Intriguing History of ‘Paris Siege’ Letter

When A. Mesnier wrote to his mother in December 1870, Paris was under siege. The Prussians had surrounded the capital, food supplies were running low and temperatures had dropped below freezing. Mr Mesnier wrote of his hopes for victory and his frustration at being unable to enlist. The letter was flown out of Paris in a “ballon monté”, a hot air balloon, the only way to communicate with the rest of France. That had to be an early example of “air mail!”


The letter was recently found in Australia. How it got there is a mystery. Emmanuel Hamel, a civil servant in Normandy, decided to investigate the letter to determine who wrote it and what connection is has to history. The result is an interesting article by Clea Caulcutt in the BBC News web site at

If you have an interest in French history, I suspect you will enjoy the article at


I really enjoy the places where my interests in genealogy, history, and philately intersect!! I enjoy the untwining of the mysteries. Dick, are you a stamp collector also?


    —> Dick, are you a stamp collector also?

    No, I already have too many other vices. (smile) I can’t add any more.


    The Paris balloons were not hot air balloons. They were inflated by coal gas, which was produced by burning coal. This letter is not unusual or scarce. During the six month siege, 55 balloons were flown out, carrying well over one million such letters.

    Liked by 1 person

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