Sunday, January 23, 2022

Dominoes - Postal History Sunday

Welcome once again to Postal History Sunday, published weekly on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog.  All are welcome here, whether you are merely curious about things that might be related to postal history or if you, yourself, are a postal historian.

Leave your shoes on for this one as you might want to get up and move about at the end.

Without further ado and todo, I present you with a series of dominoes.

------------------------------------

What is it with Bingen?

When you are learning about a new geographical area or a new topic within the huge realm of postal history, one small observation can lead to a series of learning dominoes falling as discovery follows discovery.  One such example is how Bingen, Germany, quite suddenly had more prominence in my understanding of the 1860s mail that was handled by the princely house of Thurn and Taxis.

The folded letter shown above was mailed in 1866 from a location south of Frankfurt A Main - an area that relied on the mail services provided by Thurn and Taxis at this time.  The letter shows postage stamps indicating the payment of 24 kreuzers to provide all that was needed for this letter to Luden & van Geuns in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  

The letter was a double weight letter and of the 24 kreuzers in postage, the equivalent of 8 kreuzers was passed to the Dutch postal service to cover their portion of the expenses.  The postage breakdown is shown by the inked "16/8" just to the left of the town name "Amsterdam."

There is an Amsterdam receiving marking on the back AND this postmark:

Bingen?  Why is the German town of Bingen putting a postmark on this letter?  I am guessing it is a railway postmark because many German rail markings like to take note of the time of day - that's what the 7-8 N is.  But, why Bingen?

During this period of time, the most common location for mail to be taken out of mailbags and processed with new postmarks would be some sort of border between postal services.  This means we should look for Bingen on on the borders of Hessian territory, likely on a train route that would make sense if one were going to Holland!


If you look at this section of an 1861 map depicting the active rail lines in the area, you can find Bingen where a couple of rail lines meet, just west of Mainz.  If you look more closely, you can find different colors that depict areas that were Prussia (west), Bavaria (south), Hessian territory (east) and the Duchy of Nassau (north).  Clearly, this was clearly a border town.

It was at this point that the Prussian mail system must have taken control of this letter for its journey north from Bingen.

One Bingen deserves another

This is where one discovery lends aid with another piece of postal history.  Here is an 1865 folded letter that started in Offenbach (just east of Frankfurt) and was addressed to Madrid, Spain.  The postage was fully paid to leave Hessian territory and travel through other German states, as well as France, before getting to the recipient in Spain.

 

Once again, the blue markings split out the postage.  Seven kreuzer are kept by the German postal services, while the equivalent of 14 kreuzers are passed to France for service through that country.  I assume the additional blue marking shows how much is passed to Spain for their portion, but I have not yet confirmed how much that might be.

This railroad marking was found on the back of the second cover.  It is a bit blurry and when I first saw it, I was having trouble figuring out what it said.

The inner circle says "Bahnpost 2" which is a reference to a mail train (bahnpost = rail mail).  Since Offenbach is near Frankfurt, I was able to eventually decipher the outer circle starting with "Frankfurt A. M."   But, what followed?  I was not sure.

Until I saw the Bingen mark on the first cover!  Then I put two and two together.  This one reads "Frankfurt A.M. - Bingen Bahnpost 2."  

Once again, this makes sense, because once this letter got to Bingen, it could take the train to the southwest and France.  The letter would eventually go through Paris and Bordeaux and cross the border of France and Spain at Irun.

Bingen here too?

Flush with victory, I thought maybe I could use this new knowledge yet again with another cover that was mailed from this same area in Hessian territory.

This 1861 letter started in Mainz and was sent to a town by the Hague in Holland.  The postage rate was different in 1861 than it was for the 1866 letter we showed earlier, so 16 kreuzer were required to pay a single rate of postage.  It was split so that the German states got 9 kreuzer and the Dutch received 7 kruezer, which was the same as 2 Dutch cents.  You can see that the postal clerks provide all of that information at the bottom left.

