Sunday, July 3, 2022

How You Got There Matters - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to the 98th entry of Postal History Sunday, featured weekly on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog.  If you take this link, you can view every edition of Postal History Sunday, starting with this one (the most recent always shows up at the top).  

As many of you might guess, there are weeks when I find that I lack the energy to attack some of the more complex topics I have in my "to write about list."  In fact, I have had several weeks in a row where my energies and attentions have been focused everywhere but postal history.  Up to this point, I have been able to work on older drafts of things that needed refinement or additions so they could be put out as Postal History Sunday.  Well, nothing is sitting in my batch of "blogs being worked on" that looks like it can fairly easily be made into something I am willing to share without a fair amount of effort.

What to do?

Well, when I have trouble getting going, I just pick an item and start to write about it - following my stream of consciousness (as long as the stream stays somewhere in the postal history realm).  Let's see how it works out this week, shall we?

Let's start with this folded business letter sent from Geneve, Switzerland to Rome (Papal States) in 1866.  The postage stamps applied total 70 centimes in postage to pay for the postal service between the two locations.  If you look carefully, you will notice a "PD" marking put on the envelope by the Swiss Postal Service indicating that the postage was fully paid to the destination.  In addition to that, you might notice what looks like a stray slash in black ink that goes across the center of the address.  This was applied by the clerk in Rome who agreed that the postage was paid and no more was needed from the recipient.  

I'd like to compare it now to the 1868 folded business letter shown below:

This letter was ALSO sent from Geneve, Switzerland to Rome, but there are several differences.  First, the postage applied on this cover is only 35 centimes (instead of 60 centimes).  There is no "PD" marking.  Instead, there is a marking that reads "P.P." marking that tells the Rome post office that postage was only paid to the Papal border.  The clerk in Rome scrawled a "20" to alert the carrier that they should collect 20 centesimi from the recipient at delivery to pay the postage for postal services in the Papal territory.

So, what's the difference?  They both started the same place and went to the same destination.  They were mailed within two years of each other, so it makes sense that they might fall under some of the same postal regulations.

Maybe you have already spotted it, but here is the difference that resulted in different postage requirements:

The first cover was sent via Marseille, France.  From there it took a coastal steamship to Civitavecchia, the port city that provided Rome access to the Mediterranean Sea - or, more accurately - the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is a subdivision of the Mediterranean.

The second cover was sent via Florence, then part of the Kingdom of Italy.  This letter was sent overland, using rail services for much, and perhaps all, of its journey.

The map below can  provide you with a visual so you can get an idea as to where things are if you don't walk around with a mental image of southern Europe in your head (click on the image to see a larger version if you would like).

The first letter (via Marseille) was sent from Switzerland via France and then to Rome in the Papal Territories.  Postal agreements existed between France and the Papal States and France and Switzerland, making it possible for a person to prepay all of the required postage to send a letter to its destination.

The second letter was sent via the Kingdom of Italy, and it was here that there was a problem.  The Pope refused to recognize the Kingdom of Italy, which meant the Papal postal system was not able to execute a postal convention for mail that went to, from, or through the rest of Italy.  Because the Swiss and the Italians had an agreement, a person could pay for that portion of the trip.  But, the Papal postal system was going to handle their own postage, thank you very much.

The first letter that went via the French mail and by steamer took five days to get to Rome.  The overland route only took three days.  So, there was reason for people to want to use the speedier service, even if it was a bit more complicated when it came to paying for things.

For those looking for details on rates (and if you aren't, feel free to skip):

Paid to Destination via Marseille
70 centimes per 7.5 grams : Oct 1, 1865 - Dec 31, 1870

Paid to Papal border via Florence
35 centimes per 10 grams : Jul 1, 1862 - Oct 26, 1870

Postage due Papal Post
20 centesimi per 7.5 grams: Sep 21, 1867 - Oct 26, 1870

The idea that postage rates could be different depending on the route and the postal services that were required to get the mail to its destination made me think about the next two items.

The letter shown above was mailed in San Francisco on March 30 of 1867 and was destined for Stockholm, Sweden.  The total postage on this letter is represented by 68 cents in US postage stamps.  You might notice the word "FRANCO" in two locations that indicated that this was recognized as being fully prepaid.  Also, the red, circular marking was applied in New York and it also indicates that the item was "Paid."

And here is an 1862 letter from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Stockholm, Sweden.  Once again, there is a red, circular New York marking indicating that the letter is paid and the word "FRANCO" can be found just to the right of that marking.  In this case, there are 34 cents in postage stamps and an additional 3 cents with the preprinted postage that was on the envelope (at the top right).

So, one cover has 68 cents in postage and the other has 37 cents in postage.  Both were paid to their destination with no additional postage due.  Once again, part of the explanation for the different amounts has to do with how each item traveled to get to its destination (Stockholm in this case).

The easiest piece of evidence to spot on the first cover is this blue box that reads "Aachen 7 5 Franco."  Aachen was located at the border of Belgium and Prussia (also known as Aix la Chapelle).  This was they typical entry point for mail from the United States that was to go through the Prussian Mail system.

The "7 5," is simply the date - May 7 and "franco" indicates that the letter was recognized as having had its postage properly paid.

And above is a rough depiction of the route the first letter took to get to Stockholm.  The letter would cross Belgium and enter Prussia at Aachen.  From there I believe it went via Hamburg on its way to Kiel, which was the preferred route during the colder months.  This letter entered Europe in early May, so it is possible the Winter route was still in use.

However, let me be perfectly clear here.  The envelope itself only provides me with markings for Aachen on May 7 and Stockholm on May 12.  At this point, I cannot say that I am perfectly certain that the route between those two points is accurate with complete certainty.  But, I can tell you that this Winter route was often used for the mail from the US via Prussia to Sweden.

The second cover bears evidence that this item went through Hamburg in the marking shown above "N.York Hamb. Pkt. Paid."  Like Prussia, Hamburg had a postal agreement with the United States which allowed it to serve as an intermediary for mail between the US and Sweden.

