Chronological markers : stamps of the French colonies

 This article deals with stamps used in the French colonies before 1880.

1 – Ceres stamps of the 1st issue (1851)

2 – Napoleon stamps (Cochinchina) and Eagle type (1859-69)

3 - Imperforate stamps of 1871

4 - Reference

1 – Ceres stamps of the 1st issue (1851)

The French postal administration announced the sending of stamps for the French colonies on June 13, 1851.

French colonies in 1850.

The West Indies (Martinique and Guadeloupe), Guyana, India and Reunion received Cérès stamps of the 1st issue to frank mail. 

Oct. 28, 1852, Fort-de-France (Martinique) to Nantes via England & entered France via Calais. Stamps canceled in Paris (endless grid), 1,50 francs rate of August 1849, via England for letter up to 7.5g.

Today, letters with these stamps are rare and of great value.

Only the 10c, 25c and 1f stamps were send to the colonies (see table below).

Number of stamps send per colony.

It is important to note that it isn’t possible to distinguish the stamps used from the colonies if they aren't on letters since these were canceled by the main post office in Paris. These cancellations were therefore the same as those of the stamps used from mainland France to abroad.

Guadeloupe: 1st known letter with Cérès stamps => November 2, 1851

2 – Napoleon stamps (Cochinchina) and Eagle type (1859-69)

French Cochinchina

End of the 1850s, Cochinchina, under French domination, received French stamps of the 1853 type (Empire not laureate and imperforate) to frank the mail.

Napoleon Stamp used in Cochinchina.

In June 1859, a stamp specially created for all the French colonies was issued. 

This is the Eagle (« Aigle ») type that is called "general emissions". These stamps will be printed until 1865 and send to colonies until December 1869.

August 27, 1859, Saint-Pierre (Martinique) to Paris via England (Southampton) via Calais.
50 centimes, rate of Jan. 1, 1857, via England for letter up to 7.5g in closed bag.

Unlike the 1st Cérès issue which were canceled in France, the stamps used from 1856 are canceled with identifiable diamonds either by their dots and their shape or by letters. See some examples below:

Lozenge of Pondicherry

Lozenge of Gorée (GOR) - Sénégal

3- Imperforate stamps of 1871

The Eagle type stamp was withdrawn from sales on September 4, 1871 because it was too reminiscent of the emblem of the regime which has just been abolished. Indeed, Napoleon III is deposed and the 3rd Republic is proclaimed.

From this period, the much more easily identifiable CDS will replace
the lozenge to cancel the stamps.

Paradoxically, the stamps with the effigy of Napoleon III replaced the type eagle. The stamps with republican effigy (Cérès) were also used.

These stamps weren't perforated like those of the metropolis. The reason given is that they had to be distinguished from metropolitan stamps. The most likely reasons are certainly to save money by eliminating the perforation step and perhaps also to avoid weakening them with perforations knowing that they could be stored and then detached in conditions of high humidity.

List of 12 French colonies and distribution of stamps by face value.

In 1876, the stamps of the colonies were replaced, as in metropolitan France, by those of the Sage type.

Type Sage of French colonies.

End of the 1870s until the end of the 80s, shortages of stamps in certain colonies led to the use of Ceres type stamps which remained in stock, they were overprinted.

Ceres overprinted of Guadeloupe

Réunion overprints

4 - Reference

In my opinion the most complete reference on the stamps of the French colonies (stamps & cancellations):

Les émissions générales des colonies, catalogue documentaire (1944) by Doctor Edmond Locard.