Well, I guess there was to be no Bingen this time around!  Instead I found this railway marking that reads "Deutz - Oberhausen," with the date in between (Sept 26).  This is a section of railway that is a good bit north of Bingen, but still in Prussian territory.  In fact, it is possible that the previous letter traveled the exact same section of railway that this one did - just five years later.

The difference is when the Prussian postal service emptied the mailbag and placed their mark on the letter to show that they, too, had handled this piece of mail.  It didn't happen at Bingen, but it did about 80 miles north.  Was this simply a different route - or were there other reasons?

Here's where we can begin to get a real idea about the rapid change in travel that was being brought about in German during this time period.  The train station in Bingen was not opened until 1859 - which was the point that the line north was first opened as well.  In 1861, this was all still quite new.  This cover may simply be an artifact that shows how the postal service was still adjusting to a new mail service route via train.

Bingerbrück

It turns out that a person might also find evidence of this prominent junction in the early German rail lines if you see postmarks or references to Bingerbrück as well as Bingen.  Bingen lies on the east side of the Nahe River (left side on the photo below) and Bingerbrück on the west side (right side). 

 The picture above comes from an online sales lot on a popular auction site, and the date is purported to be circa 1860.  You can see the rail bridge in the foreground over the Nahe.  The photo itself must have been taken from the high ground on the other side of the Rhine River.

The print above can be found in Meyer's Universum, which was published circa 1850.  So, this would show Bingen in the 1840s at the latest.  You can see the hills from which the photograph was likely taken in the background and you might also notice that the rail bridge is not present.

After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, the Congress of Vienna, set boundaries that made Mingen a key border town between the Prussian Rhineland and the Grand Duchy of Hesse.  Just by looking at the photos a person can see how this might be a key river crossing with some of the surrounding land looking a little less comfortable for travel (and laying rail tracks).   

The railways established in the late 1850s continued to hold prominence into the 1900s with this section of railway becoming a prime bombing target in World War II.  

Bonus Material - The Mouse Tower

Photo from wikimedia commons, viewed 1/22/22

There is an island near Bingen where an old tower still stands - and it bears the name Mäuseturm - which is translated as "the Mouse Tower."  According to the current city of Bingen, this name may actually be a alteration of the name based on a High German word that made reference to this being a watchtower.

In the present day, this tower may be more well known for its connection to a legend that features the Archbishop of Mentz who treated the peasantry cruelly, murdering many of the poor to prevent them from eating too much of the food that was in short supply.  Archbishop Hatto fled to this tower to escape an army of mice, who pursued him there - he was then devoured by the mice as God's judgement for his wicked ways.

This poem by Richard Southey provides one version of that legend - for the whole poem, take the link.  Here is a portion of that work:

Then, when he saw it could hold no more,
Bishop Hatto he made fast the door;
And whilst for mercy on Christ they call,        20
He set fire to the barn, and burnt them all.
 
“I’ faith, ’t is an excellent bonfire!” quoth he;
“And the country is greatly obliged to me
For ridding it, in these times forlorn,
Of rats that only consume the corn.”

-------------------------

I suppose that this may not have been the nicest way for me to end a Postal History Sunday - so perhaps it will help if I tell you that none of the sources I found have indicated that there has ever been any historical proof that such an event occurred.  So, take solace that this is - in fact - merely a myth.  And, if you ever go to Germany, you can go visit the Mouse Tower.  Just to see the place where it all DIDN'T happen.

However, now you understand why I told you to keep those shoes on.  Get up.  Take a short walk.   And clear your mind for the remainder of a fine weekend - and a great week to come!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Rural Burden - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to Postal History Sunday!  This weekly post can be found on the Genuine Faux Farm blog amidst posts that are farm related, nature related, or whatever-else related.  Over the past couple of years a new entry has appeared on that blog nearly every day.  But, Sundays are reserved for posts that share the farmer's postal history hobby with those who might enjoy it.  If you are only interested in Postal History Sunday, you might prefer the GFF Postal History blog.  Postal History Sunday is cross-posted there and all of the farm stuff is absent.

