Thursday, March 8, 2018

Evocative Philately: Cultivation

Sheryll Ruecker came up with a brilliant topic idea for one of our recent Ebay Stamp Club "meetings" that occur online.  Her idea was that members should share evocative philatelic items for the December 2017 meeting. This is my second post in the series and it was originally authored in December 2017 (since edited).
The wind came howling through Iowa today and I decided it was not a good day to be working outside.  While I am glad that I am entering the 'off-season' on the farm, there are days when I actually miss walking behind the wheel hoe.

For those who do not know, a wheel hoe is a two-handled tool that has some sort of cultivating blade.  The back of the top cover shows five people using two-wheeled wheel hoes to cultivate on either side of a crop.  The front of the cover shows a farmer with a seeder that has a similar configuration to the wheel hoes.  The lower cover shows a 'walk-behind' tractor.  We actually use both types of cultivation tools on the farm.  The machine powered tool certainly has its uses, but it's a combustion engine, so it makes its share of noise.  And, before you start thinking the powered tool is easier to use, I can tell you that it will work a fair share of your muscles.  If you would like to view these items more closely, you can click on the picture below.

Some of my best days on the farm have been those where the weather was not too windy and the soil was JUST RIGHT for cultivation.  If you pick up the right amount of speed, the soil just rolls over the top of the cultivating blade, easily exposing the roots of the weeds I am targeting.  Wheel hoe work can be mildly strenuous, but not so much that it can't also be pleasant.   You can listen to nature - or listen to music - or just be alone with your thoughts.  All the while, you're getting real work done.

The soil and steel have a sound and a feel on days like this that is soothing.  That sound confirms that progress is being made without drowning out the goldfinches exclaiming over the gift of sunflower seeds ("For meeeee?!")  Sometimes you walk close enough to the crop that your leg brushes against its leaves.  If you're lucky, that crop is basil (ok, you're lucky if you LIKE the smell of basil).  Maybe a butterfly will land on the bill of your cap.  The iced tea in the thermos tastes especially good when you stop at the end of a row and a little bit of sweat tells you that you're earning your keep.

The wheel hoe is your companion as you take a tour of the world that is the Genuine Faux Farm fields.  The 'cucumber frog' jumps out just in time to startle you a little bit and you notice a new hatching of lady beetles.  You remind yourself to trust that they will find enough of the aphids to make a difference for your peas and lettuce.  It looks like one of the tomatoes was broken by the storm a few days ago and it is not going to make it.  Well, that happens.  The other three hundred plants in this field look pretty good.

The sunlight's angle this time of day allows you to see the world in a different way, with the contrast of light and shadow.  The zinnia flowers can still dazzle, but the cool blue flowers on the borage love the way the light shows off their beauty this time of day.  A light evening breeze actually reminds you that the weather isn't always as hot as it was just a little while ago.

It looks like the green beans will have their first picking by next week - our favorite veggie.  Lightly steamed with some real butter.  The sun is telling me it must be about time for a break to have dinner.  Maybe we'll just pick a pot full of beans, even if they're a little small, and go cook them up now.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Evocative Philately: Pencil Thin

Sheryll Ruecker came up with a brilliant topic idea for one of our recent Ebay Stamp Club "meetings" that occur online.  While the stamp club doesn't have too much participation, I think there is enough to make it worthwhile.  Her idea was that members should share evocative philatelic items for the December 2017 meeting. Apparently, this meant something to me as I put more than one post out in the discussion area. I felt that some of that writing could be expanded into something more, so I am moving at least one of those posts here so I can give it a try.

The wooden pencil.

All I have to do is look at the cover on this page and I can hear the sound of the pencil sharpener at the elementary school when I was a student.  I remember that there were times we would line up to take a turn sharpening pencils and I remember working desperately hard to use up every tiny bit of each pencil...  How many people can remember sharpening a pencil for the last time where you could barely hold on to it to keep it from just spinning around in the sharpener?

And, what good is a wooden pencil without one of those nice big rubber erasers?  There wasn't a 'backspace' key to hit that made what you wrote go away when you made a mistake.  A few seconds of scrubbing on the paper and you'd have all of these pills of eraser stubble that you could sweep off the desk with one quick swipe of the hand.  But, oh, the frustration when you were overly aggressive with that eraser.  A hole in the paper or perhaps the whole thing wrinkled up and then tore - ugh!

There were some moments in the classroom where everyone was pretty mellow and calm.  Everyone was working on something and no one seemed inclined to make a ruckus.  I remember can remember putting my head down on the desk next to whatever I was working on.  I realize only kids can do this because it requires a certain amount of flexibility and a ridiculous ability to see things a couple of inches from your face.  But, the odd thing about it was that doing this had the odd effect of making you feel a bit like you had your own space, even though you were in a room with 23 other students and a teacher.

There is a certain feel and smell that goes along with wooden flip top desks, paper, pencils and erasers.  I am fortunate that my memories of these times are positive.  I realize some people struggled in school and others were in a school environment that didn't feel safe to them.  I, on the other hand, equate these sensory inputs with an opportunity to create in a secure environment.  There wasn't a huge rush to get it done.  Instead, there was permission to immerse myself in whatever project was before me.  Sometimes it was math, sometimes it was writing, sometimes it was art.  But, whatever it was, the process was made simple by pencil, paper and eraser.    

