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Correspondence and the Fleur de Lis


The use of a fleur de lis on mailboxes may seem "decorative" today, but in colonial Louisiana letters were often sealed. French symbols were commonly used in communications, commercial documents and government mandates. During the Spanish period, French correspondences between families in the Gulf colonies and their families abroad continued. The fleur de lis became more widespread in the American South, especially along the river, as the population grew and commerce blossomed.

The French and Spanish planter class - the owners of plantations on the river and Bayou St. John - sought every opportunity to associate themselves with nobility. In New Orleans, that meant dressing the part and "acting noble." Using the fleur de lis, a symbol of power, was a natural choice for nouveau riche looking to put their ignoble or merchantpast behind them.

When residential postal service began in the colony, deliveries would arrive with a knock on the door. Mail slots and boxes appeared in the 19th century. The fleur was cast into the very first boxes in New Orleans to contain US Mail.

In the Victorian era, long letters were shared between families and loved ones. Especially prevalent were letters among families impacted by the American Civil War: that is, in effect, all families in the United States. This included many letter from French families split up by conflict: those who stayed behind to protect property to - and from - those who fled to France to wait out the war. By then the fleur was commonly embossed into paper sold at the stationers shop.