The Postal History of Rio de Janeiro through its agencies and postmarks

The purpose of this section is to provide those who are accessing this site from abroad a brief description of Brazilian Post Office organization

A foreword about Brazil

Brazilian Federation is presently organized in 26 States plus the Federal District. Each state has its own capital and political /geographic subdivisions called “municipios” (counties or boroughs). Rio de Janeiro is one of these states and its capital is also named Rio de Janeiro (commonly known as “Rio”). The state has 92 municipios.

The Rio municipio has a long history. During the Brazilian Empire (1822-1889) Rio was the capital of Brazil, then named Municipio Neutro (something like Neutral District ). In the Republican era (1889-1961) it was renamed Distrito Federal, what can be seen in many cancel captions – as well as its initials DF. After the capital being transferred to Brasilia in 1961, the Distrito Federal was turned into a new state, the Estado da Guanabara, keeping the same boundaries. It didn’t last very long, though. In 1974 it was merged with the former State of Rio de Janeiro, and Rio was appointed the capital of the merged states, succeeding the old state capital Niteroi (Nictheroy). During Guanabara time cancel legends mentioned DR-GB (Regional Directory – Guabanara).

An historic city founded in 1565, Rio was the place where the first Brazilian stamps circulated. It is known that Brazil was the second country in the world to use prepaid postal stamps, just after UK, being the first “Olho-de-Boi” (Bull’s Eye) stamps issued in 1843. It was also the state where the first railroads were built and the first to deploy a railway postal service.


The purpose of this site is to tell the postal history of the state of Rio de Janeiro and organizing the information contained in postal objects such as its cancels and postmarks.

The first step was to map postal agencies in activity at some point in postal history, searching their original names, geographic location, the period in which they worked and its geographic and historic environment.

Given the extent of the work, it became imperative to establish a scope with clear limits. Thus, I chose to focus on the philatelic period, that is from 1843, mainly on the cancels that clearly defined the place and date of posting. From the geographic point of view the research area is the state of Rio de Janeiro [1].

The cancels with these characteristics carry the information that make possible its organization and tabulation as in a collection.

The specialized study and collection of postmarks, cancellation and postal markings, known as marcophily or marcophilately was also contemplated in an additional chapter.

Note [1]: I later expanded part of the scope of this work to the nieghbor state of Espirito Santo. 


This work with the “agencias postais” – and respective cancels – consist in three main sections as you may see in the structure of the main menu at the top of the site:

CORREIO CENTRAL (Rio Central Office) was located in the 1º de Março street, downtown Rio, being the headquarters of both the national (while Rio was the Brazilian Capital) and the regional Post Offices. Being the oldest postal organization in the country, it centralized most of the postal traffic, including the railway services and later the international airway operations. It is subdivided as follows:

  • Agencia central- Central agency:
    • Pre-philately;
    • Correio Geral da Corte: it covers the period (1843-1865) just after the adoption of the postal stamps with such cancel caption;
    • Agencia 1º de março: following the 1865 new regulation, the main caption started using “Rio de Janeiro”. They were used until 1881.
    • Urban postal services
    • Suburban postal services
  • As “Secções” – The Sections: according to the new regulations, the central office was reestructured in sections, each assigned specific attributions.
  • Railway postal service
  • Airway postal service

MUNICIPIO DO RIO, as described in the Foreword, and organized by its neighborhoods (“Bairros”).

ESTADO DO RIO, organized by its 92 Municipios.



INDICE GERAL: a general index built in excel spreadsheet, organized alphabetically by the cancel top caption. It indicates the menu where that specific cancel is classified. Very useful as this work is organized by political division, not by names. Note that you can also use the search engine tool provided by the editorial system, the “Pesquisa (search)” button at the top.

HISTÓRIA DOS CORREIOS: history of the postal services in Brazil containing the major federal laws and regulatons.

HISTÓRIA POSTAL: the purpose is to assemble monographs on postal history whose subject is not directly linked to an specific agency.


I believe it will be important also to describe in detail the submenus in Correio Central:

Agencia Centralthe first Brazilian and Rio postal agency, still in operation, cover the Empire and all centralized services

Correio Ferroviário: here I made a distinction between fixed and mobile agencies

Agências Ferroviárias:  the post offices located inside a railway station. They operated like a regular agencia, similar to the ones in metropolitan areas. Here I present the railway line, its location and also the cancel images they used.  Next subdivision is “Tabela Agencias”, an excel spreadsheet summarizing all agencias in the state of Rio, organized by Railway line;

Correio Ambulante: text from Wikipedia: In US, a railway post office (RPO), was a railroad car that was normally operated in passenger service as a means to sort mail en route, in order to speed delivery. In the UK, the equivalent term was Travelling Post Office (TPO). It operated similarly in Brazil, having their own organization, independent from the regular agencies. The following “Tabela Ambulante” is an spreadsheet summarizing all types of cancels used in any Railway line.

Correio Aéreo (Airmail Services): here I briefly present the story of the first airway companies that operate in Brasil. First postal cancels are known by mid-twenties. The first I have is from 1925. It is known the first airmail cancel in the world to be issued in Italy in 1918.

Hope this helped your perusing the site.I apologize for eventual mistakes in the text, because English is not my native language.

Images from Paulo Novaes’ collection; contact: prnovaes@gmail.com

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