I still write and plan with lead pencils of the 'mechanical' variety.  Pencil sharpeners are no longer found at every corner of a library and I rely more often on my 'portable office' so I can work in any environment.  The traditional wooden pencil is no longer the best technology for me.  But, I still find myself feeling like I'm in the right place when I pick up a newly sharpened lead and cedar number 2 pencil and put the first figures on the page. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Price of Bread

The Project:
Not too long ago, I picked up a mailed circular that caught my eye not for the postal history, but for the contents of the item being mailed.  Anyone who has passing knowledge of European history may perk up if there is mention of a "Bread Tax."  But, it is also likely that most people, like me, won't know exactly where they heard about a bread tax.  I am guessing some vague recollection about Marie Antoinette and peasants 'eating cake' may come to mind.  But, the story (as usual) is much more complex and interesting than just a side reference to the French Revolution.  This project consists solely of learning what the 'taxe officieuse du pain' was in 1865.

Flyer Contents:
"The mayor of the village of Tarbes informs the administrators the voluntary bread tax for the 2nd fortnight of June 1865 is fixed as follows:"

The average prices of wheat (three quality levels) follow on the sheet (per hectolitre).  Which then concludes with the bread prices.

"According to these prices the voluntary tax is the following:"  Price levels follow for white bread and mixed grain bread (Meteil).

The literal translation to "tax" is actually inaccurate then, since this is clearly a price control rather than an additional cost levied to be collected by the government.
Letter Rate: 
This item was mailed from Tarbes in Southern France (Hautes-Pyranees department) to nearby Vic-en-Bigorre, which was apparently under the jurisdiction of Tarbes for the purposes of the 'taxe offieuse du pain.'  It appears that the standard letter rate was used for this item rather than a printed matter or other discounted postage rate.  This rate was 20 centimes for an item up to 10 grams in weight which was effective from Jul 1, 1860 - Aug 31, 1871.

Vic-en-Bigorre arrival June 9, 1865
Apres Le Depart:

The item is postmarked on Jun 8, 1865 and was given an "Apres Le Depart" box marking to indicate that it was posted AFTER the mail had left for the day.   These markings were used by the post office as a way of explaining delays in delivery for items that were received after the departure of whichever mode of conveyance was required to move the item forward in the postal system.  In this case, the item came to the post office after the scheduled train had already left the station.  Hence, it had to wait until the next departure (the following day).

Vic-en-Bigorre is only 20 km away from Tarbes to the North and is located on the rail line spur that connected to the Bayonne/Bordeaux railway. 

Rail lines in France to 1860.
Taxe Officieuse du Pain
It took a while to find the right search parameters, but once I did I was able to find a couple of books that clarified the topic for me.  The explanation given by Knoop in 1912 couldn't be made clearer, so I use it here:

"... policy adopted by many French municipalities of fixing each week a taxe officieuse du pain and in a few cases a taxe officielle du pain.  Each is based upon the current price of corn, the calculations being made according to a fixed rule that allows for the cost of baking and for the baker's profits.  The taxe officieuse is merely semi-official and indicates to purchasers what constitutes a reasonable price for bread.  The taxe officielle is an official price which may not be exceeded for the specified qualities of bread." [1, p 72]

Needless to say, this flyer calculates bread prices based on the price of wheat, not corn.  It is possible that the price of other grains also entered into the calculations, but they are not made as apparent as the price of wheat in the flyer shown above.
"The notices on which the prices are printed... have to be displayed in a conspicuous position in every baker's shop." [1, p 72]

Clearly, Tarbes was the regional authority that set the bread price and flyers were sent out to the surrounding towns to be posted.  The top corners of this sheet seem to indicate that it was, indeed, posted somewhere and then taken down.  Someone must have felt like saving these since this copy has managed to survive to the present day.

Why Unofficial Bread Price Control?
 It turns out that the step from required to voluntary price controls was a fairly new situation in France, with free trade for bakers being established in mid-1863.  Prior to that, there were taxe officielle that set prices for bread and these controls were actually a tool to maintain the peace in France (and Italy - perhaps other locations as well?).

"Another sign of the times was the final extension of free trade to the bakers, with the suspension of age-old restrictions by a decree of 22 June 1863.  Regulation of bread prices (the taxe du pain) and controls over bakers had traditionally been key elements of police power.  The ending of such regulations became acceptable only with the disappearance of  massive price fluctuations and the reduction in the consumer emotiveness which had been so characteristic of the ancien regime economique.  It was anticipated that liberation, accompanied by an end to limitations to the number of bakers, would increase competition and reduce price levels." [2, p202]

The consumer "emotiveness" referenced by Price in the above quote was rooted in the extreme reliance on bread in the diet of most people during the Industrial Revolution period.  In particular, the move to urbanization resulted in fewer people working the land for their own subsistence.  Though, you could also argue that peasants couldn't always work for their own subsistence either since they did not control the disposition of crops.  Regardless, if bread provided the majority of a person's diet, it only makes sense that shortages or high prices would cause an "emotive" response.  If you can't get bread, you can't eat - so you can't live.  Neely suggests that a common worker in France would expect at least 50% of wages to go toward bread.  That percent rose to 88% in 1788-1789. [3]

Flour War of 1775
And, this is where the history tidbit most of us have some recollection of connects to the topic as a whole.  The "Flour War" of 1775" occurred as result of high bread prices.  Essentially, the government relaxed bread price controls and prices rose as part of a new "laissez-faire/laissez-passe" policy that encouraged less government participation in control of economic factors.  In Sept 1774, free trade in grain was established and police controls were abolished with respect to grain and bakers.