It doesn't really matter which location you read Postal History Sunday.  Everyone is welcome.  It doesn't matter if you are a beginner in postal history or an expert - or a passing bystander who just likes to learn a few different things here and there while I share something I enjoy.

Put on the fuzzy slippers and grab a favorite beverage - it's time for some postal history!

--------------------------------

Pickup and delivery of the mail in rural areas has always posed a unique problem to postal services.  Since I live on a gravel road in a decidedly rural area, the handling of the mail in such places has a personal connection for me.  Of course, the hard part about my focus on mail in the 1850s, 60s and 70s is the fact that there is much less material from and to rural areas than there is to the big cities and towns of that time.  It's a simple matter of the mathematics - a rural area has fewer people, so there is bound to be less mail to and from those locations.  And yet, there is still plenty to explore.

The postal drop box in France

The folded letter above was mailed in December of 1856 from the rural area near Le Neubourg, France to Evreux - about 25 km to the southeast.  Forty centimes of postage were applied to the envelope to pay for a letter that weighed over 7.5 grams and no more than 15 grams (effective July 1, 1854- Dec 31, 1861).

The postmark at the top left that reads Le Neubourg was applied at the post office in that town, which could not have been very large in the 1850s, but sufficiently large to have a post office.  However, we have a clue that tells us this did not actually originate in Le Neubourg.

The "O" in circle marking was applied by a rural carrier using a hand stamp that was kept in the rural mail drop box.

Many rural villages in France did not have their own post offices.  However, mail boxes were provided for residents in the area to drop mail.  The mail carrier would remove mail from the box and apply a marking to each item to indicate the rural origin of the piece of mail.  The hand stamp that was used to apply this marking was kept inside of the drop box and only pulled out when the carrier needed to mark the letters being picked up.

These markings were introduced in 1836 and were in service until being completely phased out in 1912.

I presume, but do not know for certain, that a unique letter was given to each drop box within a rural area - so I do not know if the letter "O" can help us determine exactly where this piece of mail originated.  However, we are in luck with this particular piece of postal history because we do have some of the contents!

This letter was sent to the department prefecture in Evreux to obtain permission to build a dwelling.  The seal of an ‘Ingenieur Ordinaire” and the “Ingenieur en Chef” are both affixed to the letter.  Presumably giving approval.  The contents of the letter indicate that the building would take place in Épreville, and there just happens to be an Épreville-près-le-Neubourg to the southwest of Le Neubourg.

It now seems like a very good guess that this would be where this letter got its start.  It is also a very good guess that we do not have all of the contents since the single sheet of this folded letter is certainly not enough to require the additional postage.  Perhaps there was additional documentation or some other material inside of this cover sheet?

Eure is in the Normandy region and Evreux was prefecture of the department.  Evreux's population was around 12,000 people in 1856 while Le Neubourg and its surroundings were (and remain) much more rural in nature.  You will find Le Neubourg listed as Neubourg on the portion of the 1861 map below.

As a bonus, you can go to this blog by Mark Joseph Jochim to learn all sorts of things about post boxes if you are so inclined.

That will cost you!

Our first example focused on mail being sent from a rural area and our second item will look at the other end of the process - the delivery of the mail.

This large envelope was mailed from San Francisco, California on November 9, 1867.  It traveled overland (mostly by train) until it got to New York City.  It left New York on December 3  and went to Boston so it could be placed on board a steamship named the Cuba, which was part of the Cunard Line fleet.  The Cuba left Boston on December 4 and arrived at Queenstown (Cobh, Ireland) on December 13.

This letter would have gone through Dublin (Ireland), London (England), and Ostende (Belgium) before it was taken out of the mailbag while in a Prussian mail car on a train that ran from Verviers to Coeln December 15.

This letter was pretty heavy - weighing more than a half ounce and no more than one ounce.  This required a double rate of postage, which was 28 cents per 1/2 ounce.  So, fifty-six cents of postage were applied in the form of two 24-cent stamps and one 10-cent stamp.  The letter was properly treated as a prepaid letter from the United States to the Kingdom of Hannover, which was part of the German-Austrian Postal Union (GAPU).

