Friday, December 7, 2018

Letter Mail: Switzerland and Italy

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 letter mail between Switzerland and Italy.
First Published: April 16, 2018
Re-Published: Dec 7, 2018
Last edited: Dec 7, 2018

Organization of this Post
  • Postal Arrangements
  • Switzerland to Italy Prepaid Rates
  • Italy to Switzerland Prepaid Rates
  • Border Crossings and Exchange Offices
  • Other Interesting Stuff
  • Resources
* -Postal Arrangements: Switzerland and Italy
Both of these countries went through processes of unification in the mid-19th century (Swiss Confederation 1848, Kingdom of Italy began the process in 1859).  As should be expected, postal arrangements were much more complex prior to the point of unification.  The postal conventions of Sardinia were the precursors for the agreements entered into by the Kingdom of Italy (established 1860/61). This post will not deal with pre-unification postal rates unless it has to do with Sardinia.

Swiss-Sardinian Convention of 1851
This agreement applied to Sardinia and was made available to various Italian States as follows:
  • Tuscany: Dec 1, 1859
  • Parma & Modena: Sep 1859
  • Two Sicilies: 1861 (guessing Oct 1)
  • Lombardy: Sep 1859
A couple of the Italian states did not participate in this convention, but they did in the following agreement.
  • Venetia: Oct 1866 *
  • Papal States: Oct 1870 **
*After Lombardy was lost by Austria in 1859, mail from Venetia to/from Switzerland may transit Sardinian/Italian territory.
** In 1860, all but regions closest to Rome were incorporated into the newly forming Kingdom of Italy.  The Marches, Romagne and Umbria became subject to this convention around that time.

The Swiss-Italian Convention of 1862
This may be the first postal convention negotiated by the Kingdom of Italy after its formation.

Article 11 sets the postage rates for prepaid and unpaid letter mail
 *-Switzerland to Italy Prepaid Letter Mail Rates
The Alps were a very real obstacle when it came to communications between Switzerland and Italy.  It would make little sense to send all mail from one country to another to one or two exchange offices and let the receiving country figure out delivery.  After all, sometimes the best (and maybe only) way to get to certain destinations would be taking a pass that crossed the border.  Perhaps just as important is the recognition that southern Switzerland had a significant percentage of people who identified as Italian.  Discounted border rates reflect these aspects of the relationship between these two countries at the time.

Prepaid Letter Rates - Switzerland to Italy
Effective Date Rate Unit
Aug 1, 1851- border (a) 20 rappen 7.5 grams
Aug 1, 1851 40 rappen 7.5 grams
Dec  , 1859 - border (b) 10 rappen 7.5 grams
Jul 1, 1862 - border (c) 10 centimes/rappen 10 grams
Jul 1, 1862 30 centimes/rappen 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
(a) - for origin and destination where each is within 45 km of the border
(b) - for origin and destination no more than 35 km distant from each other
(c) - for origin and destination no more than 45 km from corresponding exchange office

note: (a) and (b) were, as far as I can tell, concurrent rates beginning in Dec 1859.  (b) simply provided a deeper discount in postage for items mailed from a much shorter distance to the destination.

30 centimes per 10 grams : Jul 1, 1862 - Dec 31, 1875
This is one of the easiest foreign destinations and rate combinations to find (at least in the US) for Switzerland.  In addition, there tend to be a decent set of markings that can help us track the route taken by the mail.  Since these aren't hard to find and the price is fairly inexpensive, it is likely I can explore the various routes under this rate in more detail than some of the other rates or country border combinations.

via Geneva and Mt Cenis
Geneve Jul 23 1863
     via Savoy (France) and Mt Cenis
Da Susa A Torino Jul 24 63
Milano Jul 25 63

Geneva is actually the hub for several border crossings into France and the "Border Crossings" section below in this post discusses this and provides a link to another post that contains more details.  The 1862 convention clearly states that transit via the French post was allowed between the two countries without additional postage.

Article 7 of the 1862 Convention
via Splugen and Como
Horgen Apr 24 1867
Chur Apr 24 67 (verso)
? Apr 24 67 (verso - unclear Swiss marking)
Como A Milano Apr 26 (verso)
Milano Apr 26 67 (verso)
Genova Apr 26 67 (verso)
In general, it seems as if items with a Chur marking or a Chur-St Gallen rail marking were destined for the Splugen Pass and Lake Como during the late 1850's into the early 1870's.  As the St Gotthard Pass railway was developed, mail would more likely be diverted through central rather than eastern Switzerland unless the origin of the piece of mail was in the eastern portion of Switzerland.

This particular cover is a favorite of mine thus far.  It is clean with excellent markings.  That gives me plenty of clues to work with during the process of uncovering the story of its travels.  And, it simply is a nice item to look at.  As far as I know, it is not terribly special from a stamp or destination standpoint, and the route was surely traveled plenty during this period.

Border Rate: 10 centimes per 10 grams : Jul 1, 1862 - Dec 31, 1875

via Splugen and Como

Splugen Oct 10, 1865

Chiavenna Oct 10 (verso)

Splugen is located just north of the border and Chiavenna is just south of the pass.  Chiavenna apparently could be referenced in many ways depending on language.  Clavenna, Ciavena, Kleven, or, in this case, Clafen (if I am reading this correctly).
Article 12 of the 1862 covers border mail
Article 3 of the 1862 Convention

 This particular item actually highlights an exception provided for in Article 3 of the 1862 convention.  While much of the territory traveled to deliver the above item from Splugen (Switzerland) to Chiavenna (Italy) was in Italy, it was the Swiss mails that was responsible for carrying the mail to and from Chiavenna.
Responsibility, at this point in time, was primarily financial as each postal entity was able to establish contracts for the carriage of mail.