This new freedom led to speculation in grains, with some hoarding the product in anticipation of higher prices.  As a result, there were grain shortages in early 1775 with the prior year's crops either consumed or hoarded and the new year's crops not yet mature.  Prices did, in fact, increase dramatically as those who hoarded the grain helped to create a situation of scarcity throughout France.  This differed from prior periods of shortage which were normally regional.  In those cases, the government could receive a petition and respond to alleviate the shortage.  With the new "laissez-faire" system, speculators bought from regions with plenty and hoarded - essentially putting all regions in a position of scarcity that relied on the speculators to provide the needed grain at the speculators' price.

In some locations, the people executed what they called a "popular taxation" by liberating grain shipments and selling at a "proper or fair price."  In general, rioting targeted the hoarders and others (often government officials) that were supposed to be responsible for the shortages.  The government was forced to respond with force and they re-instituted controls on grains and bakeries.

Even with these price controls, bread was still one of the motivating factors in the French Revolution of 1788-1789.  There were poor crops worldwide for several years due to the Laki volcano eruption in Iceland (June 8, 1873).  Hungry people can become desperate people.  Desperate people became dangerous people once they decided the current government (true or not) is using famine to its benefit.  Obviously, the French Revolution was far more complex than this, but it can truly be said that hunger, and a poorly timed economic experiment, played a role.

The Cautious Removal of Price Controls in 1863
Improved infrastructure for communications and transportation resulted in conditions that could potentially support free trade in grains and an open market for bakers. 

"Even so, the government remained cautious.  Local authorities were still required to establish a taxe officieuse and to publish it: this was to be the suggested selling price for bread.  Furthermore, a list of bakers selling below this price was to be published to encourage competition." [2, p 202]

This mailed article is evidence of this system that was noted to still be in use in many parts of France in 1912 by Knoop.  While a baker could certainly charge more for a product than the prices shown in the taxe officieuse, the consumer could make an informed choice about price based on the baseline prices offered by the government.

While you might think the French Revolution and the Flour Wars might have been firmly in the rearview mirror by this point in time, there was still resistance to the idea of a free market for bread and grains. 

"In 1863, after a good harvest, the price of bread ... was estimated to be some 2 centimes higher than if the taxe du pain had been retained.... There was thus widespread discontent with the new system.  This noticeably increased after poor harvests in 1866 and 1867." [2, p 202]

However, this time, the change to a more "laissez-faire" approach in the grain market stuck, resulting in a system that flattened out price changes.

"In spite of this, consumers were in a far better position than before because of the reduction in the amplitude and rapidity of price fluctuations." [2, p 203]

[1]Knoop, Douglas, "Principles and Methods of Municipal Trading", MacMillan and Co, Ltd, London, 1912

[2] Price, Roger, "the Modernization of Rural France: Communications, Networks and Agricultural Market Structures in Nineteenth Century France," Routledge, London, 1983.

[3]Neely, Sylvia, "A Concise History of the French Revolution."

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Letter Rates: France to Belgium

The Project
Postal agreements prior to the General Postal Union/Universal Postal Union in 1875 were highly diverse, though they show increased uniformity over time from 1850 to 1875 in Europe.  This post focuses on France and Belgium.  Others are linked below:

France to the Netherlands

Letter Rates - France to Belgium
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 ctm 15 g / add'l 15 g

Rates differed for "Border Mail," which showed a reduce rate.  This also occurred with Switzerland.  See appropriate section and table below.

40 centimes per 10 grams - 1858-1865
1860 to Belgium: 40 centime rate

Tournay entry (east of Lille)
Cambrai is actually located Southwest of Valenciennes, yet this item appears to have gone to Lille and then Tournay.  The following items seem to have entered Belgium at Valenciennes if we make the possibly erroneous assumption  that the MIDI I marking is of the same period of use as the par Tournay marking.

30 centimes per 10 grams - 1866-1875
1868 to Belgium
Lille 25 Apr 68 
France MIDI I 26 Apr 68 (verso)
Bruxelles 26 Apr 68   (verso)
St Gilles . Bruxelles 26 Apr 68 (verso)

verso of 1868 to Belgium

Each of these items show what must have been a pretty standard mail to Belgium from France.  The top item is interesting in that it has an origin at Lille, which is very near the border with Belgium.  Valenciennes is to the Southeast and was identified as an entry point for mail to/from the Netherlands.  It would not seem all that odd to have "non-border" mail enter via a single point for the rest of Belgium.  However, it appears there was a rail line from Lille to Tournay to Gand (Ghent/Gent).  So, it also would not seem odd that Lille was the border crossing.  However, this could also have gone by French rail to Valenciennes and crossed the border to Mons, taking Belgian rail to Brussels/St Gilles.
1867 to Belgium
Arras 13 Jun 67
France MIDI I  -  11 Jun 67 (verso)
Gand 8M - 14 Jun 67 (verso)
     7 in circle - must be some sort of carrier/delivery marking?
verso of 1867 to Belgium item - note 7 in circle at middle right
The second item originated in Arras, which is Southwest of Lille and Valenciennes.  Since this item goes to Gand/Ghent, it is again possible that the item crossed at Lille OR Valenciennes.  Both covers bear the same transit marking "France MIDI I" which tells me they crossed at the same location.  The question is which location?  For now, I assume Valenciennes.

