.)
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Having lasted only two years in legal validity (and maybe even less in practice), this system seems to have left no marks in local emblematics.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Santo Antão

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Santo Antão island: Plain blue triangular flag.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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São Vicente (and Santa Luzia)

The two missing islands are the (then) sparsely inhabited Santa Luzia and São Vicente. (I have no idea how their mail was routed — perhaps via São Nicolau or Santo Antão.)
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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São Nicolau

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from São Nicolau island: Plain red triangular flag.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Sal

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Sal island: Plain green triangular flag.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Boavista

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Boavista island: Plain yellow triangular flag.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Maio

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Maio island: Green and white triangular vertical bicolor.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Praia

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Praia (sic): Red and white triangular vertical bicolor. Here Praia, the capital of the colony, is refered to instead of the Island of Santiago, unlike for the other flags, even though for most of them (or even for all) in practice only a single destination port was meant, not any of several locations on the same island.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Fogo

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Fogo island: Blue and white triangular vertical bicolor.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Brava

[flag]
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Brava island: Plain white triangular flag. This is an exception to the general pattern of plain flags for the Barlavento islands and vertically split flags with white fly for the Sotavento islands.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017

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Portugal

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Portugal (sic — meaning the mainland): A blue and white unequal bicolor, certainly meant as a simplification of the contemporary national flag, whose background is this very pattern.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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Brazil

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Brazil: A plain green flag, likely meant as a drastic simplification of the contemporary national flags (both Imperial, up to Nov. 1889, and Republican, afterwards), which do feature a plain green background.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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Spain

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Spain: A red and yellow unequal bicolor, possibly meant as a reminder of the contemporary national flag, which was red and yellow, or perhaps the civil ensign, in the same colors but with predominant yellow.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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France

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from France: A blue and red unequal bicolor, possibly meant as a reminder of the contemporary national flag, or perhaps a nod to its historical origin, the Paris bicolor flag.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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Italy

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Italy: A green and white unequal bicolor, possibly meant as a reminder of the contemporary national flag.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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England

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from England (sic): A plain red flag, possibly meant as a reminder of the British red ensign, probably also based on the habitual use of red to symbolize the United Kingdom (or, in maps, of pink).
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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South Africa

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from South Africa (sic): A plain blue flag, probably meant to represent Cape Town (the country named Union of South Africa would be created only in 1910, after these flags were adopted), possibly meant as a reminder of the Cape Colony blue ensign.
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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River Plate

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from River Plate: A plain white flag, probably meant to represent Montevideo and Buenos Aires, its color perhaps inspired not in any national or other flags but as a heraldic pun, with plain white meaning silver = prata (akin to Spanish plata, thence English plate).
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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Madeira

[flag]
António Martins, 07 Jul 2017

Signal flag legislated to be hoisted on Cabo Verde post offices in 1889-1891 to indicate outgoing and arriving mail ships to/from Madeira: A red and white unequal bicolor, this flag needed to differentiate ships sailing to/from Funchal from those bound directly to the Portuguese mainland; I have no idea why this color pattern was chosen — maybe just as a matter of using up available combinations (which can also be said of other flags of this set).
António Martins, 06 Jul 2017 and 07 Jul 2017

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