Hamburg mails to Sweden were carried on a mail route (opened October, 1851) from Hamburg to Lubeck.  Beginning in 1856, Danish mail steamers picked up the mail at Travemunde (Lubeck), dropping mails destined for Sweden at Malmo.  Of course, route via Kiel avoided water and could always be taken during the Winter months if necessary.

The important thing to note in this route is that Belgium and Prussia are not visited.  Instead, a steamer went directly to Hamburg - and that is the main reason that there is a different postage rate for this route.   

So, what were the postage rates to send a letter from the US to Sweden via Prussia and via Hamburg that applied to these letters?

Paid to Destination via Prussia 34 cents per ½ ounce : Oct 1865 - Jan 1868

Paid to Destination via Hamburg 33 cents per ½ ounce : Jul 1857 - Jan 1867

The first letter had 68 cents in postage so it must have been a letter that weighed more than 1/2 ounce and no more than 1 ounce (a double rate item).  That one is fairly clear and really doesn't need any speculation.

The second letter had 37 cents in postage if you include the postage pre-printed on the envelope.  So, essentially, the letter was overpaid by four cents.  But, it was clearly a simple letter (a letter that weighed no more than 1/2 ounce) and there were no other rates that would make sense for 37 cents in postage.  

So, why would anyone overpay the postage by this much?  It's pretty easy to explain if the only postage on the envelope came from the 10 cent and 24 cent stamps.  These postage stamp denominations were available and it must have been convenient to just overpay by a penny.  As far as the 3 cents of postage supplied by the design printed on the envelope, we can only speculate as to why this was not used to pay part of the postage.  All I think we can safely say is that the amount of postage was recognized as "enough" and it was treated as if 33 cents had been paid.  The rest was just extra profit for the US Post Office.

Hey. Why would they say "no" to a donation of more funds to the cause?

Bonus Material

The first cover from the US to Sweden was addressed to Madame Christina Lundberg in Stockholm.  There is extra information at the bottom left that could help us determine exactly where in Stockholm Lundberg resided at this time in 1867.

The bottom line reads: Ladugårdslandet.

This was a district in northeast Stockholm that changed its name to Östermalm in 1885 after most of the buildings in that district were destroyed and replaced.  Starting in the 1600s, Ladugårdslandet featured wood and stone houses that were typically yellow.  The buildings often were surrounded by gardens or plots, with some of them being summer homes for the wealthy and influential.  There was a strong military presence with a training field nearby.

If anyone wants to take a shot at helping me figure out the rest of the address, feel free to do so.  


And, there you are.  A Postal History Sunday that just simply went wherever it led me.  I hope you enjoyed this week's installment and, maybe, you learned something new.

Have a fine remainder of your day and an excellent week to come.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

How Difficult Can It Be? - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to the 97th entry of Postal History Sunday, featured weekly on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog.  If you take this link, you can view every edition of Postal History Sunday, starting with this one (the most recent always shows up at the top).  

This time around I am responding to a question from a reader who asked - "You hint that postal rates can be pretty complex sometimes, but you always make it seem pretty simple.  Can you give us an example that shows how complex it can get?"

Well folks - let me first say that I hear the complement in the question.  Thank you (you know who you are).  For those of you who often read this blog post because it doesn't get too deep into the weeds, this one will be an example of exactly HOW DEEP Rob can get into those weeds.  


The postal history of Italy during the process of unification is either a headache or a pleasure depending on my mood.  If I am looking for an opportunity to work with nice neat boxes and categories, this isn't it.  On the other hand, if I take a long view that I enjoy complex puzzles and learning different histories in ways that go beyond the surface description, I can't ask for a much better area.

The other thing that appeals to me about postal history of the Roman States is the simple fact that I never thought I would even see these stamps, much less be the caretaker for postal artifacts bearing them.  As a youth, at least one, if not two, of these designs would show up in stamp albums printed for collectors or other philatelic publications.  It turns out that some of the more "common" examples of postal history bearing these stamps are quite affordable and readily available if you are so inclined.  Nonetheless, I still get a bit of a thrill looking at these because I do still have the 'kid' in me that is surprised to be looking at them in person!

Monetary System:

I tend to focus on the mail in the 1850s to the mid 1870s, and that's where our focus will be with this Postal History Sunday.  So, the first order of business is to get you familiar with the money that was used in the Papal States (Roman States) during this period of time.

1 scudo = 100 bajocchi  (singular is bajocco)
As of July 1866
1 baj = 5 centesimi (Kingdom of Italy currency)

"Distances" in the Papal States
The next thing we need to know is how the postal service in the Papal States split up the territory for which it rendered mail service. 

Now, before I get in too deep, I found this interesting paper that discusses the possibility that Cardinal Antonio Tosti, who served as the General Treasurer from 1834-1845, was - at best - an incompetent treasurer.  The implication there is that, perhaps, Tosti may not have been the best person to come up with a new postage structure.  With that said, perhaps there was a reason this system might be difficult to figure out.

The postal reforms put in place by Cardinal Tosti in 1844 broke the Papal States into three "distances" (you can think of them as districts or regions).  Respected Italian postal historians seem to prefer the term "distances," so I will adhere to that for consistency.

  • 1st Distance: Umbria and Lazio/Latium
  • 2nd Distance: the Marches
  • 3rd Distance: Romagna

From the perspective of the Papal State postal system, Romagne was always the "3rd Distance," just as Umbria and Lazio was the "1st Distance."  These were the labels that could be used to determine postal rates.  Of course, these distances were numbered in a way that considered Rome the center - so it was, obviously, in the 1st Distance.

Rayons in Umbria and Lazio/Latium

The 1st Distance was further broken down into three rays (or rayons or directions).  I prefer to use the word rayons as it is consistent with the term also used in Swiss, Belgian, Dutch and German postal history.  Essentially a rayon is a method of assigning a distance component to the postage required for a mailing.  The 1st rayon was closest to the Marches and Romagne, so it would be the shortest travel to get to either of the other "distances" in the Papal States.

