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Pigeon Messengers (Harper's Engraving).png

Pigeon post is an obsolete method of sending messages by using homing pigeons. The method was used from antiquity until the early 20th century. The use of' homing pigeons to carry messages is as old as the ancient Persians from whom the art of training the birds probably came. The Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to their various cities by this means. Before the telegraph this method of communication had a considerable vogue amongst stockbrokers and financiers. The Dutch government established a civil and military system in Java and Sumatra early in the 19th century, the birds being obtained from Baghdad.

The pigeon post which was in operation while Paris was besieged during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 is probably the most famous. Barely six weeks after the outbreak of hostilities, the Emperor Napoleon III and the French Army of Chalons surrendered at Sedan on September 2, 1870. The normal channels of communication into and out of Paris were interrupted during the four-and-a-half months of the siege. With the encirclement of the city on 18th September, the last overhead telegraph wires were cut the next day, and the secret telegraph cable in the bed of the Seine was located and cut on 27th September. For an assured communication into Paris, the only successful method was by the time-honoured carrier-pigeon, and thousands of messages, official and private, were thus taken into the besieged city. Pigeons were regularly taken out of Paris by balloon. Soon a regular service was in operation, based first at Tours and later at Poitiers. The first despatch was dated 27th September and reached Paris on 1st October, but it was only from 16th October, when an official control was introduced, that a complete record was kept.

Major-General Donald Roderick Cameron, Commandant of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario from 1888–1896, recommended an international pigeon service for marine search and rescue and military service. A pigeon post between look-out stations at lighthouses on islands and the mainland at the citadel in Halifax, Nova Scotia provided a messenger service from 1891 until it was discontinued in 1895.