Now - finally - I get to the "rural" part of this letter.  There is a receiving postmark on the back of this envelope that reads "Bersenbruck" and the date is too faint to read.  The address panel ALSO reads "Bersenbruck K. Hannover."  So, that seems like the case is closed, doesn't it?  It was delivered to Bersenbruck?

Except the back of the envelope has this marking in red pencil.  Hmmmm.  What could this be?  It certainly looks to me like a postal marking - but what is it for?  

It turns out that the Hannover post would collect 1/2 silbergroschen for letters delivered to a rural destination, to be collected on delivery by (and for) the postal carrier.  The amount was not dependent on weight, so this would have been the cost for a simple letter or a very large packet.

If we look more closely, we see this is mailed to an address that reads "in Gehrde ??? Bersenbruck."  Leaving the letters I am less sure of alone for the moment, we can guess that the recipient was actually in the small town of Gehrde, which did NOT have a post office and was located a short distance to the east of Bersenbruck.

I wonder if they sounded a post horn as they entered Gehrde to deliver this letter?

Forward to Climax

We'll conclude with a letter that was mailed in the 1860s from Grand Rapids, Michigan to rural Kalamazoo County at the 3 cents per 1/2 ounce rate for domestic letter mail in the United States.


The address panel is a bit more complex than most letters of the time - and that may well have to do with the rural destination.  The address reads as follows:

Galesburgh, Kallamazoo Co.  Please Forward to Climax with Daily Mail

For further clarity, they included "Mich" at the bottom left - just in case there is a Kalamazoo County elsewhere in the United States...  I was able to find an image of the 1873 Climax Township plat map that shows the land owners and settlements in that area.

If you click on the map to view it, you will find there were exactly three post offices in the entire township in 1873.  One was in Climax itself.  One in Scotts and the last in South Climax.  It is possible, if I could decipher the name of the recipient, that we might find them on this plat map if they owned land - so if anyone can help me figure it out, let me know.

During the 1860s, most rural residents had to expect that they needed to go to the post office to check if they had any letters.  And, at that time, most post offices in small towns were the local mercantile or other such business.  The owners of these small businesses likely appreciated the opportunity to serve as postmaster since it also encouraged customers to patronize their business at the same time they were picking up their letters!

But, there is more to the story!

It turns out that Climax was the first post office in Michigan to establish Rural Free Delivery on December 3, 1896.  And, it also turns out that the citizens of the area were pretty proud of that fact!  

Pictured at right is a monument that was constructed from stones collected from each farm (nearly 300 of them) on the rural route.  

Rather than re-write some of the pertinent history surrounding the events of free delivery of the mail to rural customers of this particular Michigan post office - I will quote this Kalamazoo Public Library page (viewed Jan 15, 2022).  The photo comes from this page as well and was taken in 1955 (Kalamazoo Valley Museum Photograph 72.338.2A)

The first Rural Free Delivery mail service in Michigan was started in Climax in December, 1896. Two postmen, Lewis Clark and Willis Lawrence, Judge Eldred’s great-grandson, set out on their routes, one by horse and buggy and the other on a bicycle. A memorial to this event, dedicated in 1917, is next to the Lawrence Memorial Library. On four sides of the memorial are bronze tablets, contributed by the State Grange, the D.A.R., the Michigan Rural Letter Carriers Association, and the Climax Men’s Fellowship Club. The ten-foot high RFD Memorial was built with nearly 300 stones, one each was contributed by farmers on the rural route.

Today, people like me continue to receive delivery of the mail to our rural farms and homesteads for the same cost a letter to a recipient in town might require.  An oddity that has come about over time is that some rural towns in the Midwest have no carrier delivery - requiring residents to purchase post office boxes for their mail.  Meanwhile anyone living outside of the (often outdated) town limits would qualify for free delivery to mailboxes near the road next to their homes and farms.  This can result in homes mere yards from each other having different status when it comes to mail delivery!