To understand a little better why these rayons were designated as they are here, view the amended map below that shows some of the major cities and the major transportation routes.

It should be no surprise that nearly all roads led to Rome.  This, perhaps also explains the term "direction" to identify the rayons in Lazio and Umbria (the 1st Distance) if you consider the transportation options leaving Rome.  It also makes sense that mail from Ancona in the Marches would cost less if it could stop in the first rayon at Feligno, than it would if it had to go to Rome and then Viterbo (3rd rayon).

Postal Departments
The Papal postal services were divided into smaller postal departments.  The line map here was derived from a period Stieler Atlas as the source (ca 1850).  A person should not consider these maps definitive as they may not reflect how the postal services defined their postal departments.  I suspect there exist postal documents that clearly delineate these postal administrations. However, for the purposes of this blog, these maps are sufficient.

Internal Letter Rate within a Papal Distance

Effective rate period: 

With many postal history rates, it is not terribly hard to determine a fairly definite date for the beginning date and ending date for its effective use.  But, when we talk about many of the rate periods for the Italian states during this time, there is a great deal of variability due to upheaval as the many independent states moved towards unification.

The postal history book titled Lire, Soldi, Crazie, Grana e Bajocchi by Mario Mentaschi cites the issue date of the Roman State postage stamps (January 1, 1852) as the effective start date for the postal rates I am describing here.  As of this moment, I have NOT dug further to determine if the rates actually changed at the point of stamp issue or if they are a continuation of Tosti's 1844 reform with no modifications.  Unfortunately, the various resources at my disposal all seem to provide different start dates for the internal rates - so it makes sense that I go with the Italian postal historian's interpretation.

The end date for rates have more to do with the political changes leading up to and as a result of the War of 1859 and the Italian Risorgimento (unification).  For the most part, we'll just say things change in 1859 and address the specifics some other day.

Yes, that's an easy way for Rob to say "I am too tired to figure all of those details out right now and write them out in beautiful prose - and I am guessing most of you don't have a great need for them anyway!"

Letter Rates within a Papal Distance

Rate Unit
within postal department    
1 bajocco           
6 denari (7.1 grams)
with adjacent postal dept    
2 bajocchi    
6 denari
with non-contiguous dept
3 bajocchi
6 denari
only in 1st Distance

between postal departments
that must go through Roman department
4 bajocchi
6 denari
enclaves in Neapolitan Kingdom

    treat as 3rd rayon in 1st distance

To clarify the rates, take a look at the postal departments in the Marches (the 2nd Distance - shown above).  Once again, these boundaries are approximations to the actual postal departments of the time.

If someone in Fermo wanted to mail a standard weight letter to someone else in Fermo, they would pay 1 bajocco in postage.  That is the rate within the postal department or post office.

If someone in Fermo wanted to mail a standard weight letter to someone in Macerata or Ascoli, they would pay 2 bajocchi because the letter must be sent to an adjacent postal department.

If that same individual in Fermo wanted to send something to Ancona, Camerino or Urbino/Pesaro, they would have to pay 3 bajocchi because the postal departments are not contiguous (they do not share a border).

But, in all cases, the letter does not leave the Marches.

The exception to the rule was for non-contiguous postal departments in the 1st Distance.  If the letter had to travel via Rome, it cost an extra bajocchi (4 bajocchi per 6 denari). 

Mail Between Romagne and the Marches

If everything were this simple, we would not have to write a blog to outline all of the postage rates in the Papal States.

The rate of letters between Romagne and the Marches (the 3rd and 2nd Distances) was 4 bajocchi for every 6 denari.

Letter Rate between the Marches & Romagne

Rate Unit
Between 2nd & 3rd Distances  
4 bajocchi 
6 denari  

Mail to and from Umbria and Lazio/Latium (the distance where Rome is)

Things get a bit more complicated when mail entered or left the 1st Distance from one of the other two distances.   Yep.  I told you this wasn't going to be all that easy.  

Letter Rates from/to First Distance

Rate Unit
between 1st Rayon & Marches    
4 bajocchi            
6 denari (7.1 grams)
between 2nd Rayon & Marches    
5 bajocchi    
6 denari
between 3rd Rayon & Marches
6 bajocchi
6 denari
between 1st Rayon & Romagne
5 bajocchi
6 denari
between 2nd Rayon & Romagne
6 bajocchi
6 denari
between 3rd Rayon & Romagne
7 bajocchi
6 denari

Assuming you're still with me - let's look at some actual pieces of mail that were mailed 160 to 170 years ago in the Papal States.  Maybe that will interest you more than all of these maps and tables filled with silly postal rates?

Examples of Letter Mail within a Postal Department (Local Letter)

Below is an example of a single sheet item mailed within its own postal administration. The item has been folded outward to show the back side where the 1 baj postage stamp was placed and the "Jesi" marking struck to tie it to the lettersheet.  The "prices current" content is for the period dated July 16 to 31, 1854 and was sent out by the Jesi municipality on August 1.  The destination, Rosora, is also in Ancona province, approximately 25 km WSW of Jesi (also spelled Iesi).  Ancona was a part of the Marches, bordering the Adriatic Sea.

Jesi to Rosora, Province of Ancona - 1 baj due

Unpaid letters were still franked with postage stamps - however, they were placed on the BACK of the item in question.  The numeral "1" on the front indicated that 1 bajocco was due.  If the postage stamp had been placed on the front, it would indicate that the sender had paid the postage.  In this case, the recipient had to pay.

San Ginesio to S. Elpidio via Macerata - 1 baj due

A second item with similar characteristics is datelined (in the letter) as being written Aug 18, 1852 in San Ginesio (Province of Macerata).   The red San Ginesio marking confirms that it entered the postal service at that location. There is a Macerata August 19 marking on the front and the postage is on the back again (the recipient had to pay again!).  The addressee appears to be in S. Elpidio which appears to be in the Province of Fermo, further supported by the "Fermo" notation at the bottom (see below).