*-Italy to Switzerland Prepaid Letter Mail Rates
The postal agreements between Switzerland, France and the Kingdom of Sardinia/Italy are relatively simple when it comes to the monetary and weight systems beginning in the 1850's.  An Italian centesimi is equivalent to a Swiss rappen is equivalent to a French centime.  All three used grams as the unit of measure.  This makes the table below somewhat redundant.  However, if I wish to go back in time to prior agreements when Italy (and Switzerland) were not unified, things would become more complex.  So, I put this here should I wish to expand the date range forward.

Prepaid Letter Rates - Italy to Switzerland
Effective Date Rate Unit
Aug 1, 1851- border (a) 20 centesimi 7.5 grams
Aug 1, 1851 40 centesimi 7.5 grams
Dec  , 1859 - border (b) 10 centesimi 7.5 grams
Jul 1, 1862 - border (c) 10 centesimi 10 grams
Jul 1, 1862 30 centesimi 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 (GPU) 30 centesimi 15 grams
May 1, 1878 (UPU) 25 centesimi 15 grams
Oct 1, 1907 (UPU) 25 ctsm / 15 ctsm 15 g / add'l 15 g
(a) - for origin and destination where each is within 45 km of the border
(b) - for origin and destination no more than 35 km distant from each other
(c) - for origin and destination no more than 45 km from corresponding exchange office

note: (a) and (b) were, as far as I can tell, concurrent rates beginning in Dec 1859.  (b) simply provided a deeper discount in postage for items mailed from a much shorter distance to the destination.

30 centesimi per 10 grams : Jul 1, 1862 - Dec 31, 1875

via Como and Gotthard

Padova Nov 9 1870
Milano Staz Nov 10 70 (verso)
Milano-Como Ambulant Nov 10 70 (verso)
St Gotthard Pass carriage road
Burgdorf Nov 12 70 (verso)

What makes me think this went via Gotthard versus the Splugen Pass?  First, Burgdorf is located in the Canton of Bern, to the West of the St Gotthard Pass route that connects up with rail lines in Luzern (see 2nd map below).  Second, there is no indication of a rail marking in the Chur-St Gallen area.  Construction of the rail line via St Gotthard Pass was not to begin until 1872.  But, some period maps seem to indicate rail expansion along this route on either side of the pass that would shorten the period of time this item was in a carriage.  I find the two day transit from Como to Burgdorf to be somewhat surprising.  But, it would not have been faster via Splugen.

Border Rate: 20 centesimi per 7.5 grams : Aug 1, 1851 - Jun 30, 1862

 Border Mail Rate - Each location under 45 km from the shared border.

Milano Feb 16, 1860
P.D. (paid to destination)
Magadino Feb 17, 1860 (verso)

It seems that border mail throughout Western Europe is a fairly common specialist endeavor.  As such, it is unlikely that I will often pick up a border mail item if it is properly described and priced with a premium.  This item was, in fact, labeled as a domestic use.  Given the population distribution in Magadino (largely Italian in 1860), it might as well have been the case.

This item is a true Sardinian use rather than the use of a Sardinian adhesive for mail from the Kingdom of Italy.  I am not certain whether mail between Milan and Magadino had a preferred route.  It seems it could have taken train to Arona and a lake steamer on Maggiore, arriving at Magadino.  There are also indications of a stage route on period maps to the east shore of the lake. According to Article 3 of the 1862 convention, the Maggiore Lake Steamers would have been contracted by the Italian government.

*-Border Crossings and Exchange Offices
There were numerous border crossings to facilitate local mail between Italy and Switzerland.  I suspect there may well be a significant scholarly work or two and several serious collectors who could put any discussion I might bring forth to shame on that topic.  However, it is fairly apparent that there were limited higher traffic border crossings that could reach the interiors of Switzerland and Italy. 

Main crossings between Switzerland and Italy (click to enlarge)
The map above is my own overlay on a German rail map of the 1860's.  I do not claim that these routes are completely accurate at this time, but they give some idea as to where the mails would have to go if origin and/or destination were not on the border.  These are also likely the routes taken by foreign mails that might transit Switzerland or Italy on their way to their destination.  A more detailed map with my own overlay is shown below as well.  I am a bit more certain of the routes shown there and they do show more detail.

Geneva Crossings
The discussion of the Geneva crossings in the France/Switzerland post probably give the insight I am looking for with respect to Italian/Swiss mails.  The map above shows the Geneva-Bellegarde crossing as heading to Mont Cenis.  However, I now think that the Geneva - St Julien crossing is more likely.  This isn't to say mail couldn't have traversed the route shown here.  But, I believe evidence shows the normal route was likely via St Julien.

Lago di Como to Splugen
More detail of main passes (click to enlarge)
Lake steamers on Como provided a reliable transportation service where land routes in the Alps did not.  The bulk of the mail from Italy could depart the train at Como (the city) and be placed on a lake steamer that would unload the mail for Switzerland at Colico (obviously the reverse order for mails form Switzerland to Italy).  Local mail could be loaded on lake steamers at other stops on the lake such as Varenna and Menaggio.

