History of the French Postal Service

On September 11, 1848, Jacques Jean Barre, was put in charge of engraving the famous 20c black Cérès stamp, that became available in post offices on January 1st, 1849. The face value corresponded to the postage of the current sending rate, said to be between 0 and 7.5 grams, as clarified by the decree of August 24, 1848. This stamp was used until July1st, 1850, the date of the first rate change.


The first stamps were printed in the hotel of the Currency supervised by Anatole Hulot. Printing in black was a technical choice: it was in the time the only color which a person could apply with night and day regularity, because workshops worked twenty four hours a day and were lit by lanterns. The typographic black was a mixture of soot and iron blue crushed in a linen varnish. The kilo was worth 12 francs at that time. Afterward, the black color was abandoned, because it became confused with the obliterations and some stamps were reused. A law was passed punishing offenders a fine from 5 to 1000 f and five days of prison. The paper came from the Chavin, Echarcon and Lacroix's paper mills. The factory was in Angoulême.

Then came the creation of a bigger sized stamp, and increase of value to 5F, in the type Napoleon III. Engraved by Anatole Hulot, who was a printer, but a not engraver and who contented with resuming the drawing realized by Albert Barre for the bills of exchange. In 8 years, a million stamps were used from November, 1869 till June first, 1877. Three passages in press were necessary: the one for the colorless varnish (bottom of security), the other one for the bottom, the third for the face value.


The network in Paris was commenced in 1866 by the construction of an experimental underground line between the telegraph offices at Grand Hotel and place de la Bourse. This was extended in 1867 into a one-way hexagon from place de la Bourse through the telegraph offices rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, rue de Rivoli, rue des Saints-Peres, the Central Telegraph Office (rue de Grenelle), rue Boissy d'Anglas, and back to Grand Hotel. During the following decade single line polygonal systems were linked to this hexagonal system and a double tube (two-way) was laid between Central and Bourse, but the network remained always within the limits of the pre-1791 octroi of Paris, roughly corresponding to the inner arrondissements.

In 1879, with the opening of the service to the public, there was a new motive for expansion and, in 1881 plans were approved to extend the network of tubes across the whole of Paris. The sale of stamps increased, and reassured senders in the postal service.

For more information about this mail network in Paris visit this link.


On December 10, 1848, Louis Napoléon Bonaparte is elected a president. The plebiscite of December 21, 1851, proclaims Napoleon III preside during a duration of ten years. On January 3, 1852, a law prescribes the replacement of the effigy of the goddess by that of the president. The work is executed by J.-J. Bar which had already engraved the Cérès stamps. In fact, J.-J Barre uses a model in designing this stamp and modifies him slightly. The effigy of the president substitutes itself for that of the goddess. Furthermore, he adds his initial to the base of the neck. This allows us today to distinguish easily these stamps of those of the later broadcasts(emissions,issues). It is to note that Napoleon III is one of the rare personalities to have been timbrifiée in his lifetime.


Ceres is the Greek name of Demeter, the Roman goddess of agriculture. She looked after the fields and crops. Ceres is part of an ancient myth that helps explain the cycles of seasonal change.

Hades -- or Pluto -- the god of the underworld, kidnapped Persephone, Ceres' daughter, and took her to live with him. A single mother, Ceres felt abandoned by her daughter's absence.

Persephone ate seven pomegranate seeds, an action that could have sealed her fate to live in the underworld forever. But Ceres, being a shrewd mother, was able to negotiate with Hades for her daughter's custody. Persephone would spend half of the year with Hades in the underworld and half of the year living with her mother.

During the time Persephone was in the underworld, Ceres was so grief-stricken that she refused to allow anything on Earth to be beautiful or fruitful, and these were the winter months. When Ceres had her daughter to look after, she was happy and the earth brought forth crops, giving food, so we have summer and the autumn harvest.

Go here for more informaiton on Ceres.