Notes from the Past

Paquebot

Paquebot is a French term meaning "packet boat" (mail boat).

In the 1890s the Universal Postal Union approved a system, which had been proposed by Great Britain in 1891, whereby mail originating aboard ships on the high seas franked with stamps of the ship's country of registration, at the rate prevailing in that country, could be deposited in the mails at the port of call.  No postage due would be assessed, providing the word "paquebot" was applied to the mail.

Some shipping lines applied a cachet in the form of the purser's handstamp, usually giving the ship's name, date, and the words "Posted on the High Seas," "Posted on Board," or similar.  Sometimes the ship's tonnage and other statistics were also included.  An enormous variety of paquebot markings exist.

As air travel became common after World War II, passenger shipping on scheduled services declined, and with it, the use of paquebot service.  Much modern paquebot mail is philatelic in nature. 


- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume Two G-P
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted October 5, 2000

Editor's Note:  Paquebot covers are often offered on eBay.  Do a search in the Stamps category for paquebot to see a number of them.

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