Address side of San Ginesio to S. Elpidio item

This item technically crossed to another province, so you could argue that it should have cost 2 bajocchi.  But, this is likely one of those times where the postal boundaries may not match the political boundaries.  Sant'Elpidio a Mare is located on the north side of the Tenne River and is extremely close to the political border between the Fermo and Macerata districts.  From a pure transportation perspective, it might have made more sense to include Sant'Elpidio with the Macerata postal department because you did NOT have to cross the river.

Examples of Letter Mail from/to the First Distance 

3rd Distance to 2nd Rayon of 1st Distance

Romagna (3rd Distance) was about as far from Rome (1st Distance) as one could get in the Papal States.  What follows is an 1857 example of a letter sent from Cento (Province Ferrara in Romagna) via Bolgona (Province Bologna in Romagna) to Rome (Roman Province in Latium / Patrimony of St Peter).  

Rome was in the 2nd Rayon of the 1st Distance.  Cento was in the 3rd Distance. The rate per 6 denari was 6 bajocchi.  We know this letter was prepaid because the stamp is on the front.  Also, the big bold diagonal slash was applied by the Roman post office to indicate that they recognized the letter as fully paid.

6 baj rate from Romagna to Rome

The letter was posted in Cento on June 22 and went from there to Bologna.  It arrived three days later in Rome.

2nd Distance to 2nd Rayon of 1st Distance

This second item was mailed in Fermo (August 11) and bound for Rome (August 13) in 1855.  Ten baj were used to pre-pay this item from the Marches to the Patrimony.  Once again, a diagonal slash indicates that Rome considered the item paid in full AND stamps on the front indicated that the sender had paid postage.

Double 5 baj rate from the Marches to Rome

Once again, Rome resided in the 2nd Rayon of the 1st Distance.  Fermo was in the Marches or the 2nd Distance.  Therefore, a simple, single-rate letter would cost 5 bajocchi.  Apparently, this item had a weight that was greater than 6 denari and no more than 12 denari, so it was rated as a double weight letter.  Ten bajocchi prepaid the letter correctly for its successful travels.

Administrations in Romagne

For the sake of completeness, I include what I understand the postal administrations in Romagne to be in the 1850s.  As with the other maps, they may not perfectly reflect the actual areas covered by each office.  

Hey!  We want to do things right here, don't we?  Or was this just a distraction?  Well, either way, it's here.  You can always skip to the next thing if it bothers you.  It's kind of like reading a book that's full of action and then the author goes off on a four-page description of the trees and the nearby lake.  Meanwhile, the main characters are in suspended animation while we observe the gently swaying branches and their reflection on the water.

You're welcome.  It's a long post and I thought you needed something to break things up.

Internal Letter Rates from January 1864 to 1870

At this time, all districts other than the Patrimony of Rome had become part of the Kingdom of Italy.  The letter rate within the Patrimony was simplified to:

  • letter in Rome: 1 bajocco
  • letter outside of Rome: 2 bajocchi

Below is an example of a letter sent within the Viterbo Province for the 2 baj rate.  The item in question is only a wrapper with the content page(s) removed prior to my acquisition.

2 baj rate for letter outside of Rome

A partial Viterbo postal marking dated November 6, 1864 is on the front and a nice Civitacastellana marking is on the back (dated Nov 8, 1864).  The official marking reads "Governo Pontificio Segretoriagle della Provincia di Viterbo"  which indicates the letter is from the Papal Government official titled the Secretary of the Province of Viterbo.  Civitacastellano is about 40km Southeast from Viterbo, but the eventual destination was actually Southwest of Civitacastellano.  Castel Sant Elia is still a small commune (between 2000 and 3000 residents) and this wrapper likely held some sort of official correspondence.

2 baj rate East of Rome

The second example of the 2 baj rate is from the "Gonfaloniere" of the city of Ceprano, located on the border of Latium and the Neapolitan Provinces.  A Rome-Ceprano ambulant marking is dated the same (Sep 12, 1865) as the Ceprano marking on the front.  There is also a Frosinone backstamp, likely indicating this is where the item got off of the train heading towards Rome.  Ripi appears to be the intended destination (between Ceprano and Frosinone).

verso showing postmarks

And there you are, an example of how complicated postal rates could be for just a short period of time (the mid 1850s) for a very specific area of the world.  I hope you enjoyed it and that you have a fine remainder of your day and an excellent week to come!

Bonus Material:

After viewing the last item, were you left wondering what a gonfaloniere was?  The gonfaloniere was an office dating back to the Renaissance in Papal communes/cities.  Gonfaloniers headed the militia from the various city quarters and the gonfalonier of justice often was the chief of the council of guild representatives. By the 1860's, these offices were often symbolic though the possessor of the title may well have held some power in city governance, depending on the community.

And now you know!


Mentaschi, Mario -  Lire, Soldi, Crazie, Grana e Bajocchi (published by Vaccari in 2003).

     This book is in Italian with some translation to English at the chapter introductions.  This book expands on the exhibit with reasonable amounts of helpful text to explain political situations, rates and routes.

Vatican Philatelic Society
     It's a slow loading page for me at least.  There are some decent introductory materials there, but again it is not intended to have a focus for the period I am most interested in.  A Vatican area collector will probably enjoy the site.

Mario Mentaschi Exhibit
     The exhibit shown here appears to be a 1989 version.  

 Postal Tariffs of the Italian Area: 1850-1985 Colin Pilkington, ed. for Fil-Italia Handbooks, 1985
     While this book has what seems like solid information regarding rates from the General Postal Union on, it left me wondering about accuracy with earlier rates.  There seems to be more solid ground with the Kingdom of Italy rates starting in 1863, though it glosses entirely over any foreign rates prior to GPU/UPU.  The Italian State rate sections  suffer from over-simplification of the territories and timelines and the explanations for the internal rates of the Papal States are misleading.