Looking at the rail map above, there appear to be five railway border crossings during this period.  The routing via Luxembourg would make little sense for most French originations, including those of the three items shown above.  The Calais-Lille-Paris railway was well-established and carried a great deal of mail traffic, including foreign mails via Britain.  This would seem to favor both of the northern crossings (at Lille and Valenciennes).  The entry points south of Mons may not have seen as much postal use, but I see no reason why it wouldn't have been used once the line was opened.

Border Letter Rates - France to Belgium
Effective Date Rate Unit
Oct 1, 1849 20 centimes 7.5 grams
Apr 1, 1858 20 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1866 20 centimes 10 grams

** for mail that crosses the border and distance is 30 km or less from origin post office to destination post office

Border Mail with Belgium
If my relatively short foray into European mails in the 1850-1875 period is any indicator, much of the mail that traveled from France to Belgium seems to have originated in the "Nord."  At the very least, of the thirty or so items I have viewed, the furthest afield was Paris.  The rest were northeast of there.  Even so, I have only seen one item that would qualify at the 'border mail' rate.  And, sadly for me, it was properly identified and I was not willing to pay for the privilege of owning that item.

The following pieces of the convention illustrate the border mail regulations and provide a list of locations that would benefit from the special rate.
convention effective Oct 1, 1849

Convention effective April 1, 1858

Convention effective Jan 1, 1866

Belgium Frees Itself from the Netherlands
The Congress of Vienna (1815) essentially attached Belgium to the Netherlands.

ART. LXV. The ancient United Provinces of the Netherlands and the late Belgic provinces, both within the limits fixed by the following Article, shall form, together with the countries and territories designated in the same article, under the sovereignty of his Royal Highness the Prince of Orange-Nassau, sovereign prince of the United Provinces, the kingdom of the Netherlands, hereditary in the order of succession already established by the Act of the constitution of the said United Provinces. The title and the prerogatives of the royal dignity are recognised by all the Powers in the house of Orange-Nassau. [from General Treaty/Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, June 9, 1815 - note that this is actually before the Battle of Waterloo]

On October 4, 1830, Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands.  The current powers of Europe intervened and ratified this on January 10, 1831.  The final treaty signed on Oct 15, 1831 left Luxembourg with the Netherlands and recognized Belgium, but Netherlands refused to sign that treaty.  War persisted between the Netherlands and Belgium for eight more years.  A second treaty (Treaty of London - 1839) signed April 19, 1839 set the boundaries that would be in use when postage stamps began to see use.  These borders, interestingly enough, were fairly similar to those found in 1790.

Open Questions:
The following are points of interest for further research:
  1. Identifying the exchange markings and pairing them with the appropriate border crossing would be useful.
  2. Access to the full text of the postal conventions would be useful for future efforts.  It is possible the postal conventions would identify all exchange offices between the two countries.
  3. things could be more fully fleshed out if rail-line establish dates were located, especially on the Belgian side of the border.

Les Tarifs Postaux Francais: Entre 1848 et 1916 by Jean-Louis Bourgouin
     This has been my "go to" site for determining French rates for some time.  Data appears to be backed up by postal acts and agreements of which I have confirmed some and I hope to collect access to others as well.

General Treaty/Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, June 9, 1815
     This is the actual treaty text in English (language used for official documents was French - the language of diplomacy at that time).  It is located on WikiSource which is getting better at providing access to the text of original documents such as this.  It is instructive to read how this treaty set up Europe after the defeat of Napolean at Waterloo (which was not at all certain at the time of the Congress of Vienna).

 LeBecque, Emmanuel, Histoire Postale du Nord, 2014
   Lebecque includes several portions of conventions and official postal acts that apply to his area of interest.  The three sections for border mail are included on his site and I have "shamelessly" taken them for the purpose of illustrating the border mail rate from the French perspective.  The next step is to locate the full text to illustrate the rest of the appropriate rate and route information.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Letter Rates: France to the Netherlands

The Project
Postal agreements prior to the General Postal Union/Universal Postal Union in 1875 were highly diverse, though they show increased uniformity over time from 1850 to 1875 in Europe.  I am hoping that the creation of reference posts such as this will increase my overall understand of mail routes throughout Europe during that same period.  The project focuses on mail between France and the Netherlands with the focus here being from the French post office perspective.  Perhaps if i can acquire some items from the Netherlands to France a companion post will appear.

