Akbou, Algeria, 1956

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The native Arab and Berber populations of the Maghreb evidently had little use for de Laurence products, because mail from this region is scarce. The examples that exist are mostly soldiers’ mail posted during the Algerian War (1954-1962), when thousands of French colonial troops from elsewhere in Africa poured into the region. This pictorial envelope has a blue cachet (to the right of the stamp) indicating the sender was a member of the 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Regiment of Colonial Infantry (RIC). It was free-franked in the field (“FM,” for “Franchise Militaire,” upper right) and received a “Poste aux Armées” cancel with 30 francs French postage added later to facilitate transmission through international mails. The sender wrote “par avion” in the upper left corner, but postal officials covered this up with the stamp because military mail was not entitled to free air mail service.


Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, 1930

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An early cover from this West African country that was one of de Laurence’s most lucrative markets, and the only postal example I have seen (to date) of this relatively short-lived business address (circa 1922-1930).

Ibadan, Nigeria, c. 1963

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Unusual example of a Great Britain stamp used abroad, in this case from Nigeria. The crimson 5-shilling stamp shows Queen Elizabeth II and Caernarfon Castle in Wales. The stamp was issued in 1955, but the presence of a ZIP Code in the address (60601) indicates that the envelope was mailed after 1963.

Koidu, Sierra Leone, c. 1965

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“Land of Iron & Diamonds” freeform, self-adhesive stamps of Sierra Leone advertising the jeweler Harry Winston commercially used on cover. In 1972, Winston paid $2.5 million for the 1000-carat Star of Sierra Leone diamond mined in Koidu, the town where this letter originated.

Umuahia, Nigeria, 1950

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“To the Mystic Perfume” — one of my favorite curiously addressed de Laurence covers. The company sold various perfumes, including the famous “Vale of Kashmar,” said to “possess wonderful power to attract the Good Spirits and banish the Evil Ones, and for this reason is now generally used in all invocations.” It was a fragrance imported by Vantine’s of New York and rebranded by de Laurence.