Richard Frajola's "World" collection of postal history
     This is a thoroughly enjoyable exhibit showing material from 1840-1860 with a focus on internal letter rates.  As is true with most exhibits, there are cited dates, rates and routes, but the sources are not usually referenced.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Sorta Paid - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to the 96th entry of Postal History Sunday, featured weekly on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog.  If you take this link, you can view every edition of Postal History Sunday, starting with this one (the most recent always shows up at the top).  

This week's entry might be the closest I've come to not providing Postal History Sunday for those who enjoy reading it for the past two years.  The other notable moment in the history of this series was the weeks immediately following the removal of a kidney from yours truly.  This time around, my partner, Tammy, had surgery to repair a badly damaged Achilles tendon this past Thursday.  Things went well, but I am sure many of you have had enough experience with such things to know how much these events take one's time and energy when they occur.

Take a moment to tuck those worries into the trash can and take them out for your mother, your spouse or yourself and then come back and maybe learn something new.  Put on some fuzzy slippers.  Get yourself a beverage of your choice.  And let's see where we can take you this week.

Paying the Postage - Sort of

We're going to start with a letter that was mailed in August of 1866 from Bordeaux, France to Jerez de la Frontera (near Cadiz), Spain.  The sender paid the postage for a single weight letter, but it was found to be too heavy and required more postage.  

Many weeks ago, we showed a series of items that traveled from the United States to the United Kingdom.  Several of those items did not have enough postage - so they were treated as if they were completely unpaid.  The French and Spanish had a different sort of agreement during the 1860s.  This agreement provided for some credit when a person put postage on an item - even if it was not enough postage.  But, there was still a penalty for the short payment.

The postal convention between these two countries was put into effect on February 1, 1860.  To make matters simple for explanation in a blog post, the basics were as follows:

If someone in France wanted to mail a letter to Spain, they would have to pay 40 centimes (French currency) for every 7.5 grams of weight.  If someone in Spain wanted to mail a letter to France, they would have to pay 12 cuartos (Spanish currency) for every 4 adarmes in weight (4 adarmes is about 7 grams).

          Prepaid Letters Postage:

  France ---->  Spain    =  40 centimes per 7.5 grams

            Spain -----> France    =  12 cuartos per 4 adarmes  (about 7 grams)

Do you see a possible problem?  I sure do!  Technically, an item that weighed 7.2 grams would be light enough for a single rate in France, but it would require a double rate in Spain.  Clearly a recipe for potential problems.

The treaty also allowed people to send letters UNPAID.  If they opted for this service, the recipient would have to pay a different rate to receive their letter.  If a resident in Spain received an unpaid letter from France, they would have to pay 18 cuartos for every 4 adarmes in weight.

        Unpaid Letters Postage:

            France ---->  Spain  =  18 cuartos per 4 adarmes

So, what happened if a person paid for a letter that they thought was light enough for a single rate letter (40 centimes), but it actually required double rate postage?  Well, we get to find out because that is exactly what happened with the item shown above.

Apparently, the French post office was aware that this item weighed too much, so they put the red boxed marking on the cover which reads "Affranchissement Insuffisant" (insufficient postage).  I believe it was the French traveling post office on the train to Irun that calculated the amount due and put the big red "24" on the front of the cover.  

So the recipient in Jerez had to pay 24 cuartos for the honor of receiving this letter, even though their correspondent thought they had paid enough.  Why? It weighed more than 7 grams and no more than 7.5 grams.

So, how was the amount due calculated?

Unpaid rate of mail from France to Spain was 18 cuartos / 4 adarmes

Double this amount due = 36 cuartos  (because this is a double rate letter)
Less amount paid = 12 cuartos    (equal to 40 centimes in French postage already paid)
Total due = 24 cuartos

And there you have it.  Underpaid mail was penalized for failure to prepay the service properly by charging the unpaid mail rate to calculate the total fee due.  However, unlike many other mail agreements of the time, this one actually gave some credit for the attempt to prepay the postage.  But, if you think about it a little harder, you will realize the recipient actually paid as MUCH as the sender would have paid if they had calculated the amount due correctly in the first place.

How Did It Get There?

Postal markings on this cover:

Bordeaux - Les Chartrons Aug 23, 1866
Bordeaux Aug 23 (verso)
Bordeaux A Irun Aug 24 (verso)
Jerez - Cadiz Aug 27 (verso)

Les Chartrons is a district that borders on the Garonne River in Bordeaux and the first two markings likely show the progress from a branch post office in that neighborhood to the main Bordeaux office.  From that point, the Bordeaux A Irun marking shows that this mail item boarded a train and the traveling post office on that train served as the exchange office for France.  From there, we have no markings to confirm the direction of the voyage through Spain, though we can certainly speculate the most likely route.  The remaining marking is from Jerez - Cadiz, which apparently served as Spain's exchange office in this case.

The map shown above illustrates a generalized view of the mail route via Paris for mail from England to Cadiz, Spain.  Of particular note is the fact that France and Spain ran their railways on different gauge (sized) tracks.  The Spanish were quite a ways behind the French and other European nations in developing rail services.  Needless to say, with fewer rail options, it is a bit easier to make an educated guess regarding the route.

The map of the border between France and Spain from 1863 shown above clearly indicates that a rail route via Irun was planned.  On April 8, 1864, an agreement was reached between the two countries that trains from France to Spain would terminate in Irun (in Spain) and trains from Spain to France would terminate in Hendaye (in France).  The two countries would run track to the terminus of each location on their own gauge and each train would return across the border empty, though they could load with return traffic in their own country's territory.  This site provides both modern and historical context.

Since my best reference at present is this map, I cannot be certain that rail service was available for the entire route in 1866, nor can I be sure that the rail line south of Madrid to Cadiz was in service.  That will be work for some other day.

