Indochina, General Colonial Issues; French colonial ambitions already started in the 16th Century and she established colonies in the United States, the Caribbean and India but lost most of these conquests after the Seven Years War, a global war that was fought between 1756 and 1763. The country returned to colonial aspirations in the middle of the 19th Century after other European nations, namely Germany, had done the same to enhance their empire, but this time the country focused primarily on Africa and Indochina. Colonialism was driven primarily in the search of raw materials but also by the hope to acquire more manpower for potential future wars. It was based on the racist world view that the French were a superior race and that it was upon her to “civilize” what they considered inferior races.

The first incursions into what is now known as Indochina were in the middle of the 18th Century when the country sent an expeditionary force into present day China in order to punish the country for the murder of a French missionary and the arrest of a French ship crew. This eventually led to the fact that China had to grant the United States and several European nations open ports in a number of Chinese cities but also allow the future importation of opium. This eventually led to the so called Opium Wars where a French-British expeditionary force defeated the Chinese. China was now forced to open the country even further and grant legal privileges to the foreign occupiers. The future incursion into Indochina was driven by Napoleon III. French missionaries had been operational there since the middle of 17th Century and their presence often caused friction with local authorities. With the local Government trying to expel the missionaries another expeditionary force of 6,000 men was sent to Indochina in order to protect the missionaries and stop persecution of Catholics. In February if 1859 the force was able to capture Da-Nang and in February of 1859 Saigon. As a penalty the Vietnamese Emperor had to cede three provinces to France and promise to protect the Catholics. When this promise was not fully delivered, the French, that had been fighting in China in the meantime, returned to Indochina which ultimately forced the emperor to open up treaty ports in Annan, Tonkin and Cochincine. In 1864 the entire territory became French territory. Working together with the Thai emperor France finally succeeded in obtaining Cambodia as a protectorate in 1867.

Here is a historical map of Indochina

The expeditionary focus were enjoying free frank privileges so most of these covers do not carry any stamps, except if they were sent by an officer, who, due to their higher renumeration, had to pay for their mail. Stamps for the colonies were only introduced between 1859 and 1865 and the so called “Eagle” set released in nominals of 1C, 5C, 10C, 20C, 40C and 80C were released. From 1871 through 1872 the Napeoleon III series was introduced in nominals of 1C, 5C, 30C and 80C were introduced. The Ceres set with nominals of 10C, 15C, 20C, 25C, 30C and 40C followed in 1871 through 1877. The Pax & Mercur series was issued between 1877-1880 and saw nominals of 1C, 2C, 4C, 5C, 10C, 15C, 20C, 25C, 30C, 35C, 40C, 75C and 1 FF. The Alphee Dubois series was issued between 1881-1886 and saw nominals of 1C, 2C, 4C, 5C, 10C, 15C, 20C, 25C, 30C, 35C, 40C, 75C and 1FF. The use of these stamps in Indochina can only be documented by a legible cancel or on complete postal history.

Below is a mixed franking featuring the 20C Eagle and the 5C Napoleon II stamp paying an overall postage of 25C on a very rare letter sent from Saigon to the Island of Guadeloupe (also a French colony). This is very unusual and rare destination. Cancelled with the diamond shaped cancel “CCH” (Desrousseaux Type 3) along with a Correspondances d’ Armees side cancel (Desrousseauc Type “a”) from Saigon. Red boxed “PP” cachet on front. Marseille and Paqebot “Etranger” naval transit cancels. Bas de Terre Gudaele arrival cancel on the reverse. The letter took about 2 months to get to the destination.

Single 20C Eagle stamp cancelled with the diamond shaped CCH (Desrousseaux Type 3) cancel.

Single 40C Eagle stamp cancelled with the diamond shaped CCH (Desrousseaux Type 3) cancel.

Single 80C Eagle stamp cancelled with the diamond shaped CCH (Desrousseaux Type 3) cancel.

Single 5C Napoleon III stamp canceled with the diamond shaped CCH (Desrousseaux Type 3) cancel.

