Notes from the Past

First Stamps Occasioned by World War I

It was only few days after the start of World War I that France authorized issuance of a special stamp related to the conflict.  A decree by President Poincaré on August 11, 1914, called for a special postage stamp to be called 'Stamp of the French Red Cross.'

The first stamp was a brick red 10c 'Sower' type overprinted with a red cross and ' 5c' in various shades of red.  The stamp was sold for 15c and could be used for anything requiring up to 10c for franking.  The surcharge (less 1% legal deduction) was paid to a war-time committee created under the Military Health Department working with the various Red Cross societies.

Electrotypes were made of the surcharge and applied in sheets of 150.  The printing began as early as August 8.  The stamps were distributed to post offices on August 17 along with a circular letter requiring separate accounting for the surcharge amounts and a poster for exhibition to promote sales.  The stamp went on sale the next day.

Sales were disappointing and a new circular on September 9 urged that the poster be exhibited prominently.  Sales tripled in September.

The stamp remained in use until 1917.  France issued a number of other semi-postals during and following the war.

Posted November 4, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.

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