Lago di Maggiore
Arona would be the main Italian port on the southern end and Locarno or Magadino seem to be the northern Swiss ports.  From there, they would connect with the stage (and later rail) line to either the St Gotthard Pass or the Berhardin Pass.  I have seen evidence of international mail transiting Switzerland taking the Como lake steamers, but not Maggiore.  That is not to say something addressed to that area would not have gone that way.

Simplon Pass
This route seems easieest to explain with the established carriage route via Domod'ossola from Arona in Italy and Sion in Switzerland.  It would seem to primarily serve western Switzerland up to the Bern area and points east of Torino in Italy (Torino, Genoa etc would seem more likely to use Mt Cenis and entry around Geneva).  It is probably more a question as to the actual postal directions given for the routing of mail between the two countries.  Clearly, weather could change a routing if necessary.

 *-Other Interesting Stuff

Route Development
Time makes all of this discussion tricky - of course.  The rapid development of rail lines, improvements in roads and telegraph technologies means routes could change multiple times during a convention period.  Happily, there are many railroad enthusiasts that take great pride in uncovering rail development throughout the world.  It may take time to locate the resources, but I suspect I can develop a decent picture of routes over time.

The Italy - Austria - French Tug of War
Also pertinent to the discussion is the difficult relationship between Austria and Italy as well as the changing landscape as Italy went through the process of unification.  A very brief description of convention applicability occurs at the top of this post.  But, major conflicts during this period include the War of 1859, the Seven Weeks War in 1866 and the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.

Open Questions:
1. Would ANY mail leaving Geneva for Italy take another border crossing other than through Savoy?  Would schedules ever send it via the Simplon Pass at Domod'ossola?


Recueil officiel des lois et ordonnances de la Confédération suisse, Volume 3  Content includes material for the early 1850's for postal reform in Switzerland.

Recueil officiel des lois et ordonnances de la Confédération suisse, Volume 7

Below is a list of the Swiss postal conventions and the volume/page locations:

Matha, T and Mentaschi, M, Letter Mail From and To the Old Italian States: 1850-1870, Vaccari, 2008.
While the layout of this book took me a little bit to get used to, it provided some sound guidance for a number of Italian rates.  The area I tended to care about falls outside the scope of this book since they take postal agreements up to the point an Italian State was absorbed in the Kingdom of Italy.  But, focusing on Sardinian rates and reading between the lines for the rest can get you a long way. 

Postcards showing the Lago di Como lake steamers can be found on this site by Simplon.  According to this site, Lago di Como steamers that would have been in service during the 1850-1875 time period were the Unione, the Forza, the Vittoria, the Italia and the Lariano.  Several others began to appear in the early 1870's that I will not list here.




Railways and the Formation of the Italian State in the Nineteenth Century
By Albert Schram

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Letter Mail : Switzerland and France

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 letter mail between Switzerland and France.  

Originally Posted: April 15, 2018
Reposted: Dec 5, 2018
Last edited: Dec 7, 2018

Organization of this Post
  • Postal Arrangements
  • Switzerland to France Prepaid Rates
  • Border Crossings
  • France to Switzerland Prepaid Rates
  • Border Mail 
  • Unpaid Letter Rates 
  • Resources
*-Postal Arrangements: Switzerland and France
The Swiss Confederation came into being in 1848, but it took some time to develop new arrangements beyond the individual agreements that various cantons had adhered to prior to this point.

Postal Convention of November 25, 1849
The convention was completed in November, but it was not until April of the following year that the convention was ratified by both parties.  On first glance, reading the document in the convention resource #1 at the end of this post, I find no specific mention of an active date.  It may be there, but I have not found it yet.  Literature suggests the July 1, 1850 date.

Convention of 1849
Article III Article V TBA
Article III setting the weight of simple letters (7.5 grams)

First part of Article V setting the postage rate at 40 centimes.

Click on the text image to see a larger version.

Postal Convention of March 22, 1865
This was ratified in Paris on August 14 of the same year.  If a person reads the first convention and then immediately reads the second convention, it becomes clear how much more comfortable nations were in developing postal agreements.  Resources number 2 at the end of this post includes a link to the full text of this agreement (in French, of course).

Article III fixing the new rate of postage and weights.

*-Prepaid Letter Rates Switzerland to France

Prepaid Letter Rates - Switzerland to France
Effective Date Rate Unit
see * about prior rates

Jul 1, 1850 40 rappen/centimes 7.5 grams
Oct 1, 1865 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
* Switzerland was "unified" in 1848.  The 1849 convention is the first such between France and the new government.  Prior to this, postal agreements depended on the canton.

40 centimes per 7.5 grams - Jul 1, 1850- Sep 30, 1865
It is a bit more difficult to find clean, but relatively inexpensive items that illustrate the earlier rate from Switzerland to France simply because most of the material features the Strubel series of stamps versus the Seated Helvetia.  The Strubels tend to command higher prices and are also in shorter supply, though they are not rare.  I suspect some patience will reward me with opportunities to explore this rate via the later series and perhaps I'll sneak out a Strubel or three on cover at some point.  This is a case where I am more interested in rates and routes than I am the philatelic aspect.

Basel Crossing - St Louis Exchange Office

Basel Oct 31, 1864  (Bad Bahnpost)
Suisse St Louis Nov 1, 1864
Lyon Nov 2, 1864

7 A-E-D (see below)
St Louis is located just across the border from Basel in France.  My preliminary guess is that Saint Louis exchange markings seem to apply to mail items that are either for Saint Louis OR for greater (eastern) France.  Mulhouse and Strasbourg would seem to be more for the regional destinations.  This item would likely have headed by Rail to Dijon and then south to Lyon.