Upping the Ante

In this case, the letter was mailed as a double rate letter from Marseille, France to Madrid, Spain.  Unfortunately for the recipient, the letter was found to be underpaid and they were required to pay 30 cuartos to receive this piece of mail. 

Once again, the red box with "Affranchissement Insuffisant" was applied to indicate that the postage was insufficient to pay for the letter to get to the destination without further payment.  The bold, red "30" indicated that 30 cuartos were due at delivery.

Just as a reminder, the process for short paid mail between France and Spain at the time was to determine the postage by using the higher UNPAID mail rate.  Once that amount is calculated, credit is given for the amount of postage paid.

The weight of this item was greater than 8 adarmes (roughly 14 grams) and no more than 15 grams.  This explains why the person mailing thought 80 centimes was enough.  After all, that was the correct amount by the French calculation (40 centimes for every 7.5 grams).  But, if it weighed 14.5 grams, the Spanish weren't going to see it that way because they expected a rate for every 7 grams!

Once again, unpaid mail from France to Spain is charged 18 cuartos for every 4 adarmes in weight.

Triple rate due = 54 cuartos
Less amount paid = 24 cuartos   (80 centimes in France)
Total due = 30 cuartos

Getting from Here to There

Readable markings on this cover:

Marseille Jun 22, 1868
Cette A Bordeaux Jun 23 (verso)
Bordeaux Jun 23 (verso)

There were actually two land access points between France and Spain over which mail (other than border mail) could travel.  One in the east at Le Perthus/La Junquera and the other at Irun/St Jean de Luz.  Development of a rail crossing at Irun progressed much more quickly and was available by 1868, so even though this letter originated in southeastern France (Marseille), it was actually more efficient given rail schedules and the eventual Madrid destination to use French rail services to get to the western border crossing.  

In viewing the map below, Marseille would be located just off the far right edge of the map.


A Word or Two About the Correspondents

Leon A Laffitte pops up in various documents as giving testimony regarding the status of an early art collection in 1863, presumably as part of his profession as a banker.  His profession was an educated guess, given other references to a Laffitte (or Lafitte) family in Madrid involved in banking.  However, I was able to find more information in A Guide to Sources of Information on Foreign Investment in Spain by Teresa Tortella (2000).  This book includes information that could be useful for tracking business people down in Spain.  The following was taken from that resource.

It Wasn't Just France and Spain

Ok, maybe it has something to do with France...  Here is a letter sent from Bar-le-Duc, France to Padove, Venetia in 1865.  At this time, Venetia was under Austrian control, which means the postage rates to Venetia were the same as those for letters sent to Austria, but not the same as rates to Italy.

Why does that matter?

A person had to pay 40 cents for every 10 grams to mail a letter to Italy in 1865, but a letter to Austria would cost 60 cents for every 10 grams.

I could certainly make things more complex by telling you that the Austrians used yet another weight measurement (1 loth was about 16 grams), but that doesn't come into play with this item.  It is far more likely that the sender simply identified Padova as a part of Italy rather than Austria.  But, the good news for them was that the French and Austrians also agreed that postage paid - even if it was not enough - should count for something.

Just like the agreement with Spain, Austria and France had separate rates for paid and unpaid letters.  The prepaid rate was 60 centimes per 10 ounces and the unpaid letter rate was 80 centimes.

Single Rate due for unpaid letter = 80 centimes
Postage paid    = 40 centimes
Difference due    = 40 centimes
Convert to Austrian kreuzer = 16 kreuzer due 

After awhile, you start to recognize that the postal clerks that handled foreign mail throughout the world in the 1860s had a job that was a bit more complex than you might expect.

No Explanation for This One!

In each of the three previous examples, it wasn't too hard to speculate as to why the sender applied the wrong amount of postage.  In fact, I think it would be safe to say that the sender likely thought they had done everything correctly to avoid having the recipient pay any extra money.  But, I can find no such explanation for the letter above that was sent from Paris, France to Vienna, Austria in 1875.

The rate was still 60 centimes per 10 grams, though it was soon to change for a lower amount with the General Postal Union.  The sender attached a 40 centime stamp and a 15 centime stamp, totaling 55 centimes.

The postal clerks didn't care what the reason was, they just simply marked it as short paid (red marking at top right), wrote the expected amount in pencil (_60) and calculated the amount due from the recipient (a blue 10 in a circle).

Unpaid letter rate = 80 centimes / 10 grams
Postage paid    = 55 centimes
Difference due    = 25 centimes
Convert to Austrian kreuzer = 10 kreuzer due

Why a Different Rate for Unpaid Mail?

With the invention of the postage stamp (the British issued the first one in 1840), the idea that letters should be prepaid in full, rather than sent collect (or partially paid) gained strength.  It was not at all uncommon for recipients to simply refuse mail rather than pay for it.  This was especially true with the extremely high rates of postage required for items that had some distance to travel.

It should not be surprising that postal services would rather receive payment up front rather than risk receiving no compensation for services rendered.  To encourage prepayment, many postal services offered lower rates for prepayment, while others simply added an additional fee for underpaid or unpaid mail.

And, there you have it!  Another Postal History Sunday in the books!

I hope you enjoyed reading about something new and that you have a good remainder of the weekend and see good things throughout the coming week.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Affordable Postage - Postal History Sunday

Welcome to the 95th entry of Postal History Sunday, featured weekly on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog.  If you take this link, you can view every edition of Postal History Sunday, starting with this one (the most recent always shows up at the top).  

I took the liberty of scooping everyone's troubles into the compost pile just prior to cleaning out the brooder room this week.  We won't see those things again until I go turn the pile in a couple of weeks.  I suspect they'll look a little bit different by then!

Now that that task is done, let's all pour ourselves a favored beverage and put on those fuzzy slippers.  Everyone is welcome here.  Here's hoping you are open to the possibility of learning something new.