Single 1C Ceres stamp cancelled with the circular Saigon, Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Single of the 5C Ceres stamp cancelled with the circular Cochinchine, Saigon cancel (Desrousseaux Type A). Partial imprint of the red boxed “PP” cachet.

Pair of the 5C Ceres stamp from cancelled with the circular Saigon, Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Strip of three 5C Ceres stamps canceled with the diamond shaped CCH (Desrousseaux Type 3) cancel.

Single 10C Ceres stamp cancelled with the circular Cochinchine-Saigon cancel (Desrousseaux A).

Single 40C Ceres stamp cancelled with the circular Saigon, Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Single 80C Ceres stamp cancelled with the diamond shaped CCH cancel (Desrousseaux Type 3).

Single 1C Pax and Mercur stamp cancelled with the circular Saigon, Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Single 2C Pax and Mercur stamp cancelled with the circular Tonkin cancel (Desrousseaux Type A).

Single green 4C Pax and Mercur stamps cancelled with the circular Saigon, Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Single brown 4C Pax and Mercur stamps cancelled with the circular Cochinchine-Hai-Phong cancel (Desrousseaux Type A).

Single 25C Pax and Mercur stamp cancelled with the circular Cochinchine-Hai-Phong cancel (Desrousseaux Type A).

Single 1F Pax and Mercur stamp cancelled with the circular Cochichine-Saigon cancel (Desrousseaux A).

Single 15C Alphee Dubois stamp cancelled with the circular Saigon-Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Single 25C Alphee Dubois stamp cancelled with the circular Saigon-Cochinchine cancel (Desrousseaux B2).

Two rare used postal stationaries of the 1C Pax & Mercur series from 1877 that was used in Yen-Ba and Saigon respectively to ship a newspaper in June of 1891 and July of 1890. The piece from Yen-Ba also shows an arrival cancel on the reverse.

Postal stationary of the 5C Alphee Dubois series used on a small domestic letter sent within Saigon in December of 1892.

Postal stationary of the 5C Alphee Dubois series for cancelled with the Saigon Central Post Office.

Mixed franking of the 5C Alphee Dubois series unfranked with two 10C Alphee Dubois stamps paying the overseas tariff of 25C on an international letter sent from Tourane (Da Nang) to Paris, France in January of 1893.Saigon truant and Paris arrival cancel on the reverse.

Postal stationary of the 10C Alphee Dubois series used on domestic post card sent in November of 1900 from My Tho to Saigon.

Complete set of the response post card of the 10C Alphee Dubois series with favor cancel from the Saigon Central Post Office.

Return Portion

Letter sent by the “Mission Navale de L’Extreme Orient” featuring the 15C Alphee & Dubois series on a military letter sent from Saigon to Suez, Egypt in 1901. Cancelled with the octagonal Indochina-Saigon cancel (Desrousseaux Type A). Poste Naval-Service a la Mer cachet on front. Illegible transit/arrival cancel on the reverse.

Postal stationary (11.5cmx7.6cm) of the 15C Alphee Dubois series for cancelled with the Saigon Central Post Office.

Postal stationary (14.5cmx11.4cm) of the 15C Alphee Dubois series for cancelled with the Saigon Central Post Office.

Single franking of the black 25C Alphee Dubois stamp on an international sent from Saigon to VIllecomtal, France in May of 1890. Villecomtal and Aveyron arrival cancels on the reverse.

Multiple franking of the black 25C Alphee Dubois stamp (2) paying an overall postage of 50C on a rare registered international letter sent from Hanoi to France in November of 1889. Cancelled with the “Hanoi-Tonkin” circular double ring date canceler (Desrousseaux B 1). Boxed red “R” on front. Hai-Phong transit and French arrival cancels on the reverse.

Single franking of the yellowish-brown 25C Alphee Dubois stamp on an international letter front sent in 1886 from Saigon to Paris, France. Cancelled with the circular “Saigon-Cochinchine” date canceler (Desrousseaux B 2).

Registration Nr. 090000

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