The Bad Bahnpost marking reveals another interesting historical aspect.  Baden and Switzlerland entered a treaty agreement on July 27, 1852.  This allowed for the development of a railway station that would be run by the Baden rail on Swiss soil in Basel.  A simple history exists on wikipedia that can serve as a starting point until better references can be located and read.  Thus it seems that this item was posted either at the station OR on the train.

The 7 A-E-D marking found on the front of this cover seems to be an artifact from much earlier postal procedures in France.  AED = Affranchi a l'Etranger jusqu'a Destination (Foreign mail paid to destination)  The numeral ('7') indicated the exchange office.  According to Abensur's book, we know Antibes was "1," Grenoble was "6," Pont-de-Beauvoisin was "9" and Lyon was "15."  I have yet to discover what corresponds with "7."  It seems odd that this particular item has a plethora of paid markings.  There are two differnt "P.D." markings applied.  It seems fairly obvious by inking and placement that the boxed PD was applied on the mobile post office on the Baden Bahnpost train.  The 7 AED marking looks like the same ink as the St Louis exchange marking, so I would not be surprised to learn that "7" stands for St Louis.  The final P.D. marking could have been applied in Lyon or on the train from St Louis to Lyon.  Regardless, it seems the agents felt a great need to indicate this item was paid more than once.  Sometimes it's good to be thorough, I guess.

30 centimes per 10 grams - Oct 1,1865-Dec 31, 1875
For the purposes of looking at markings and identifying routes, it seems that covers from 1865-1868 are best for this rate period.  The standard Paris "Etranger" marking starts to appear more often in 1869 and later, which leaves us guessing where the mail might have traveled.

Geneva Crossing - Marseilles Ambulant Office

Zurich Jun 13, 1866
Geneve Jun 14 66 (verso)
Geneve - Sion - Geneve Jun 14 66 (verso)
Suisse Amb Marseilles Jun 14 66
Marseilles Jun 15 66 (verso)
The Ambulant Marseilles markings confuse me a little since I have an item crossing the Italian border that also shows an Ambulant Marseilles exchange marking.  Of course, they are delineated by Suisse versus Italie at the top of the marking dial.  Was there a particular segment of rail that hosted an Ambulant post office for Marseilles or was there more than one such segment?  At this time, the Bellegarde crossing was most likely to be used for mails to Marseilles and southern France.  I could see St Julien used for the county of Nice.

Basel Crossing - Mulhouse Exchange

Zurich May 7, 1868
Basel May 8 68 (verso)
Suisse Mulhouse May 8 68

The item above would have taken the same rail line from Basel as the item with the Saint Louis exchange marking.  However, the Mulhouse destination made sense for it to depart the train at this point.  It is likely Mulhouse only processed mail for its surrounding area, but I have no confirmation of that at this time.

This item just might be my favorite Swiss item in my collection at this time.  It is visually attractive with remarkably clear postal markings.

*-Border Crossings and Exchange Offices

Article I of the 1849 Convention
This part of the convention leaves it open for the creation of new exchange locations when judged "necessary."  It is possible addendums to this convention exist that list these newly created exchange pairings.  Though it is more likely that the postal administrations were given the power to figure it out on their own.  In other words, I would need to find postal documents that indicate new crossings rather than treaty type documents.  A similar list is NOT noted in the 1865 convention, it was likely assumed that this was no longer a detail necessary for a treaty/convention article.

The 1849 convention list of exchange offices were as follows from North to South (French location - Swiss location):
  1. Saint-Louis - Basel
  2. Delle - Porentruy (local mail - SE of Montbeliard)
  3. Miache - Seignelegier (local mail - E of Besancon)
  4. Morteau - les Brenets (local mail - N of Verrieres)
  5. Pontarlier - les Verrieres
  6. Pontarlier - Sainte Croix (local mail - S of les Verrieres)
  7. Jougne - Ballaigue (local mail - half way between Verrieres and Geneve)
  8. les Rousses - Saint Cergue (local mail - N of Geneve)
  9. Ferney - Geneva (west of Geneve)

Roger Heath has been kind enough to share exchange markings he has observed in his Switzerland collection in the period of 1862 to 1881.  In combination with period maps and markings he has shared and I have observed, these are my conclusions until I can find and read additional primary source materials.

Basel - St Louis Crossing:
The Paris to Basel rail lines carried a significant amount of correspondence.   The Paris to Basel (Bale) provided fast service between the two cities and this mail train carried foreign mails from England (and points beyond) which were funneled through Paris and on to Calais or, potentially, direct to Calais.

Bradshaw's Monthly Guide May 1866
French exchange markings that could be associated with this crossing would be:
   Suisse St Louis (seen above), Suisse Mulhouse (seen above)

Mulhouse was the location for the rail line split either towards Strasbourg or Dijon.  According to Bradshaw's Handbooks, trains to Basel (Bale) would have either gone through Strasbourg or via Troyes and coming in just North of Monteliard on its way to Mulhouse.

The different exchange offices likely handled different destinations within France.  Clearly, the Mulhouse exchange marking works for the Mulhouse destination above.  I wonder if items for Paris and points to the north and west of Paris might actually have a Paris exchange marking.  Destinations to the south, towards Dijon, seem to have Saint Louis markings.

Verrieres de Suisse Crossing:

Pontarlier on the French side of the border is clearly the largest settlement in the area.  Neuchatel or La Chaux-de-Fonds are relatively close on the Swiss side.    Significant mail volumes, including foreign mails seem to flow through this crossing.