But, that's all for another day and another Postal History Sunday.  I hope you enjoyed today's installment.

Have a great remainder of your weekend and a fine week to come!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Correspondence Course - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to this week's Postal History Sunday, hosted on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog.  

I'd like to recognize those of you who may be discovering Postal History Sunday thanks to the publication of prior PHS blogs in the WE Expressions electronic journal or on the American Philatelic Society website.  Thanks for stopping by!

Whether you have been reading Postal History Sunday for some time now or if you are just joining us, you are welcome.  It does not matter if you don't collect postal history or if you have much more experience in the area than I do.  Some who have been reading PHS for a while have informed me that they do not intend to join the hobby, but they still like reading these posts!  Others with more expertise have kindly provided me with more information and resources that I can use for future posts.

Whatever your background or motivation, put on your fuzzy slippers and get a favorite beverage (but keep it away from the paper collectibles!).  I'll take a little time to share something I enjoy and, hopefully, we'll all learn something new in the process.

----------------------

Have you ever considered where all of the postal history comes from that people, like this farmer, collect?  All of these old envelopes, folded letters and package fronts had to come from somewhere, didn't they?

Much of the postal history that I collect is available thanks to the willingness of individuals or businesses to maintain files and bundles of old correspondence and then allow them to become publicly available.  Sometimes, family descendants are responsible for the dispersal or maybe the new owners of a business.  Often, most or all of the contents are removed, and, frequently, these papers have been harvested for the stamps and the rest of the paper material is tossed. 

And, we need to remember - for every correspondence that is saved and placed in the care of museums, schools, or individual collectors, there are countless others that were simply destroyed.

A correspondence can have value for the postal historian because it provides a broad view of many postal systems, postage rates, and routes for the delivery of mail.  By simply finding a few examples from a given correspondence, you can begin to get a feel for how mail worked at that time and place.  For example, the Luden & van Geuns material can give us an idea of how business letter mail was handled in 1850s and 60s Europe.

There are other times that a single correspondence provides us with almost ALL of the examples of mail between two locations during a certain time in history.  We'll start with one such correspondence. 

Jose Esteban Gomez Correspondence

Our first example provides postal historians with examples of how the mail worked between the United States and Spain in the 1860s.  Because I do focus on the 24-cent 1861 stamp (which you will see at the top right on this folded letter), most of my focus has been on the items that have that stamp.

To my knowledge, there are just under twenty examples of the 24 cent stamp on mail from the United States to Spain.  Of those, only a couple do not come from the series of postal items that were sent from Dutton & Townsend in New York to Gomez in Cadiz.  The postage cost for the 1868 folded business letter shown above was 22 cents per 1/2 ounce via the British mail system and the 24 cent stamp overpays that amount.  If you want to learn more about Dutton & Townsend's willingness to overpay on their letters, you can view Costs of Doing Business, which was a May, 2021, Postal History Sunday.

There are, of course, other pieces of mail to Gomez in the 1860s that do not bear a 24 cent stamp, and those were all sent by someone other than Dutton & Townsend.  By my informal count, there are approximately another twenty or so items out in the world of collectors right now.  It seems likely there are more as I have not worked very hard to track all of the Gomez items down.  I mean... I do have a job and a farm to run, you know!

The value of this series of business letters to a postal historian is in the way it illustrates the varied postal rates that could be used to accomplish the same end result - delivery of mail from the US to Senor Gomez.  There was no agreement for the exchange of mail between the United States and Spain in the 1860s.  Instead, a person could choose between one of several options.

The most common option was to send the letter via the "open mail" provision provided in the convention the United States had with the United Kingdom.  Essentially, the sender had to pay for any postage required to get the letter into the hands of the British Mail system.  The rest of the postage would be paid for by the recipient (Gomez). 

This letter provides us with an uncommon rate - at least as far as surviving pieces of postal history are concerned.  This 22 cent rate was only available starting in January of 1868 and was terminated in December of 1869.  A person could still use the open mail provision during those two years, if they wished, but this 22 cent rate paid for the entire cost of postage and Gomez would not have been required to pay anything to receive it.

