Today in Postal History

Mauritius to France
July 21, 1879

This cover was sent from Port Louis on the northwest side of the island.
The cover was postmarked with a duplex Mauritius dater and B53 killer.
Port Louis was assigned the B53 bars and numeral obliterator.
Other post offices were big enough to have their own numeral (four)
or had small numeral cancels assigned sequentially based on
the sequence in which they were encountered along the railroad.

The cover is franked with an 1878 17c surcharge of a 4d rose Victoria (SG 87).
A complete series of surcharges were made to reflect a currency change.

The sender (blue double oval with Elias, Mallac & Cie. | Maurice),
requested service via Suez & Naples.

Regular mail service to Europe via Aden was provided between 1862 and
1864 by a French service operated between Mauritius/Reunion
and Aden, where it connected with the Indochina service.

From 1864, the Mauritius/Reunion service operated
by the French national mail line,
Messageries Impériales, went through Aden on to
Marseilles but not to Naples.
The letter was received aboard the French Packet (PAQ. FR. = Paquebot Francais)*
Ligne T No. 2 on the day it was posted in Port Louis, July 21.
  The POSS. AN. (sometimes POSS. ANG.) inside the octagonal red cancel for the Packet is
Possession Anglais indicating the letter was picked up from a British possession.
The Poss. An. | Paq Fr T No 2 is Salles #2151.
Its use is recorded between 1876 - 1887.
It is illustrated on page 58 vol VI.
 It is uncommon but not scarce.*

The postmark noting the source of a piece of mail  provided better ability to check rates at the destination.*
This packet carried the cover to Suez or possibly Aden
where it was transferred to a ship from the Indo China service.

This was still the time when mail crossed the Suez via railroad although the canal was open.
After rail transit of Suez the mail would have been put back
aboard a ship from the Indo China service that stopped at Naples.
Following the sender's instructions, the cover would
have gone ashore in Naples and put aboard the railroad.

On August 15 the cover arrived at the Italian-French exchange city
of Modane where it received a mark including INDO-CHINE.*
The Indo-Chine | Paq Fr Modane is Salles #1897.
Its use is recorded between 1879 - 1881.
It is illustrated on page 20 vol VI.
It is uncommon but not scarce*
This was a proper indication since the cover arrived in Modane with other mail from Indo China as well.

The opening of the  Mont Cenis railroad tunnel (Frejus Tunnel) 1871
  probably moved the mail transfer point to Mondane from Mont Cenis.
More information, anyone?

The destination was Bordeaux on the Bay of Biscay in southwestern France.
Unfortunately, we have no receiving marks indicating the arrival in France.
There is some docketting to the right that suggests
the message was at the destination by August 22.
I can't determine whether the August 22 dealt with its arrival or answer.

*Thanks to David Benson for identifying the cancel as Modane
which led me to a different understanding of this mark.
Thanks, too, to Jim Whitford-Stark and David Benson who provided the translations of the Ligne T marking.
*A special thanks, too, to Paul Barsdell who straightened out the story
of the handling of the mail between the French paquebot routes and explained
the apparent inconsistency of the INDO CHINE marking in Modane.
*Suggestions that the POSS. AN.  was most likely a defective postmark led me to querry Steve Taylor.
Steve provided the detailed information from Salles regarding the specific markings on this cover.
Both are regarded as uncommon but not scarce.
Both are listed in Salles.


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