The use of adhesive stamps in France began shortly after the revolution of 1848, which gave rise to the Second Republic and the election of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte as its president (Napoléon III, as he would become known, became emperor of France in 1852). The first stamps released by the republic depicted the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, with a cluster of grapes in her hair. Subsequent stamps showed off Napoléon III, at least until he was overthrown in 1870. In the years that followed, French stamps routinely celebrated the arts. One stamp printed in 1925 trumpeted the International Exposition of Decorative Arts, a show in Paris that gave rise to the phrase Art Deco. Then there was the 1939 set, designed to raise money for a fund devoted to the welfare of unemployed intellectuals.

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