"French Colonies" is the name used by philatelists
to refer to the postage stamps issued by France for use in the parts of the
French colonial empire that did not have stamps of their own. These were in
use from 1859 to 1906, and from 1943 to 1945.
The first of these were small square stamps issued in 1859, depicting an eagle and crown in a round frame, with the inscription "COLONIES DE L'EMPIRE FRANCAISE". They were imperforate. The next series appeared in 1871 and 1872, and borrowed the contemporaneous designs of France, with profiles of Ceres and Emperor Napoleon III.
In 1877 imperforate stamps with allegorical figures representing Peace and Commerce were issued for use in the French colonies:
French definitive stamps with same design were issued in the beginning of 1876, but they were perforated.
In 1881, a new series, featuring "Commerce" alone
and inscribed "COLONIES", was issued for the Colonies, perforated
14x13.5. A series of common postage due stamps was issued beginning in 1884,
with a last one appearing in 1906. Thereafter each colony used only its own
The concept was revived by the Free French forces during World War II, who printed eight types of semi-postal stamps in 1943 and 1944. After the Free French landed in Corsica and Southern France, the stamps were used in those areas, and became valid throughout France in November 1944. Finally, in 1945 a general issue of postage due stamps for the colonies was produced.