Welcome once again to Postal History Sunday, published weekly on the Genuine Faux Farm blog and the GFF Postal History blog. All are welcome here, whether you are merely curious about things that might be related to postal history or if you, yourself, are a postal historian.
Leave your shoes on for this one as you might want to get up and move about at the end.
Without further ado and todo, I present you with a series of dominoes.
What is it with Bingen?
you are learning about a new geographical area or a new topic within
the huge realm of postal history, one small observation can lead to a
series of learning dominoes falling as discovery follows discovery. One
such example is how Bingen, Germany, quite suddenly had more prominence
in my understanding of the 1860s mail that was handled by the princely
house of Thurn and Taxis.
The folded letter shown above was mailed in 1866 from a location south of Frankfurt A Main - an area that relied on the mail services provided by Thurn and Taxis at this time. The letter shows postage stamps indicating the payment of 24 kreuzers to provide all that was needed for this letter to Luden & van Geuns in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The letter was a double weight letter and of the 24 kreuzers in postage, the equivalent of 8 kreuzers was passed to the Dutch postal service to cover their portion of the expenses. The postage breakdown is shown by the inked "16/8" just to the left of the town name "Amsterdam."
There is an Amsterdam receiving marking on the back AND this postmark:
Bingen? Why is the German town of Bingen putting a postmark on this letter? I am guessing it is a railway postmark because many German rail markings like to take note of the time of day - that's what the 7-8 N is. But, why Bingen?
During this period of time, the most common location for mail to be taken out of mailbags and processed with new postmarks would be some sort of border between postal services. This means we should look for Bingen on on the borders of Hessian territory, likely on a train route that would make sense if one were going to Holland!
If you look at this section of an 1861 map depicting the active rail lines in the area, you can find Bingen where a couple of rail lines meet, just west of Mainz. If you look more closely, you can find different colors that depict areas that were Prussia (west), Bavaria (south), Hessian territory (east) and the Duchy of Nassau (north). Clearly, this was clearly a border town.
It was at this point that the Prussian mail system must have taken control of this letter for its journey north from Bingen.
One Bingen deserves another
is where one discovery lends aid with another piece of postal history.
Here is an 1865 folded letter that started in Offenbach (just east of
Frankfurt) and was addressed to Madrid, Spain. The postage was fully
paid to leave Hessian territory and travel through other German states,
as well as France, before getting to the recipient in Spain.
Once again, the blue markings split out the postage. Seven kreuzer are kept by the German postal services, while the equivalent of 14 kreuzers are passed to France for service through that country. I assume the additional blue marking shows how much is passed to Spain for their portion, but I have not yet confirmed how much that might be.
This railroad marking was found on the back of the second cover. It is a bit blurry and when I first saw it, I was having trouble figuring out what it said.
The inner circle says "Bahnpost 2" which is a reference to a mail train (bahnpost = rail mail). Since Offenbach is near Frankfurt, I was able to eventually decipher the outer circle starting with "Frankfurt A. M." But, what followed? I was not sure.
Until I saw the Bingen mark on the first cover! Then I put two and two together. This one reads "Frankfurt A.M. - Bingen Bahnpost 2."
Once again, this makes sense, because once this letter got to Bingen, it could take the train to the southwest and France. The letter would eventually go through Paris and Bordeaux and cross the border of France and Spain at Irun.
Bingen here too?
Flush with victory, I thought maybe I could use this new knowledge yet again with another cover that was mailed from this same area in Hessian territory.
This 1861 letter started in Mainz and was sent to a town by the Hague in Holland. The postage rate was different in 1861 than it was for the 1866 letter we showed earlier, so 16 kreuzer were required to pay a single rate of postage. It was split so that the German states got 9 kreuzer and the Dutch received 7 kruezer, which was the same as 2 Dutch cents. You can see that the postal clerks provide all of that information at the bottom left.
Well, I guess there was to be no Bingen this time around! Instead I found this railway marking that reads "Deutz - Oberhausen," with the date in between (Sept 26). This is a section of railway that is a good bit north of Bingen, but still in Prussian territory. In fact, it is possible that the previous letter traveled the exact same section of railway that this one did - just five years later.
The difference is when the Prussian postal service emptied the mailbag and placed their mark on the letter to show that they, too, had handled this piece of mail. It didn't happen at Bingen, but it did about 80 miles north. Was this simply a different route - or were there other reasons?
Here's where we can begin to get a real idea about the rapid change in travel that was being brought about in German during this time period. The train station in Bingen was not opened until 1859 - which was the point that the line north was first opened as well. In 1861, this was all still quite new. This cover may simply be an artifact that shows how the postal service was still adjusting to a new mail service route via train.
It turns out
that a person might also find evidence of this prominent junction in
the early German rail lines if you see postmarks or references to
Bingerbrück as well as Bingen. Bingen lies on the east side of the Nahe River (left side on the photo below) and Bingerbrück on the west side (right side).
The picture above comes from an online sales lot on a popular auction site, and the date is purported to be circa 1860. You can see the rail bridge in the foreground over the Nahe. The photo itself must have been taken from the high ground on the other side of the Rhine River.
The print above can be found in Meyer's Universum, which was published circa 1850. So, this would show Bingen in the 1840s at the latest. You can see the hills from which the photograph was likely taken in the background and you might also notice that the rail bridge is not present.
After Napoleon's defeat in 1814, the Congress of Vienna, set boundaries that made Mingen a key border town between the Prussian Rhineland and the Grand Duchy of Hesse. Just by looking at the photos a person can see how this might be a key river crossing with some of the surrounding land looking a little less comfortable for travel (and laying rail tracks).
The railways established in the late 1850s continued to hold prominence into the 1900s with this section of railway becoming a prime bombing target in World War II.
Bonus Material - The Mouse Tower
|Photo from wikimedia commons, viewed 1/22/22|
There is an island near Bingen where an old tower still stands - and it bears the name Mäuseturm - which is translated as "the Mouse Tower." According to the current city of Bingen, this name may actually be a alteration of the name based on a High German word that made reference to this being a watchtower.
In the present day, this tower may be more well known for its connection to a legend that features the Archbishop of Mentz who treated the peasantry cruelly, murdering many of the poor to prevent them from eating too much of the food that was in short supply. Archbishop Hatto fled to this tower to escape an army of mice, who pursued him there - he was then devoured by the mice as God's judgement for his wicked ways.
This poem by Richard Southey provides one version of that legend - for the whole poem, take the link. Here is a portion of that work:
|Then, when he saw it could hold no more,|
|Bishop Hatto he made fast the door;|
|And whilst for mercy on Christ they call,||20|
|He set fire to the barn, and burnt them all.|
|“I’ faith, ’t is an excellent bonfire!” quoth he;|
|“And the country is greatly obliged to me|
|For ridding it, in these times forlorn,|
|Of rats that only consume the corn.”|
I suppose that this may not have been the nicest way for me to end a Postal History Sunday - so perhaps it will help if I tell you that none of the sources I found have indicated that there has ever been any historical proof that such an event occurred. So, take solace that this is - in fact - merely a myth. And, if you ever go to Germany, you can go visit the Mouse Tower. Just to see the place where it all DIDN'T happen.However, now you understand why I told you to keep those shoes on. Get up. Take a short walk. And clear your mind for the remainder of a fine weekend - and a great week to come!