Elie Beatty Correspondence

Here is another item I have featured before.  This cover initially appeared in By the Sheet that was published in April of 2021. If you are curious about some of the rate details, take the link to that blog.

The Hagerstown Bank correspondence has value for postal historians and those who study banking systems.  Elie Beatty was a well-respected cashier and was apparently quite talented at his job.  The site linked in the prior sentence gives us this summary:

"The historical significance of the collection lies primarily in the insights it offers to the operations of a prosperous regional bank during a tumultuous period in United States banking history. The antebellum decades witnessed a series of banking crises, most notably the Panics of 1819 and 1839, recurring recessions and depressions, and the famous "Bank Wars." The financial and political upheaval, combined with disastrous harvests during the 1830s, wreaked havoc on Washington County, Maryland, and caused the Williamsport Bank to suspend specie payments in 1839. Despite the prevailing economic climate, the Hagerstown Bank emerged as a stable financial institution with considerable holdings."

Elie Beatty's story can certainly be expanded upon, but I will suggest that you can take the link and read the summary there if you have interest.  If there was a doubt as to Beatty's dedication to his job, I will add the following from the site linked above.

"Beatty resigned his position on April 23, 1859, citing "feeble health and the infirmities of age." Beatty died on May 5, 1859 at the age of eighty-three."

So much for retiring and traveling the world or doting on grandchildren...

Beatty covers are far more numerous than those in the Gomez correspondence and they cover a much wider time frame.  As a result, collectors can find inexpensive examples that allow them to explore the postal rates and routes during the first half of the 1800s in the eastern United States.  Most of the Beatty material you can find will exhibit the frequently used rates and routes.  However, the fun comes when you start looking for as many different rate or route variations that you can find.  There are some very uncommon postal rates that can be shown with a Beatty cover - if only you can find them!

Again, this is part of the value of these larger collections of letters to the same recipient.  They give us perspective into what was the most common approach to using mail services and what was exceptional.

Frederic Huth and Co Correspondence

Frederick Huth established this London banking company in 1809, which eventually became a part of the British Overseas Bank in 1936.  The Huth correspondence has provided significant volumes of European postal history examples for the 1800s - especially during the period prior to the use of postage stamps to prepay the cost of postage.

At this time, postage was typically accumulative - meaning longer distances required more postage.  Also, each postal service that handled a piece of mail wanted their fees paid, which could lead to some very costly correspondence.  This is one reason much of the surviving postal history prior to the mid 1800s come from the affluent or business concerns such as Huth's.  It cost a great deal of money to send a letter.

The letter shown above was sent collect to Huth & Co and the postage fee of 2 shillings & 2 pence was collected in London.  The rate structure that was used to determine this postage amount was in effect from July of 1812 to July 20, 1836.  For comparison, it cost only 6 pence to send a letter from London to any part of Spain in 1868 (versus 26 pence in 1828).

This folded business letter was mailed from Coruna, a coastal city in northwest Spain in the Galicia region.  The letter itself is dated May 3, 1828 and a postal marking on the back tells us it got to London on May 28 of the same year. Yes, that is over three weeks later - you counted correctly!

I will not try to pretend that I am an expert in European mail during the 1820s and I will admit to getting help figuring out the postage rate from other experts.  Instead, I included this item to make a few points.

First, take a moment to click on the letter portion shown above and take note of the fine penmanship.  And, the paper has a higher rag content, so it feels a bit softer and is far more resilient than modern papers.  The condition of the item is amazing - especially considering its age.  I added this to my collection because it was quite inexpensive and an extremely attractive looking piece of postal history (and I thought it might be a good Postal History Sunday subject).

In other words, it looks good and I am thrilled to be able to hold an item in my hands that was mailed in 1828!

Because the Huth & Co correspondence was carefully maintained in their files and then was eventually released to collectors, people like me can affordably explore pieces of postal history that are nearly 200 years old.  If I wanted to, I could collect and learn all about many of the postage rates and routes of the time, simply by finding and researching letters that were a part of this correspondence.

