Erik Nitsche: France Postal Relics
Artist: Erik Nitsche
In 1859, American balloonist John Wise ushered in a new era in postal history when he made the world's first air mail flight in a balloon. However, France was the first nation to organize an official balloon post to carry the mail during the Siege of Paris in 1870-1871. Several different types of balloons were used to carry the mail -- some manned and some unmanned and timed to descend after a set period in the air. More than sixty of these history-making flights carried mail out of Paris and over the Prussian lines. Not surprisingly, some of the ascents were hazardous ... and a few were even fatal. But the delivery of the mail during a time of war was of utmost importance, and thousands of letters were transmitted on this early air mail service. Another form of "air mail" also played an important part in France's postal history during this time. Flocks of homing pigeons were sent aloft in small cages by balloons ... and then flew back over enemy lines with secret messages attached to their legs to return to their lofts in Paris. This artwork depicts some classic elements from France's rich postal history. An antique French mail box of the 1890s is pictured along with a postal delivery truck from 1904 and a present day mail truck. France's modern PTT postal insignia is also depicted.
This artwork was originally published on the Fleetwood® First Day of Issue Proof Card for the U.S. 22¢ Stamp Collecting stamp issued January 23, 1986.
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