Scott #N1 of Alsace and Lorraine has the distinction of being the first occupation stamp ever issued, appearing sometime shortly after the Franco-Prussian War began on July 19, 1870. A cultural and historical region in eastern France, the areas of Alsace and Lorraine are located on France’s eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. The region was part of the Holy Roman Empire from about 58 BC and was gradually annexed by France in the 17th century. Alsace is frequently mentioned with and as part of Lorraine and the former duchy of Lorraine, since it was a vital part of the duchy.
The Franco-Prussian War was fought for just ten months between the Second French Empire of Napoleon III and the Kingdom of Prussia of Otto von Bismarck, was aided by the North German Confederation, Victory ultimately brought about the final unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I of Prussia. On May 10, 1871, the Treaty of Frankfurt gave Germany most of Alsace and some parts of Lorraine which became the Imperial Territory of Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen) which was officially annexed into the newly formed German Empire on January 1, 1872. The Alsatian part lay in the Rhine Valley on the west bank of the Rhine River and east of the Vosges Mountains. The Lorraine section was in the upper Moselle valley to the north of the Vosges. The treaty gave the residents of the region until October 1, 1872 to choose between emigrating to France or remaining in the region and having their nationality legally changed to German. About 161,000 people, i.e., around 10.4% of the residents of Alsace-Lorraine, opted for French citizenship (the so-called Optanden); however, only about 50,000 actually emigrated, while the rest acquired German citizenship.
Alsace and Lorraine were returned to France following World War I through the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919. The French Government immediately started a Francization campaign that included the forced deportation of all Germans who had settled in the area after 1870. Alsace and Lorraine were once again occupied by Germany in 1940 during the Second World War, with Alsace merged with Baden, and Lorraine with the Saarland, to become part of a planned Westmark. A stamp from this second Germany occupation of Alsace will be featured here tomorrow.
The stamps of the first occupation will never win a beauty contest and get my vote for the ugliest of all classic era stamps. They are hidden in volume 2 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue following the listings of France and are numbered with an “N” prefix which designates occupation stamps. There were just seven stamps issued in French denominations and two varieties — background network points up and points down. They were valid for use throughout occupied France until the end of the Franco-Prussian War, when they became valid for use only in Alsace and Lorraine until the region was incorporated into the German Empire and German stamps came into use. In 1885, official reprints of the points down variety were printed in Hamburg. Scott #N1 is denominated at one centime and colored bronze green.