Big Difference - Short Time Period

The British Mail system in the early 1800s determined postage by the number of sheets in a letter combined with the distance the letter traveled.  That distance was initially calculated based on the distance the item was actually carried - even if there might have been a more direct route between the origin and destination.  All I can say is that seems like an invitation for a little creative route-making to me.

The letter shown above was mailed in January of 1806 in Leominster, which was 142 miles away from London.  The destination was Buckingham, which was an additional 57 miles to travel from London.  That's 199 miles this letter was carried from its origin to its destination.  Now, if you are tempted to look up Leominster and Buckingham on a map, you would find that both are North and West of London and a direct route couldn't be much more than 100 miles.  But that's not how things worked at the time.  The letter was sent via London, so it traveled almost 200 miles - and that's how it was going to be charged when it got to its destination!

Distance Rate Progression 1805 - 1811

Not exceeding 15 miles     4d
15 to 30 miles                    5d
30 to 50 miles                    6d
50 to 80 miles                    7d
80 to 120 miles                  8d
120 to 170 miles                9d
170 to 230 miles               10d
230 to 300 miles               11d

If you look at the scrawls on the center of this folded letter you will find both the number "9" and the number "10."  If you do not see those numbers there, that's ok, you just might have to trust that I do see them.  The "10" is the correct postage due, which is the amount required for a letter that had only one sheet of paper that was carried over 170 miles, but no more than 230 miles.  It is possible the "9" was written in error because they were only calculating the distance from Leominster to London initially and they had forgotten the second leg of the trip.  

So, let's take a look at another letter that was sent in 1844 from Burton on Trent to Manchester (both in the United Kingdom), two locations that are only sixty miles apart - if the rate table above was used, we would expect at least 7 pence as postage.  But wait, if it had to go through London, that's more like 300 miles - or 11 pence.

When we look at the folded letter, we find four one penny stamps, providing only four pence in postage.  But, it seems to have been accepted as full payment.  This is an example of how much postage rates had changed by the time we get to 1844.  The distance used to calculate postage was changed to the shortest distance between two locations regardless of how it was carried in 1838 and, in 1840, the distance component was completely removed and a uniform rate of 2 pence per ounce was established.  (Note, this means that rates were no longer calculated "by the sheet," now it was just by weight).

So, this envelope must have weighed more than once ounce, but no more than two ounces.  And, for four pence, it traveled from point A to point B successfully.  If the first letter had been mailed in 1844,it is possible that it would likely have cost only 1 penny, because it weighs less than 1/2 ounce, which was the special rate for light mail.  In only 34 years, the cost of that first letter changed from 10 pence to one penny.  That's an astounding drop in postage costs.

Rowland Hill Promotes Cheap Postage

Sir Rowland Hill is a name that happens to be known by many postal historians and philatelists as he is often credited with the invention of the postage stamp (though this is an over-generalization of how postage stamps came to be - other authors can write on that topic if they would like).  But, more importantly, Hill was on the forefront of postal reforms that led to cheaper postage, making it possible for more of the populace to avail themselves of this service.  He wrote "Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability," and the United Kingdom implemented those reforms in 1840.  The link is to the 3rd edition published in 1837.  

If you aren't up for reading the entire document, here is a summary of the things Hill was proposing & some of the logic (based partially on Hill's own summary on pages 43 & 44).

Hill's argument:

  1. The complex system of postage was inefficient, needlessly increased costs, and provided inadequate service for the postage collected.
  2. The current system was preventing an increase in business for the postal service, despite an increasing population.
  3. The system promoted collection of postage at destination, which often resulted in unpaid postage for refused mail, slow mail delivery, and mistakes due to the complex system.
  4. Significant portions of the mail were not paying for their costs for transit, promoting fraudulent uses of the postal system. 

Shared from the Postal Museum site on 6/9/22

Hill's proposal: 
  1. Make postage a uniform rate, regardless of distance, to make calculations simpler.  Hill actually proposed a 1 penny per half ounce rate, which the British Post ALMOST adopted with their 2 pence per ounce & a special 1 penny for light letters under a half-ounce.
  2. Collect postage in advance, to avoid fraud & simplify delivery.
Hill's expected results:
  1. Efficient operation could allow for more trips to carry and deliver mail - hence providing better services for its customers.
  2. Simplification of the process would actually result in more business and better revenue growth for the postal service.

If you are interested in a very short bio and a portrait of Hill, you will find them at this location in the National Portrait Gallery.  Or, you can view this presentation by the National Postal Museum. 

Pressures from Private Enterprise

It is tempting to claim that the situation in the United States followed that of the United Kingdom, but that misses some of the fundamental differences between the two.  First, and foremost, there is the simple matter that the US covered a much wider territory with a population that was spread out over that area.  As a result, the cost of covering the entirety of the nation actually was sufficient to make it difficult to cover costs with postage revenue.  As a matter of fact the US Postal Service had run a deficit for the decade leading up to big changes in 1847.

Like the UK, the United States combined distance and the number of sheets in a piece of letter mail to determine the postage due and most mail was sent postage due.  The letter shown above was mailed on August 30, 1819 from Cincinnati, Ohio to Newburyport, Massachusetts, a distance of 915 miles (more or less).  A clear marking reads "25" at the top left, which indicates the postage Stephen W Marston would have to pay for the privilege of receiving this missive.  The rate per sheet was 25 cents if it traveled over 400 miles.

So, you can see similarities in how postage was calculated.  

  1. There were different postage amounts for different distances of travel.
  2. Each postage rate would be multiplied for each sheet - up to a point, then weight was used.
  3. Mail was typically sent unpaid, with postage to be collected from the recipient.

Unlike the UK, the US Postal Service also had to deal with competition from a number of private posts that were springing up to offer their services at rates that were lower.