French exchange markings for this area:
     Suisse Pontarl D A Besancon, Suisse Pontarlier, Suisse Amb Besancon

It is possible that the Am Besancon marking could be from a train coming from the Montbeliard border crossing once Alsace became a part of Germany. In fact, it would make sense to expand this section with a post Franco-Prussian War description of border crossings and changes made to accommodate new borders.

Geneva - Bellegarde Crossing:
The Bellegarde crossing from Geneva would seem to be the favored routing for mails in the Southern France from Marseilles westward.  It seems possible that the different ambulant markings for Marseilles could indicate different border crossings and/or different time periods.  It is also not unlikely that some identification for train, work crew, etc are also in some of these markings.

French exchange markings for this area:
     Suisse Lyon, various Amb. Marseilles markings (one seen above), Suisse Bellegarde

Geneva - Annenosse Crossing:
This crossing seems to service northern Savoy.  Being in the Alps, more crossings would be needed to reach the destinations in the area.

French exchange markings for this crossing:
     Suisse Cluses, Suisse Bonneville

Geneva - St Julien Crossing:
The St Julien crossing heads south and appears to connect to the Mt Cenis railway.  This traveling exchange office was probably intended to service the communities around that mountain pass railway, such as Lanslebourg.

French exchange markings for this crossing:
     Suisse Annecy, Suisse Amb M. Cenis

Lake of Geneva Crossing:
Thonon is located on the South shore of Lake Geneva.  A rail line was developed along that south shore from Geneva to Martigny (approximately), but this may have been either a lake steamer or carriage route exchange prior to rail development. I believe there are some highly developed specialized collections that exist on this topic area (Alps Lake Steamers).

French exchange marking: Suisse Thonon

French exchange markings with uncertain crossings:
     Suiss Dijon (probably Pontarlier),  various Marseilles markings, Suisse Amb. Marseilles 3, Amb Marseille II Suisse, Suisse Ambulant Marseille G

*-Prepaid Rates France to Switzerland

Prepaid Letter Rates - Belgium to France 
Effective Date Rate Unit
* differs by canton prior
Jul 1, 1850  40 centimes 7.5 grams
Oct 1, 1865  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

* Switzerland was "unified" in 1848.  The 1850 convention seems to be the first such between France and the new government.  Prior to this, postal agreements depended on the canton.

40 centimes per 7.5 grams : Jul 1, 1850 - Sep 30, 1865

Basel or Geneve? entry

Le Havre May 20, 1857
Le Havre A Paris May 20, 1857 (verso)
Paris May 21, 1857 (verso)
Geneve May 22, 1857  5S (verso)

The markings do not give any real help on the border crossing other than than showing Paris and Geneve markings that probably served as the exchange offices. Since this item was funneled through Paris, it actually seems more likely that it took established train service to Basel and continued by train in Switzerland given the two day transit from origin to destination.

30 centimes per 10 grams : Oct 1, 1865 - Dec 31, 1875

Geneva (Bellegarde) entry to Switzerland
Marseilles A Lyon Jan 13 1866
     ML1 rail marking
Sion - Geneve - Sion Jan 14 66 T.7 (verso)
Bern Jan 14 66 (verso)
Thun Jan 15 66 Vormittag (verso)

The Thun marking is of interest as it includes the word "vormittag," which would indicate "morning" mail service or arrival.  This would make sense given the Sion-Geneva markings of the previous day.

Unlike France, Switzerland did not necessarily seem to have a set of specific exchange markings for incoming foreign mail.  At least they do not follow the same patterns.  However, they do tend to show more evidence of the rail lines taken to get to their destination within Switzerland.

Pontarlier entry to Switzerland
Le Havre Apr 2 69
   1769 (lozenge cancel)
Paris Etranger Apr 3 (verso)
Pontarlier N Berne Apr 4 69 (verso)
Verrieres Apr 4 69 (verso)
The Paris "Etranger" marking seems to make it's appearance in the late 1860's and becomes the most common 'exchange' marking as we enter the 1870's for mail.  It was becoming less important for the mail route to be identified on the individual pieces of mail and all that was needed was an indication that the item was not a domestic mail piece, nothing more.  One can consider this, in part, a nod towards the increasingly reliable modes of transportation.  When transportation was less reliable and a good bit slower, it was more important to use transit marks to provide some sort of proof of conveyance that showed the effort to be efficient in mail transport had been made.

25 ctms per 15 gms  : May 1, 1878 - Sep 30, 1881
Paris Gare du Nord Jul 18 79
     Gare du Nord train station in Paris
Ambulant Jul 19 79 (verso)
     Swiss Traveling Post Office
Geneve, Switzerland

The above is a standard UPU (Universal Postal Union) Group 1 letter rate example.  The UPU did recognize that some destinations required more expense for mail to reach them than others.  Hence destinations were placed into "groups" for rating purposes.

It is possible that the Swiss receiving marking might have clues regarding routing and border crossings, but that is beyond the scope of my studies.

