(French: “letter with a seal”) Letter bearing an official seal, signed by the king and countersigned by a secretary of state, used primarily to authorize someone's imprisonment without trial. An important instrument of administration under the ancien régime in France, lettres de cachet were greatly abused in the 17th–18th century. Their use was abolished in 1790.
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The first cacheted FDC (first day cover) was produced by prominent philatelist and cachetmaker George W. Linn in 1923, for the Harding Memorial stamp issue.
Cachet-making is considered an art form, and cachets may be produced by using any number of methods, including drawing or painting directly onto the envelope, serigraphy, block printing, lithography, engraving, laser printing, attachment of photographs or other paper memorabilia, etc. Frequently flight cachets (which have also been used in space and on the moon) are rubber-stamped.
The largest and best-known cachet-making companies, which typically produce thousands or tens of thousands of printed cachets for U.S. stamp issues, are Artcraft, Fleetwood, House of Farnam, and Colorano.
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