Henry A. Meyer Collection of French Revolution and Napoleonic Covers and Documents

Finding Guide
refer to caption

Letter from Consul Bonaparte on his official letterhead, January 8, 1800

Prepared by Thomas Lera, Winton M. Blount Research Chair, and Stanley J. Luft, FRPSL, Académie de Philatélie.


The Henry A. Meyer Collection consists of 14 volumes of covers and documents from the French Revolution and Napoleonic eras.


Henry Albert Meyer (1894-1968) was considered one of the leading students and collectors of the postal histories of Hawaii, the Confederacy, U.S waterways, and the French Revolution and Napoleonic eras. He wrote or co-wrote numerous scholarly works, including, The Postal History of the Kingdom of Westphalia Under Napoleon, 1807-1814. Co-authored by Carroll Chase, this study was largely based on Meyer’s collection. In 1969, Meyer was inducted into the American Philatelic Society Hall of Fame.

Following his death in 1969, Meyer’s collection of French Revolution and Napoleonic postal history was acquired by his neice, Dr. Margery W. Shaw of Houston, Texas. According to Dr. Shaw, Meyer had considered donating the collection to the Smithsonian but was unable to do so before his death. In 1978, Shaw contacted the Smithsonian and, over the next nine years, donated Meyer’s complete collection.

Volumes 1 and 2 were donated in 1978 (Accession Number 1979.0098); volumes 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 were donated in 1981 (Accesssion Number 1981.0819); volumes 8 and 9 were donated in 1983 (Accession Number 1983.0780); volumes 10 and 11 were donated in 1985 (Accession Number 1985.0026); and volumes 12, 13 and 14 were donated in 1986 (Accession Number 1986.0025). A large portion of the collection was exhibited at the National Postal Museum in 1995.


French postal markings go back a long way before the French Revolution. At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, postal markings had long been standardized and the Revolution soon showed itself in postal history. The Meyer Collection of Napoleon and French Revolution Covers and Documents illustrate this postal history.

The National Convention met on September 20, 1792 and firmly established the Revolution by first abolishing the Monarchy. It lost no time regarding the changing of existing royalist names of Departments, districts, cantons, and communes. On October 9, 1792, it issued a decree stating “The commune of Bar-le- Duc will carry the name in the future of Bar-sur-Ornin.” The Convention got rid of town names with regal and religious bearing like chateaux, bishops, saints, dukes, queens, Louis, churches, counts, Holy Ghosts, marchionesses, monks, archbishops, and kings. The Meyer Collection includes town postmarks showing revolutionary names.

No sooner had the government been established than it changed the calendar. The Meyer Collection has two volumes with many examples of the revolutionary calendar. Other revolutionary markings such as Army postmarks, frames, etc. are shown in several volumes of the Meyer Collection.