Orange Free State

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Orange Free State Oranje Vrystaat
Missing image
Flag of the Orange Free State

Location of the Orange Free State in present South Africa
Capital Bloemfontein
Created 1854
Dissolved 1900
Language Afrikaans

The Orange Free State (Afrikaans: Oranje Vrystaat) was an independent country in southern Africa during the second half of the 19th century. It is the historical precursor to the present-day Free State Province of the Republic of South Africa. Extending between the Orange and Vaal rivers, it was established as a free state by Boer settlers, after their departure from the British-dominated Cape Province (the Voortrek), and was annexed by the United Kingdom in 1848. The British recognised the independence of the Orange Free State on 17th February, 1854 and the county officially became independent on 23rd February, 1854, with the signing of the Contract of Bloemfontein. The Transvaal Republic, a sister Boer state, was granted independence around the same time.

Although the Orange Free State developed into a politically and economically successful republic, it experienced chronic conflict with the British (see the Boer Wars) until it was finally annexed as the Orange River Colony in 1900. It joined the Union of South Africa in 1910. The republic's name derives partly from the Orange River (just as the Transvaal Republic was named after the Vaal River), but both names were bestowed by the Dutch Protestant settlers in honor of the Dutch ruling family, the House of Orange.


The national flag of the Orange Free State was adopted in 1856. The OFS national flag contained alternating horizontal orange and white stripes (3 orange and 4 white with the white stripes on the outside) with a version of the Dutch flag (used initially at Graaff Reinett and Swellendam in 1795) featured in the canton. The former national flag of South Africa (from 1927 - 1994) had, as a feature contained within its central white bar, a vertically hanging flag of the Orange Free State.

Postage stamps

The republic began to issue postage stamps in 1868, and continued until 1897. The sole design used was an orange tree, with the inscription "Oranje Vrij Staat" in the margin. The stamps were typographed by De La Rue and Company, and came in denominations from one penny to five shillings, in various colors. Periodic shortages forced the use of overprints, in 1877, 1881, 1882, 1888, 1890, 1892, 1896, and 1897. The stamps of the republic are generally common today, but some of the overprints are scarce and are in the US$200 range. Many kinds of overprint errors are known (inverted, double, etc), and some of them command high prices.

See also

de:Oranje-Freistaat it:Libero Stato d'Orange nl:Oranje Vrijstaat fr:État libre d'Orange sv:Oranjefristaten


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