*-Border Mail

Border Letter Rates - France to Switzerland and vice versa**
Effective Date Rate Unit
Jul 1, 1850 20 centimes/rappen 7.5 grams
Oct 1, 1865 20 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 - Jun 30,1892 20 centimes 15 grams

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

*-Unpaid Mail

Unpaid Letter Rates - France to Switzerland and vice versa***
Effective Date Rate Unit
Oct 1, 1865 50 centimes 10 grams
Oct 1, 1865 - border 30 centimes 10 grams
Jan 1, 1876 60 centimes 15 grams
Jan 1, 1876-border 40 centimes 15 grams
May 1, 1878 50 centimes 15 grams
Apr 1, 1886- border 30 centimes 15 grams
*** prior to 1865, the unpaid rate was the same as the prepaid rate

The unpaid mail is provided for completeness.  I am not as interested in collecting stampless items, so it is unlikely I will expand upon this since most of my work is motivated by items in my collection.

  1.  De Clercq, M, "Recueil des Traites de la France,"  p 638 holds the 1849 postal convention.
  2.  page 207 of Volume 20 has the 1865 treaty. 
  3.  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. 
  4. Bradshaw's Monthly Continental Railway, Steam Transit and General Guide for Travelers Through Europe, May 1866
  5. Mitchell, Allan, the Great Train Race: Railways and the Franco-German Rivalary, 1815-1914, Berghan Books, 2000.  this looks like an interesting read that may also provide a bibliography to primary sources.
  6. Richardson, Derek J, "Tables of French Postal Rates 1849-2011," 4th ed, France and Colonies Philatelic Society of Great Britain, 2011.    Only useful for foreign rates from France once the General Postal Union is formed in 1875.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Letter Rates Between Austria and Italy

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 mail between Austria and Italy beginning in 1844.  Last edited: Dec 10, 2018
Project Note: It seems obvious that this post may well need to be split.  Options include directional (Austria to Italy, Italy to Austria), periodic (pre/post unification of Italy for example) or geopolitical (various Italian States).

Organization of this Post

  • Postal Arrangements
  • Austria to Tuscany Prepaid Rates
  • Austria to Modena/Parma Prepaid Rates
  • Austria to Italy Prepaid Rates
  • Italy to Austria Prepaid Rates
  • Border Crossings 
  • Open Questions
  • Resources and Links
*-Postal Arrangements: Austria and Italy
The situation between Austria and Italy is made complex by several of factors.  First and foremost, Lombardy and Venetia were under Austrian control until Lombardy was lost to Sardinia in 1859.  Venetia remained under Austrian control until October of 1866.  Second, Italy was undergoing the process of unification from various Italian states to the Kingdom of Italy.  Third, Austria was defeated in the Seven Weeks War in 1866 by Prussia.  Italy's participation as Prussia's ally resulted in the loss of Venetia and temporary difficulties with the mails.  Also, Austria converted its currency to a decimal system in 1857, this resulted in different values on the rate structures. 

List of Conventions
As a first step towards getting a handle on this topic, I am aware of the following conventions:
  • Austro-Sardinian Convention of 1844
  • Austro-Tuscan Convention of 1851
  • Austro-Modanese Convention of 1852
  • Austro-Parmese Convention of 1852
  • Austro-Papal Convention of 1852
  • Austro-Sardinian Convention of 1854
  • Austro-Italian Convention of 1862
  • Austro-Italian Convention of 1867
As I search and find copies of each of these, I will link them in here.  If I can find copies of these conventions in French (or English), I have a much easier time figuring them out.  I am afraid my ability to decipher German is very poor and Italian is worse.

During the 1850's, Lombardy and Venetia were a part of Austria.  As a result, Sardinia, Parma, Modena and the Papal States all shared a border with Austria, so it is not surprising that each would have an operating postal convention.   Most bordering European nations had some sort of mail convention in operation, but treaties might not exist if there were no shared border.  In those cases, nations would typically rely on agreements the countries next to them would have with their bordering entities and so on, to get mail to a distant country with which they had no specific mail treaty.  For example, Austria would typically send mail to the Two Sicilies via the Papal States.  Thus, they would rely on the agreement between the Papal States and the Two Sicilies in combination with Austria's convention with the Papal States to get mail to the Two Sicilies.

The Austro-Tuscan Convention of 1851
This was the first of a series of conventions Austria signed with Italian States in 1851 and 1852.  It is interesting to note that Tuscany did NOT share a border with Austria.

The Austro-Parmese/Modanese Conventions of 1852
It seems that these two conventions are often mentioned in the same breath, and it looks like the conventions may be carbon copies of each other on a first glance.  It seems that these rates are merely an extension of Austrian domestic rates. Apparently, there was no regulation to mark items with evidence that postage was paid in the originating country.

The Austro-Papal Convention of 1852
The biggest difference in this convention from the prior two seems to be the provisions to allow the transit of mail through the Papal States to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The Austro-Sardinian Convention of 1854
This convention features a drop in rates by half and the weight per rate was doubled.  Essentially, this caught Sardinia up with the other Italian States that had just negotiated treaties for mail.

The following Italian States applied the Sardinian convention on the following dates:
Tuscany: Dec 1, 1859
Parma & Modena: Sep 1859
Two Sicilies: 1861 (guessing Oct 1)
Lombardy: Sep 1859
Venetia: Oct 1866 *
Papal States: Oct 1870 **

*After Lombardy was lost by Austria in 1859, mail from Venetia to/from Switzerland typically transited Sardinian territory.
** In 1860, all but Latium and some of the area nearby was taken by Sardinia / the newly developing Kingdom of Italy.  Thus, the Marches, Romagne and Umbria were all subject to this convention around that time.

Austria's Currency Reform - 1857-1858 -
Austria's gulden was split into 60 kreuzer when this first set of conventions were put into effect.  Currency reforms were undertaken to change this to 100 kruezer to the gulden.  New stamps were issued by Austria on November 1, 1858 to mark this change in the postal services and rates were converted to the new currency standards at that time.

