The development of Heligoland’s postal service is closely linked to the island’s history. Due to its favourable strategic location, the island has been of major importance during European conflicts over the past centuries and has come under foreign rule by various powers.
Although Heligoland was under British rule in the late 18th century, a lot of the administration was handled by Germany. Even the postal links to the United Kingdom were organised by an agent in Hamburg. The mail went once a week by a Hamburg-registered steamer.
In April 1867, the first Heligoland postage stamp was issued under the aegis of the UK’s GPO – the General Post Office. The painter Heinrich Gätke was commissioned to design the stamp. This first stamp bore a portrait of Queen Victoria in profile. However, the price of the stamp was given in German Hamburg shillings. At the time, Heligoland was a popular seaside resort, and the Heligoland stamp in the island colours of green, red and white was used on countless holiday letters.
From the 19th century, a very special cargo became a prime export article, dispatched from Heligoland by parcel post: the lobster package. Live lobsters were sent straight from the island to the kitchens of the best German restaurants as a culinary delight. A lead seal with the inscription Genuine Heligoland Lobster was a guarantee of top quality.
All depictions: © Nordseemuseum Museum Helgoland