One such private post was established by James W. Hale and provided mail delivery routes in 1843 centered around New York and Boston.  Hale had a postage stamp designed in 1844, printing them in sheets of twenty.  Patrons could purchase a single stamp for 6 cents, which would pay for mail service between Hale's offices.  To encourage repeat business, a person could buy a whole sheet of 20 stamps for one dollar (5 cents per stamp).  

And, since I am ever the promoter (um... no, I'm not so good at that), if you would like to learn more about the item shown above it was featured in this prior Postal History Sunday).

In addition to the competition from private posts, the US had its own "Rowland Hill" in the form of one Barnabas Bates.  Bates was a vocal proponent for cheap postage who also leaned on the argument that increased use of the mails would make up for revenue lost with lower prices.  In fact, once the United Kingdom enacted their postage reform in 1840, this provided data on which Bates and members of the Cheap Postage Movement could hold up as an example.  

Joshua Leavitt is credited with 'The Finances of Cheap Postage" in Hunt’s Merchants Magazine, published in 1849.  The article points out that in 1839, there were 76 million letters mailed in the UK.  In 1848, the number of letters mailed was nearly five times greater (347 million).  Gross revenue was practically the same while the cost per letter was significantly less.  Bates and company had a pretty good model to point to with the successful British reform pushed forward by Rowland Hill.

Another point Bates liked to emphasize was the fact that a rate structure based on the number of sheets essentially required that postal workers were partaking in a "system of espionage" since they had to open mail if they were to properly determine the number of sheets.

Reform in the United States came in stages with postage rates being reduced to five cents for distances no more than 300 miles and ten cents for distances over 300 miles.  Five and ten cent stamps were, finally, issued in 1847 (an example is shown above).  In 1851, the rates were decreased to 3 cents and a three cent coin was actually minted to make it easier to pay the postage.  But, it would not be until 1863 that the uniform rate of 3 cents would be used throughout the US.

It could be argued that it was during this period that the US Postal Service was defined as a public service.  As such, it was not required that it be profitable business because the real profit was in providing reliable communications to all members of a nation whose people were often located in places where the volume of mail never would provide sufficient volume to be profitable.

Mail Between Nations Follows Suit

While much of the reduction in postage started with internal (or domestic mails) in the 1840s, there were many new postal agreements that adopted some of the same principles of simplifying postage rates, making the rates more affordable and promoting prepayment of postage.

The 1845 letter shown below was featured in one of the earlier Postal History Sundays (October 2020), so if you want to read the details, take the link.  In short, this item cost 140 centimes to mail, a rate that was determined primarily by the distance it traveled to go from Bruxelles, Belgium to Bordeaux, France.  The amount was collected from the recipient.

But, once we get to 1849 (just four years later), France and Belgium's postal rates between the two nations becomes much less expensive and much simpler.  This same letter would have cost 100 centimes LESS in 1849, 29% of what it was in 1845.

Letter Rates - Belgium to France 
Effective Date Rate Unit
Oct 1, 1849  40 centimes 7.5 grams
Apr 1, 1858  40 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1866  30 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 (GPU)  30 centimes 15 grams
May 1, 1878 (UPU)  25 centimes 15 grams
Oct 1, 1907 (UPU) 25 ctm / 15 ctm15 g / add'l 15 g

In fact, postage rates could be effectively lower even when the postage rate for a simple letter did not change.  In 1858, the weight per unit was increased, but the cost per unit remained at 40 centimes.  And, as mail volumes increased and mail systems became more efficient, the costs continued to decline.

Above is a letter that must have weighed more than 10 grams, requiring double the rate of postage (80 centimes).  It was mailed from Ypres, Belgium to Paris, France in 1865.

Less Effort = Less Postage

The old approach to calculate postage based on distance had a lot to do with assumptions about how much effort was required to get a letter from point A to point B.  If a posted item traveled a longer distance, it almost certainly would need to be handled by a larger number of people - all of whom wanted paying.  And, in fact, this had been an accurate assessment of the state of things in the 1700s, and perhaps into the early 1800s.  

During this period of postal reform, there were actually a few cases where postal systems recognized that there were even lower costs for certain types of mail and they opted to reflect those reduced costs with special postage rates.  For example, mail exchanged between border communities in two countries often enjoyed reduced postage rates that were similar to internal (domestic) rates of mail.  The letter shown below was mailed in Milano, Italy to Magadino, Switzlerland, where the rate would normally have been 40 centesimi rather than the 20 centesimi paid by the postage stamp because this letter qualified for the special border rate.

And, local mail often benefited from a lower postage rate, such as this letter than was sent from Geneve, Switzerland TO Geneve, Switzerland.  The cost was five centimes, which was half the normal postage rate at the time.

And, in the United States, a person might be able to pay a one cent "drop letter" rate if they dropped the letter at the post office and the recipient had to come to the the post office to pick it up.  I will say, as a person who has lived in rural towns for much of my life, I wish this was still in effect.  It often seemed odd to pay full postage for a letter that was just going to be walked five feet to the recipients post office box.  The ultimate irony was the day I mailed something to the PO Box number that was only three boxes to the left of my own.

And, yes, I had to pay the full postage rate to do it.  Even so, postage rates are still quite cheap in the US.  I guess if the fifty cents (or less) the letter cost meant more to me, I could have sat at the post office and waited until the recipient came to pick up their mail.  Then I could have just handed it to them.  After all, my time isn't worth more than the cheap postage on a letter - or is it?

Bonus Material

If you would like to read more about Barnabas Bates, Van Dyk Macbride wrote a book in 1847 titled Barnabas Bates, the Rowland Hill of American: A Story of the Fight for Cheap and Uniform Postage in the United States.  It is a relatively short read (28 pages).

Tom Lera uploaded a copy of a petition by Bates that included signatories such as Horace Greeley.  This can be viewed at ResearchGate at this location.

If you want the best (in my opinion) online resource for historical internal postage rates for the United Kingdom, look no further than the Great Britain Philatelic Society.

Thanks for joining me today.  I hope you have a great remainder of the day and a wonderful week to come.