A 1962 stamp marking the centenary of the School of Horology (for budding watch- and clock-makers) at Besançon in Eastern France, near the Swiss border. It is now part of the École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et des Microtechniques, one of the most important French higher education institutions specialising in engineering.
Maurice Bourdet (1902-1944) on a 1962 stamp. He was a journalist who refused to work with the authorities after the fall of France in 1940. Instead his home at Versailles became a base for a Resistance group and he recorded broadcasts for the Resistance. He was eventually arrested, and sent to a concentration camp in Germany where he died.
The second stamp from the 1941 winter relief fund set shows a female figure, representing charity, helping a destitute man. Note how the figure of charity has something close to the shape of a partial saint's halo behind her head - the design builds on Roman Catholic iconography.
Jean de Vienne (1341-1396) on a 1942 semi-postal issued in aid of a seamen's fund. He was a soldier and admiral, who in 1373 put the French navy on a more systematic footing for fighting the English (this was during the Hundred Years' War) and established a system of coastguards and coastal watches for English incursions. He led several raids on the English south coast. In the early 1380s he fought in the French army against the Flemish, including in a 1382 victory over the Flemish at Roosebeke. In 1390, during a lull in the Hundred Years' War, he took part in a joint French and Genoese crusade - known as the Barbary crusade - against pirates based in Tunisia. He died in 1396 fighting the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Nicopolis, a Bulgarian town on the Danube, in which a multinational Christian force was routed, with Bulgaria subsequently falling to the Ottomans.
A 1942 semi-postal, in aid of the National Relief Fund, celebrating the French colonies. It is laden with propaganda: the celebration of the colonies was more a hope than a reality as many of them were siding with the Allies and not recognising the Pétain regime. The design itself is full of racist undertones - a semi-naked non-white woman in the foreground with her naked bairn, and a native boat is behind her, while in the background the benefits of civilisation are brought by large ships, a crane is either unloading European goods or loading goods which are the product of native labour, and an aircraft looms in what in a wartime context can be interpreted as a symbol of military power.
Claude Chappe (1763-1805) on a 1944 French stamp. He was an inventor who, with four brothers, developed a series of semaphore relay stations for the transmission of messages. The first line of stations ran from Paris to Lille and started operation in 1792. Other lines followed, Napoleon used the system for military communications, and the system came to be fairly widely used across Europe. In 1805, Chappe killed himself amid accusations that he had pinched ideas without acknowledgement from the army.
In the mid-19th century, the semaphore system gave way to telegraph wires.
Gaston Planté (1834-1899) on a 1957 stamp. He was a physicist who ended his career as Professor of Physics at the Polytechnic Association for the Development of Popular Instruction. In 1855 he discovered fossil remains of a large flightless bird from the Eocene, Gastornis parisiensis. But his real claim to fame is the invention of the lead-acid battery, the oldest rechargeable battery.
Issued for Stamp Day 1953, this stamp shows the Count d'Argenson (1696-1764), a statesman who was for some years superintendent of posts. He was also secretary of state for war. He lost royal favour in 1757 and was dismissed from his posts, spending almost all the rest of his life exiled to his estates. He was a friend of the great 18th-century French philosophers and writers Voltaire and Diderot.
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