Period of Conflict - War of 1859 -
Beginning in April, 1859 various Italian States could only send mails via Switzerland as provisional governments were put in place in Parma, Modena and Tuscany.  The War of 1859 resulted in the annexation of Lombardy by Sardinia.  And, eventually, Parma, Modena, Tuscany and the Roman States of Marche, Emilia, Umbria and Sabina were all annexed into Sardinia (1860).  Mails continued to be paid to the border via Switzerland until the 1862 convention was put in place on May 15.

The Austro-Italian Convention of 1862
As near as I can tell, with only early fact-finding in place, the 1862 agreement re-established the 1854 Austro -Sardinian agreement with new rates.

The Austro-Italian Convention of 1867
Finally an agreement that disposes of the distance calculation to figure rates!  It seems fairly clear that this is a direct result of the development of Italian rail resources during the mid-1860's.  Once the lines to Brindisi and connections to Napoli and Roma were made, there was less need for the difference in rate unless one considered Messina, etc.

*-Austria to Tuscany Prepaid Rates
Tuscany did not share a border with Austria, relying on transit via Parma, Modena or the Papal States.  There was the possibility for mail via steamship as well.  Regardless, the distance was never going to fall below 10 meilen, hence that rate was not available for mail to Tuscany from Austria.

Prepaid Letter Rates - Austria to Modena/Parma
Effective Date Rate Unit Distance
Apr 1, 1851 6 kreuzer 1 wienerlot (17.5 g) 10-20 meilen (c)
"" 9 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 20+ meilen
Nov 1, 1858 10 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 10-20 meilen
"" 15 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 20+ meilen
Apr 28, 1859 (a)
1 wienerlot
March, 1860 (b)

(a) - prepay only to the border possible - mails via Switzerland
(b) - Kingdom of Italy rates at this time
(c) - 1 meilen is approx 7.5 km, so distances are 75-150 km and 150+ km

9 kreuzer per wienerlot greater than 150 km distance:  Apr 1, 1851 - Oct 31, 1858

Vienna to Florence (~ 860 km)

Wien (Vienna) Mar 26, 1858
Firenze (Florence) Mar 2 , 1858

Austria to Modena/Parma Prepaid Rates
For the time being, I will group Modena and Parma.  If evidence tells me that I should separate them in the future, I will do so.

Prepaid Letter Rates - Austria to Modena/Parma
Effective Date Rate Unit Distance
Jun 1, 1852 3 kreuzer 1 wienerlot (17.5 g) up to 10 meilen
"" 6 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 10-20 meilen
"" 9 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 20+ meilen
Nov 1, 1858
5 kreuzer 1 wienerlot up to 10 meilen
"" 10 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 10-20 meilen
"" 15 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 20+ meilen
June 11(?), 1859(a)
1 wienerlot
May 15, 1862 (b)

(a) - prepay only to the border possible - mails via Switzerland
(b) - Kingdom of Italy rates at this time
(c) - 1 meilen is approx 7.5 km, so distances are up to 75km, 75-150 km and 150+ km 

15 kreuzer per wienerlot greater than 150 km distance:  Nov 1, 1858 - June 11, 1859
There was a fairly short period of time when the Austria/Modena rates with the new currency were in use prior to the creation of the provisional government in Modena during the War of 1859. 

First example - Trieste to Modena (~340km)
Trieste Mar 31, 1859
Modena Apr 2, 1859

At this point, I have very little knowledge of normal routing to and from Modena in the 1850's.  Options may include a Northern route via Verona or a Southern via Bologna, which I tend to favor.  It is possible the convention spells this out, but it will take some time for me to translate the text to see.

Austria to Sardinia/Kingdom of Italy Prepaid Rates
It seems that these conventions use the rayon (zone) system rather than a total distance model to determine the rate for mail.

Prepaid Letter Rates - Austria to Sardinia/Kingdom of Italy
Effective Date Rate Unit Distance
Jun 1, 1844 6 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot (8.75 g) 1st Aus/1st Sard
"" 9 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 2nd Aus/1st Sard
"" 15 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 3rd Aus/1st Sard
"" 8 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 1st Aus/2nd Sard
"" 12 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 2nd Aus/2nd Sard
"" 18 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 3rd Aus/2nd Sard
"" 10 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 1st Aus/3rd Sard
"" 13 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 2nd Aus/3rd Sard
"" 19 kreuzer 1/2 wienerlot 3rd Aus/3rd Sard
Jan 1, 1854
3 kreuzer 1 wienerlot < 30 km
"" 6 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 1st Aus/1st Sard
"" 9 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 1st Aus/2nd Sard
"" 9 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 2nd Aus/1st Sard
"" 12 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 2nd Aus/2nd Sard
"" 12 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 3rd Aus/1st Sard
"" 15 kreuzer 1 wienerlot 3rd Aus/2nd Sard
Nov 1, 1858 (a) see below

Apr 20, 1859 35 new Kr 1 wienerlot via Switzerland
Sep 15, 1859 (b)

May 15, 1862 (c)

(a) -currency conversion to 100 kreuzer per gulden, same breakdown as 1854, increment by 5 kr rather than 3 kr
(b) - could pay the domestic rate to the border with remainder due
(c) - restore the 1854 convention, with new rates

10 kreuzer per wienerlot :  May 15, 1862 - Apr 22, 1867
The item below appears to have additional postage charged.  My initial thought is that it might show Austrian Lloyd carriage, but the year date is too late for that to be likely.  The item in the 15 kreuzer section shows something similar.  More research for each is needed.

via Udine, Venice, Padova (~300km)

Treist Feb 3, 1867

By 1867, the rail lines were well established and Venetia was now a part of the Kingdom of Italy.  The line crossed from Austria to Italy at Cormons in Austria and following a route from Udine to Venice to Padova (and on to Bologna).  Without clearer markings, we have to assume the most likely route in 1867 to be railway.

