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Stamps of Windmills and Wind Turbines in France

Stamp Celebrating Darrieus' Wind Turbine in France

French postage stamp from 1988 celebrating a Φ-configuration Darrieus wind turbine in the French Antarctic. The stamp is significant not only for the wind turbine used at the Antarctic base but also because this form of Vertical-Axis Wind Turbine (VAWT) bears the name of Georges Jean Marie Darrieus, a famous French engineer.

While Darrieus is famous worldwide for this particular VAWT design, he never built one. Rather, he built a series of downwind conventional Horizontal-Axis Wind Turbine rotors in the late 1920s. Darrieus was a prolific inventor and his work ranged from ballistics to turbo-machinery.

This Darrieus uses a guyed, three-blade rotor, probably developed by Centre d’Etude Nucléaire de Grenoble in the early 1980s.


Stamp of Daudet's Windmill at Fontvieille

Le Moulin d'Alphonse Daudet is as important to the French as the windmills of Cervantes' Don Quixote are to the Spanish. Daudet published Les Lettres de Mon Moulin or Letters from My Mill in 1870. The book, a series of fictional vignettes set in Daudet's native Provence, didn't immediately win Parisian attention, leading Daudet to buy some of the first impression as souvenirs because sales were so slow. But eventually the stories won French hearts, and they have now become an essential part of French cultural heritage. The windmill at Fontvieille in the Bouches-du-Rhone departement northeast of Arles was moved to the site by friends of Daudet's after his death. The tower windmill is typical of those found throughout southern France. Unlike windmills in northern Europe, those of southern France use a sharply peaked conical cap and blades with sails of equal dimensions on either side of the stock or blade spar.

Stamp of Windmill in the Vendée Region of France

The tower mill in the background has the conical cap typical of most tower mills in central and southern France. Note that the stocks or blade spars appear non-operable without the familiar lattice work necessary for supporting cloth sails. This appearance may be misleading, as many windmills in the Vendée region adopted the folding mechanical sails designed by Berton in 1845. Besides their traditional commercial function, windmills in the Vendée played an important role in the French Revolution. The Vendée is a region of lowlands near the Atlantic coast between the mouth of the Loire and La Rochelle. During the late 18th century the region was extremely isolated and transportation was limited to plying the waterways. (The Vendée is still sometimes called the Venice of France.) It is also a conservative and strongly Catholic region. During the Revolution, the Vendée sided with the Royalists and led a rebellion against the sans culottes. Windmills were used to signal the arrival of the Republicans so the Chouans, or counter-revolutionaries could escape. In reprisal, the Republicans often destroyed the windmills--and their millers.

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