Other French Postal Rate posts:
France to Belgium

Letter Rates - France to the Netherlands
Effective Date Rate Unit
Prior to Apr 1, 1852 ** 7.5 grams
Apr 1, 1852 60 centimes 7.5 grams
Apr 1, 1868 40 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 ctm 15 g / add'l 15 g

** rates prior to 1852 were subject to both weight and distance units.  See 1836 Convention section.

Countries that required the transit of mail from France via another nation were given a 'second tier' of rates.  While mail in 1856 to Belgium would cost only 40 centimes, the same weight letter to the Netherlands would cost 60 centimes.  At least some of the additional postage would cover transit costs via the intermediate postal system(s).  Sometimes the intermediate system would transit material via closed mail bags (not to be opened in transit) and sometimes via open mail bags (and thus some processing in the transit country might be made).  The postal convention would normally identify the transit cost and which postal system was to pay for that cost.

With the General Postal Union agreement, rates for countries that were not contiguous required the same rate as those that shared a border.

60 centimes per 7.5 grams - 1852-1868

1856 France to Netherlands: 60 ctm up to 7.5g
Bordeaux 13 Oct 56
Bordeaux A Paris  13 Oct 56
Amsterdam 15 Oct 1856 (verso)

 40 centimes per 10 grams - 1868-1875
1868 France to Netherlands: double 40 ctm rate
Paris P De La Bourse  3 Jun 68
Amsterdam   4 Jun 68 (verso)

note blue pencil marking - "2" for double rate letter

Neither letter gives any real evidence with markings as to the actual routing of the letter between Paris and Amsterdam, thus indicating the use of closed mail transit via Belgium.  Belgium was also clearly used to having closed mail transiting from one of its borders to the next as it did so with high volumes of mail to the Prussian system with entry via Belgium to Aachen.

Letter Rates - Unpaid Letters Due Amount: Netherlands to France
Effective Date Rate Unit
Prior to Apr 1, 1852 ** 7.5 grams
Apr 1, 1852 60 centimes 7.5 grams
Apr 1, 1868 60 centimes 10 grams

** rates prior to 1852 were subject to both weight and distance units.
Unpaid letters from the Netherlands were due an additional amount.  It seems that short paid letters were treated as unpaid between the two countries?

Oct 10, 1836 Postal Convention
This agreement between post offices confirmed the 1817 convention's use of rayons with rayon 2 removed (this was now Belgium) and rayon 1 consisting only of Luxembourg.  Valenciennes (France) and Breda (Netherlands) were the entry/exit points designated for mail (exchange offices).

Letter Rates - France to the Netherlands as of Oct 10, 1836
Effective Date Rate Unit
1st rayon 30 centimes 7.5 grams
3rd rayon 60 centimes 7.5 grams
4th rayon 70 centimes 7.5 grams
5th rayon 80 centimes 7.5 grams

As near as I can tell - and in agreement with Bourgouin, it seems paid and unpaid letters are the same rates.  It is possible - maybe even likely - that a difference wasn't really considered at this point because the push to get mail prepaid had not yet begun until postage stamps became more common.

Note, the Bourgouin website gives the date for these starting on Jan 1, 1828.  I am not certain what that date applies to in terms of postal acts, etc.  The 1836 postal convention seems to be where I can trace the information to at this time.

Rayons in the Netherlands
Part of the internal rate for the Netherlands was calculated by the letter size/weight and part was calculated by the distance to be traveled.  The Postal Convention of Sep 12, 1817 set five rayons in the Netherlands.  Those closest to the border with France (note, Belgium and Luxembourg were part of the Netherlands at this time) were in the first rayon.  Letters incoming to France were to be marked with a handstamp indicating the rayon from which the letter originated.  The handstamp was of the form: L.P.B. 1R  (or 2R, etc).

Les Pays-Bas
The French know the Netherlands as "Pays-Bas" or "Les Pays-Bas," which is literally translated as "Low Country (ies)."  This shouldn't sound odd since the English refer to it as "the Netherlands" with "nether" being defined as "lower in position."

Les Tarifs Postaux Francais: Entre 1848 et 1916 by Jean-Louis Bourgouin
     This has been my "go to" site for determining French rates for some time.  Data appears to be backed up by postal acts and agreements of which I have confirmed some and I hope to collect access to others as well.

General Treaty/Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, June 9, 1815
     This is the actual treaty text in English (language used for official documents was French - the language of diplomacy at that time).  It is located on WikiSource which is getting better at providing access to the text of original documents such as this.  It is instructive to read how this treaty set up Europe after the defeat of Napolean at Waterloo (which was not at all certain at the time of the Congress of Vienna).

Lewis, Geoffrey, "the 1836 Anglo-French Postal Convention: How this Agreement Between Great Britain and France Made It Easier to Send Mail to All Parts of the World," Royal Philatelic Society, 2014.
     Could be an interesting and useful read.  A short presentation paper by Lewis can be found here.

1.  Shortpaid letters.  Did France/Netherlands letters go with  shortpaid treated as unpaid until the General Postal Union?
2. Is it possible to locate the dates of all relevant postal treaties between the two?
3. I suspect not all mail went between Breda and Valenciennes by the time we reach the 1850's and 1860's. Where there other routes?
4. it would be good to double check historical dates here.  I am only looking for a general background at this time, but I would prefer accuracy.
5. Accountancy between the countries, including the transit fee for Belgium (and who pays it) is currently unknown to me.  I would like to find the actual text of the "newer" postal agreements so I can muddle through the French and learn a few more details. The 1836 Convention is a bit before much of what interests me for collecting material.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cariboo Road

The Project:
One of the fascinating things about postal history is that a single item can open up windows to interesting events, people or situations that occurred in the past.  Below is an item that was once in the care of Steve Walske and I am now its caretaker.  The good news about knowing who owned a cover before you is that they can help you figure out what is going on if they are willing to share their own research.  The rate information comes wholly from Steve's efforts.  This frees me to spend more time learning about some of the back story that I hope to put together here.

