Version française
Aide à la recherche
Glossary CHP´s library Useful links and research sites Former directors and
supervisors of la Poste
Chronology Documentary files Research guides

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

cabinet noir (the Black Office)

During the Ancien Régime, the "Cabinet noir" was the name given to the service responsible for examining private correspondence for reasons of security. The political censorship of letters had begun at the time of Richelieu, during the reign of Louis XIV, but it was only during the reign of Louis XV that a specific service called the "Cabinet du secret des Postes" or the "Cabinet noir" was created for this purpose. It was provided with a special tool for reconstructing the original seal or cachet on a letter. With the decree of 10 August 1775, Louis XVI declared that private correspondence was inviolable from that time on and forbade the use of intercepted letters in a court of law. However, this measure did not put a stop to the censorship of private correspondence, a meaure that was widely used by revolutionaries and Napoleon as well as political leaders during wartime.

caisse nationale d´épargne (national post savings bank)

The first article of the law of 9 April 1881 defines the broad principles of this new institution: a public savings bank, guaranteed by the state, is hereby instituted, governed by the authority of the minister of Post and Telegraph. It shall be referred to as the Postal Savings Bank. With over 6,000 branches in 1880, the omnipresence of the postal network largely served the needs of the time, especially the collecting of savings in the most remote parts of France. In 1900, the cap of one billion francs was exceeded, and there were 3.5 million passbooks in circulation.

chèques postaux (postal checks)

The law of 10 January 1918 provided for the creation of checking account and postal check services in order to supplement temporary lack of currency and limit the quantity of bank notes emitted. On 6 July 1918 six postal check offices, staffed mainly by women, were opened in Paris, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Lyon, Marseille and Nantes; five other offices were opened in 1919. The use of postal checks was mainly developed after the war and represented over 7.5 million accounts in 1970.

chargement (a load)

Technical professional term designating letters containing bank notes; more broadly, "chargement" refers to mail that provided for the circulation of currency.

chevaucheur (a horseman)

There were two types of "chevaucheur": the horsemen of the Ecurie du Roi (the Kings Stable) who provided transportation for royal communications, thus taking the name "courrier", and the horsemen who used "seated posts" or relay stations. The latter will come to be called "post masters".


Created in September 1985, Chronopost is a sub-service of La Poste that handles the transportation and delivery of express mail and parcels weighing less than 30 kg. This express mail company now offers a full range of products, such as ready-to-mail packaging, and uses its own facilities: 33 national agencies, 6 international agencies and more than 600 vehicles in 1995.

colombophilie (pigeon-fancing, Post by pigeon)

Even more efficient than air ballons, the carrier pigeons were recognized as an effective means of sending messages during the siege of Paris (1870).  Microfilms which were later projected onto a screen were enclosed in cases and attached to the birds tails.

commis (clerk)

A "commis" was an agent who was often found in an mixed post office where he assisted those providing window service.

conseil des Postes (postal council)

A managerial agency of the postal service administration that was abolished with the creation of the ministry of Post and Telegraph in 1879.

courrier (mail)

This word has several connotative meanings: - any person or individual who used a horse for transporting mail. - an employee of the letter mail who was responsible for carrying or accompanying the mail in transport. - by extension, any body of transported letters or correspondence (for instance, "the mail is late") or a set of letters of the same kind (for instance, "taking ones mail to the post offce").