Luden and van Geuns Correspondence

Like the Gomez correspondence, I have several items from the Luden & van Geuns correspondence.  Unlike the Gomez material, the Luden & van Geuns material shows a broader range of postal origins.  Below is a letter mailed from Branch Office Number 4 in Firenze (Florence) on Apr 28, 1868, arriving in Amsterdam on May 2.

 


This business letter shows an overpayment of the 50 centime rate.  The route for this item is interesting since there were no completed rail service lines from Italy to the Netherlands via Switzerland.  Rail service could take this item as far as Como (Italy) until it was placed on a Lake Como steamer on which it traveled to Colico.  From there, it went by coach via the Splugen Pass to Chur.  Swiss rail service took this item towards St Gallen where it likely crossed the Boden See on its way to Fredrichshaffen in Wurttemburg.  From that point, this letter was able to travel by rail the rest of the way to Amsterdam.

 

I get the feeling I should have spent time putting together a route map on that one! 

 

 

Johannes Luden was born in Amsterdam in 1792 to a family that had connections in the whaling business on his grandmother’s side.  His father ran the firm Jb. H. Luden and Sons that was active in West Indies Dutch Colonial trade.  I presume that Johannes may well have been involved in his father’s company before joining G. Nolthenius and Albert van Geuns in their own enterprise.  Johannes Luden died in Amsterdam in January of 1868, so this letter arrived after his death, though the company kept his name.

 

The van Geuns family is an extremely well-known Mennonite family that was affluent and influential in the Netherlands during the 1700s and 1800s.  Family papers are kept in the Utrecht archives that apparently go back as far as 1647, so further research on better known family members is certainly possible.  Albert van Geuns was born in 1806 and, despite his status as founder of a bank, is overshadowed by numerous physicians, lawyers and ministers of note that can be found in the family tree.  The family connections almost certainly must have provided significant capital to get a bank started.

Evidence that the financial house of Nolthenius, Luden and van Geuns was active as early as 1839 can be seen with the purchase of a new sailing frigate that was christened the Suzanna Christina.   At some point after 1846, Nolthenius was removed from the name of the company and it appears Luden and van Geuns were active financiers until the early 1870’s.  

 

van Geuns ca 1860

Luden and van Geuns were active bankers in Amsterdam at a time when the tides were turning against traditional Dutch power concentrations in the merchant houses.  International banking businesses were changing towards less centralized structures and the old models struggled to stay relevant in the finance industry.  

 Luden and van Geuns may well have found themselves straddling both worlds, modeling themselves on traditional financial houses, but being part of a wave of new banking institutions.  Unlike many newer banks of the time, they appeared to rely on family wealth (and thus limited investors) for their initial capital.  Other banks spread out risk by having a larger number of investors, often allowing publicly traded shares.  It  seems that Luden and van Goens could not weather the trends or they could find no one to continue operations as its legacy did not carry on beyond the lives of its founders.    

Nonetheless, their records included folded letters and envelopes that were mailed to them from all over the world.  Most of these items illustrate fairly common rates and routes in Europe, but there are some items that are quite uncommon, including at least one letter from Brazil (and no, I don't have that sort of thing - sorry).

However, I have managed to find a few more letters addressed to Luden & van Geuns and wrote an article for the Postal History Journal in 2019 that focused on this subject.  The article can be found in Issue No. 172 which can be downloaded for reading here

If you are not inclined to go download that article - or even if you are - here is a second example from this correspondence.  This folded letter from 1870 originated in Paris, France and shows an 80 centime and 40 centime stamp paying the postage for a triple weight letter from France to Holland.  Other items in that article show different uses from Italy, France, Prussia and Belgium.

------------------------------

Ah!  Once again you have come to the end of a Postal History Sunday entry.  Hopefully, you were so enthralled by it all that you were surprised that you made it to the end already.  If that's the case - great!  If not, we'll try to do better next time!

Thank you for joining me and letting me share something I enjoy.  I hope you have a great remainder of your weekend and a fine week to come!