Last Updated: 1/23/18

Williams Creek was the site of much of the early successes in finding gold and settlements such as Marysville, Richfield and Barkerville sprang up to gain varying levels of importance.  Barkerville had a documented office for Barnard's Express early in the 1860's, so I'll generalize Williams Creek to having an origin at Barkerville.

  • Barkerville (approx Jul 22)
  • via Barnard's Express on the Cariboo Road 
  • to Soda, Ashcroft, Lytton and Yale
  • via Dietz and Nelson to New Westminster were it 'entered the mails' on July 26
  • to Victoria - not sure how this happened - was it still Dietz and Nelson even though it entered the BC post office in New Westminster?  Or was there a different contract from this point?
  • Victoria to San Francisco (July 31) via steamer
  • likely overland to New York (Sep 6) (no directive via Panama)
  • Cunard's Persia to Liverpool (Sep 16)

Usual stage time from Yale to Barkerville (approx 380 miles) was four days.  A special express (night driving, etc) set a record at 30 hours.

From the Aug 8, 1863 British Columbian published in New Westminster
An alternative was to transfer the mails to Dietz and Nelson at Lillooet.  They would then use steamers on Lake Harrison (and perhaps on the river as well?)  However, the below seems to indicate that there were two wagon trails that met up north of Lytton (probably near Ashcroft).  The advertisement shown here for a company offering services to carry goods extolled the virtues of the Lytton route.

The map above is not entirely accurate, but I selected it because it is fairly clean and easy to work with.  I suspect I can find other maps that would more accurate depict both wagon roads (Douglas to Lilloet and Yale Cariboo Road).

Three hundred and eighty miles from Yale to Barkerville may not sound like much in today's world.  But, if you do a little looking into what the terrain in this area is like and consider the technologies of the time, traversing this area was no small task.

The Cariboo Road

Old Cariboo Road, picture from wikipedia
The Old Cariboo Road was created in response to the Cariboo Region gold rush in the 1860's.  And, if you know anything about North American history, you have to recognize that the discovery of gold fields was one of the quickest ways for an area to attract settlers and cause development of infrastructure - such as the Old Cariboo wagon road shown above.

Barnard's Express

Winter of 1863 - added sleighs for winter transport.  1864 4 horse 14 passenger stage added

The BX Ranch
Barnard's Express was successful in part because of his investment in and maintenance of his horse stock. 

Dietz and Nelson
 sold their express company to Barnard in 1867

Ad in the British Columbian (New Westminster) newspaper published Dec 12, 1866
Williams Creek and Surrounding Area
 The map below from "Great Mining Camps of Canada" [1] seems like it lends a bit more credence for accuracy with respect to where things are in the Williams Creek area.  Settlements essentially appeared as claims were staked.  Where claims clustered, services tended to follow.
from [1] - Locations of Cariboo Placer Gold Production

Barkerville 1863 from [1] in resources

One Legacy of Gold Rushes

The Western Cover Society is currently housing many of the postal history references that help with items in this area during my period of interest.  

Walske, Steve, Stamp Shortages in the Cariboo Gold Country: Mail from Williams Creek via San Francisco, 1864-1868, US Philatelic Classics Society, The Chronicle, no. 218, vol 60, no 2, May 2008, pp 117-128

Walske, Steve, Postal Rates on Mail from British Columbia and Vancouver Island via the United States, 1858-1870, US Philatelic Classics Society, The Chronicle, no.212 ,vol 58,no 4, Nov 2006, pp 289-297
     - Some excellent work here and the rate tables below come from this article.

British Columbia and Vancouver Island Rate Tables on Western Cover Society webpage

Forster, Dale, Paid, Unpaid, Collect and Free Markings on BC and VI Covers, Postal History Society of Canada Journal, No 107, Sep 2001, pp 49-57.

Wellburn, Gerald E, The Stamps and Postal History of Colonial Vancouver Island and British Columbia: 1849-1871, (1987).
     - Since Wellburn's time, postal historians have been able to gain access to more primary sources with far less effort.  As a result, some of the details in this "coffee-table" book are incorrect.  Nonetheless, an enjoyable book to view.

British Columbia and Vancouver Island Covers on Western Cover Society webpage
     - I cannot tell if the Western Cover Society intends this to be a census or a sampling.  My suspicion is the latter, though this 'sampling' covers a good deal of ground.  I presume most were in the Walske collection.

The BC Gold Rush Press is a blog that has dedicated itself to the history of the gold rush in this area and could provide a person with all kinds of perspectives. It appears to be well done and was still active Jan 2018.

Downs, Art, Cariboo Gold Rush: the Stampede that Made BC, Heritage House, 1987
     - This book is focusing on making the story entertaining but does so with the integration of primary sources.  Looks like an interesting read that could allow me to accurately map the Cariboo road and other wagon trails in the early to mid 1860's.

[1] Brown and Ash, Great Mining Camps of Canada: the History and Geology of the Cariboo Goldfield, Barkerville and Wells, BC, Journal of the Geological Association of Canada, Vol 36, no 1 (2009).
     - Lots of detail, well researched.  The focus, of course, is on the geological side of things, but the accompanying historical information is also of use here.

Some interesting maps can be found at University of Victoria's Digital Collection.  Of note are carriage road maps (proposed in 1861).

Older version of the display page:

Project Status:
early stages - this post is actually a mild re-write of a post on our farm blog that is located here.

several resources and pieces of information were ferreted out some time ago and are stored in various locations.  Hopefully I can "refind" all of it.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mail in the Papal States of Italy

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 much better.

The Project
This is an attempt to summarize for myself some of the basics of Roman States/Papal States postal history during their stamp issuing period.  I will revisit this post as I learn more.  And, for me, learning is likely to come as I find other postal history items.  The catch?  I don't want to throw too much money at it, but I still want to enjoy the items I find.  The second catch?  I don't know any Italian other than an odd word here or there.  Alas for me - but I'll muddle along.

Last Update: 1/22/18

Districts in the Papal States
Until January of 1864, the Papal States consisted of three districts:
  1. Patrimony of St Peter and Southern Umbria
  2. Northern Umbria and the Marches
  3. Romagna
The Patrimony included Rome and the port city Civitavecchia.  These districts helped to determine the rate for internal letters.

These districts consisted of many administrations (I have read that there were 40 of them, but would like to confirm this.  I would also like a list of these administrations or a map if possible.  I suspect they may fall into similar provinces as shown in modern maps, but not exact.)

Internal Letter Rates 1850 to January 1864
(note: I would like to learn the exact dates and perhaps see any documentation of a postal act that goes along with it)

Note: the Mentaschi exhibit linked at the end of this post seems to contradict what I have here. This information is from Postal Tariffs of the Italian Area: 1850-1985 (see resources at end).

  • Within the same administration:  1 baj per sheet
  • Between adjoining administrations: 2 baj per sheet
  • Administrations in same district, not adjoining: 3 baj per sheet 
  • Between adjoining districts: 4 baj per sheet
  • Non-adjoining districts (Romagna to Patrimony): 5 baj per sheet
Mentaschi's exhibit seems to indicate that price was based on 7.5 grams weight rather than by the sheet.  Starting January 1, 1852 (another generic source claims 1851).  The exhibit also mentions Tosti's 1844 postal reform.

Mentaschi also seems to indicate that the interpretation above is either open to misinterpretation by the way it is written and adapted here from the Postal Tariff book OR it is more complex than this, with the rate being cumulative between travel from district to district AND the number of administrations traveled.  For example, a 7 baj rate would apply for something from Romagna to the furthest administration in the Patrimony.

Mentaschi puts rates down as follows:
  References a district as a 'distance,' which makes sense since many postal administrations of the time used varying measures of distance to determine rate.  Each 'distance' was split into a 'range' or 'direction,' which Mentaschi seems to use interchangeably. 
  • 1 baj for item in same 'direction'
  • 2 baj for item that goes to an adjacent 'direction'
  • 3 baj for item that goes to a non-adjacent 'direction' in the same 'distance.'
This is not so different than the first lines of the Postal Tariff book (aside from the 7.5 gram vs sheet rating method).  So, a letter from Rome to Civitavecchia, two places I am more familiar with based on my 24 cent 1861 postal history, would be a 3 baj rate as they were in the same 'distance' or 'district', but non-contiguous administrations or 'directions.'

Mentaschi and the Postal Tariff book seem to diverge greatly from here.  It seems as though Mentaschi is stating that the Marches are the "2nd distance" and Romagne is the third distance.  It also seems that the 'range/direction' within those two distances do not matter, it is only the 'range/directions' within the Patrimony that matter with rate calculations.  This makes it unclear to me how mail from Romagna TO the Marches might be rated unless they should be rated as being only in the first 'direction' for all destinations in those cases.

  • 4 baj for item for adjacent 'distance' and single 'direction'
  • 5 baj for item with adjacent 'distance' and 2nd 'direction' (have to cross one 'range')
  • 6 baj for item with adjacent 'distance' and 3rd 'direction' (cross two 'ranges')
  • 5 baj for item with non-adjacent 'distance' (Romagne to Patrimony) and single 'direction'
  • 6 baj for item with non-adjacent 'distance' and 2nd 'direction'
  • 7 baj for item with non-adjacent 'distance' and 3rd 'direction'
At the risk of oversimplification, this seems like 1 baj for each 'direction' within the Patrimony (aka Latium in Mentaschi) and 1 baj for each 'distance' touched in transit'  Further, the Marches and Romagne are both a 'direction' and a 'distance.'   So, an item going from Romagne to the Marches would cost 1 baj for each 'distance' and 1 baj for each 'direction' or 4 baj.

Further, it is possible that the Patrimony could be split into these 3 ranges:
  • Southern Umbria
  • Rome and Civitacastellana
  • the rest of the Patrimony/ coastal area
It is unclear to me how this translates into the 40 administrations alluded to by the Fil-Italia book.

Looking at material in Richard Frajola's "World" collection of postal history, it seems that the Marches (and probably Romagna) also was split into 'ranges' which seems a bit more likely in the grand scheme of things.  Frajola also sites the per sheet rate AND an Oct 1, 1852 start date.

Methods of Determining Rate Increments
Postal systems tended to base their internal letter rates on two factors: the size of the item being mailed and the distance the item was to travel in order to reach the destination.  If the Fil-Italia book is correct and the rates are by the sheet, then this would have specific pros and cons.

The advantage: each post office did not have to spend time weighing letter items to check how many rates an item was required.  With many different weight systems in play, it was not necessarily a simple matter to be sure everyone had exactly the same scale for weight.  On the other hand, it was pretty easy to determine (by unsealing the letter, etc) how many sheets were in a correspondence.  The definition was also quite simple and easy.

The problem: if a postal patron wanted to send more for less, they just acquired a larger piece of paper and folded it up to be conveniently mailed.

A Local Letter Example
Below is an example of a single sheet item mailed within its own postal administration.  I show it on the display page I created prior to finding additional resources that raise questions about the rating methods.

Metacshi also illustrates an example and appears makes the claim that unpaid letters were still franked with postage stamps - however, they were placed on the VERSO of the item in question.  This item illustrates this possibility and is consistent in form to the example shown in the exhibit. That may also explain the pen marking that does look like a "1" on the front of the folded letter.

Printed Matter Rates 1850 to January 1864
At this time, "printed papers" could be sent for .5 baj per sheet or 1 baj per ounce.
Rate applies for any distance within the Roman States.

The above item is a "prices current," which listed current prices for common commodities such as grains and meats.  A prices current list often qualified for printed matter rates.  As is the case for things like drop letters and circulars in the United States, it is not always clear which rate is the one being applied to a given item if it qualifies both as a printed matter item and a local letter as this one does.  I suppose for now, I'll just let it show the letter rate and see if I can find something more definitive for a printed matter rate that goes to another administration or district.

Letter Rates from January 1864 to 1870
( again, exact dates and/or postal acts might be nice to find eventually)

At this time, all districts other than the Patrimony of Rome had become part of the Kingdom of Italy.  The letter rate was simplified to:
  • letter in Rome: 1 baj
  • letter outside of Rome: 2 baj
It seems as if the letter rate had no variable for size of the letter at this time.  I assume (perhaps wrongly) that an letter originating outside of Rome would be 2 baj and any letter originating in Rome, but leaving the city, would also be 2 baj.  This information is based on the Fil-Italia book at this time.

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.  The content page(s) have been removed prior to my acquisition.

Letter Rates to Other Italian States
Tuscany shared a border with the Papal States to the North.  The page below shows an item that supposedly exhibits the 5 baj rate per 7.5 grams to Tuscany effective from September 23, 1853 to December 31, 1864 (I need to find a source for the rates between Italian States and between the Papal States and the Kingdom).  One source states that beginning in 1863 letters incoming to the Kingdom from the Papal States were treated as unpaid letter.  Similarly, incoming mail from the Kingdom to the Papal states would be viewed as only paid to the border, then Papal postage would need to be paid as a surcharge by the recipient.

The item above was sent from Civitavecchia (a port town) to Livorno (the main port in Tuscany at this time).  The scribble on the cover that is not the addressee is a due marking (a "4").  Some have suggested that this may be some sort of a ship fee.  One source states that the Kingdom of Italy sometimes had a 5 centesimi surcharge for steamboat service (dropped after 1874).  Obviously, four does not equal five.  So, an alternative is to rely on the argument that this might have been treated as only paid to the border OR completely unpaid.  Either way, it looks like 4 centesimi due from the recipient.

*** new info *** An item in the Mentaschi exhibit seems to support the theory that this item was paid to the border (i.e. the port of Livorno) and the 4 probably represents 40 centesimi due for mail services in Tuscany (then a part of the Kingdom of Italy).  I would need to confirm rates in Tuscany at this time. However, the internal letter rate for the Kingdom of Italy was only 15 centesimi per 10 grams.  Possibilities include an additional fee for unpaid mail and having an item treated as entirely unpaid from the Papal States and charging the Kingdom's rate for a letter to the Papal States.  But, I do not know if that was 40 centesimi (or some factor of that, like 20 ct).

***source of rate to Tuscany*** The letter rate and date range was provided by Richard Frajola in a PhilaMercury discussion board response.  It would be good to find more resources on this sort of material.

Monitary System:

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

Below are some resources that may have some answers for me or may be of interest to others who are looking into this area:

Note a newer book by Mentaschi and Matha may help to solve many of the questions I have.

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.  Seeing Mentaschi and Matha's book makes me wonder if this isn't a decent way to start figuring out early Papal State material.  Since it is an exhibit, there are numerous references that are very brief and may not leave quite enough clues to track down sources without more effort than I might want to expend.

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 leaves 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 probably suffer from over-simplification of the territories and timelines.

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.

Development of Rail:
Two maps here can serve as a base source for this information.  Line maps were created by an unidentified individual for Wiki that seem fairly accurate for the purposes of general information and I do use these on display pages.