15 kreuzer per wienerlot :  May 15, 1862 - Apr 22, 1867
Molfetta is located on the coast in the Two Sicilies, so it is possible that this was intended to take sea passage for at least part of the journey.  Mail train availability had increased dramatically in Italy starting in 1861 and it is not impossible to think that items would be sent with an old routing in mind.

The additional 6 kreuzer continue to confuse me.  Is it possible that this letter was overweight and the rate was not linear with respect to weight?

via Ancona by Ferrara and railway (~940km)

Triest Nov 1 or 4 ?

Ferrara Nov 5, 1865
Ancona ???

Molfetta Nov 7, 1865
As with the item in the prior category, this appears to have been intended to take ship from Trieste and the docket "Ancona-Foggia" may suggest even further sailing?  However, the Ferrara marking seems to contradict this and would seem to point to rail service from Trieste to Ferrara - especially if the Triest date is Nov 4 as opposed to Nov 1.  If it did, in fact, sail to Ancona from Trieste, then it was sent the wrong direction initially as Ferrara is entirely the wrong way from Ancona to get to Molfetta.

The Padova to Bologna rail line would have been open at the time this letter was sent, with Ferrara on the way to Bologna.  The line from Milano to Bologna and Ancona should also have been open at this time, making rail travel from Trieste to Ancona quite possible.  The Ferrara backstamp verifies rail travel since it would serve as an exchange office between Venetia (then part of Austria) and the Kingdom of Italy on the Padua-Bologna rail line.

Sadly, the blurred backstamp may hold a key to the routing.  It looks like it may be an Ancona marking with the "A" being visible, but that may also be wishful thinking.  In fact, it looks like it may be two markings, the other looking like it might be Foggia with "GGIA" looking like it may be present.  Foggia would not have been a port city, but it would have been on the rail line on that ran the Adriatic Sea coast from Ancona.

Sardinia/ Kingdom of Italy to Austria Prepaid Rates

Prepaid Letter Rates - Sardinia/Kingdom of Italy to Austria
Effective Date Rate Unit Distance
Jun 1, 1844 20 centes 7.5 g 1st Sard/1st Aus
"" 35 centes 7.5 g 1st Sard/2nd Aus
"" 60 centes 7.5 g 1st Sard/3rd Aus
"" 30 centes 7.5 g 2nd Sard/1st Aus
"" 45 centes 7.5 g 2nd Sard/2nd Aus
"" 70 centes 7.5 g 2nd Sard/3rd Aus
"" 40 centes 7.5 g 3rd Sard/1st Aus
"" 55 centes 7.5 g 3rd Sard/2nd Aus
"" 80 centes 7.5 g 3rd Sard/3rd Aus
Jan 1, 1854
10 centes 15 g < 30 km
"" 25 centes 15 g 1st Sard/1st Aus
"" 40 centes 15 g 1st Sard/2nd Aus
"" 50 centes 15 g 1st Sard/3rd Aus
"" 40 centes 15 g 2nd Sard/1st Aus
"" 55 centes 15 g 2nd Sard/2nd Aus
"" 65 centes 15 g 2nd Sard/3rd Aus
Apr 20, 1859 (a) 60 centes 10 g via Switzerland
Sep 15, 1859 (b) 20 centes 10 g to Italian border
May 15, 1862 see 1854 rates

Apr 23, 1867 40 cntsm 15 g

(a) -mail only available via Switzerland due to conflict
(b) - mail paid to border only, rest collected from recipient

40 centesimi per 15 grams : Apr 23, 1867 - Dec 31, 1875 (?)
Distance based rates were done away with in the 1867 convention unless there was a border mail provision I have missed.  This convention comes on the heals of Seven Weeks War and the loss of Venetia to Italy by treaty.  At this point, the unification process in Italy is very nearly complete and rail service is much improved.

via Brenner or Semmerling Pass

Torino Branch Office No 1
          Mar 10, 1869

Wien Mar 12, 1869 (verso)
Unless there is something regarding the Torino marking that gives us a hint, there appears to be no way to determine if this item went via the Brenner Pass and Innsbruck or via Trieste and the Semmerling Pass on its way to Vienna.  Perhaps certain branch offices (Ufc Succursale N.1) went via a given rail line?  Also possible is the "II S" portion of the marking.  At this time in Europe, many countries used various markings to indicate times of day, mailings or routings. 

Border Crossings and Exchange Offices
Border crossings and exchange offices can be very complex since the Austrian borders move in 1859 and again in 1866.  Additionally, numerous Italian States change governmental structures, eventually joining with Sardinia in the Kingdom of Italy.

Trieste - Ancona - Austrian Lloyd Packets
Initially, the Trieste-Ancona route connected Austria with the Papal States until the latter was reduced the regions closest to Rome.  Austrian Lloyd was critical for connections with Turkey and the East, but I assume this line lost mail traffic as the rail lines in Italy along the Adriatic Sea came to completion in the early to mid-1860's.

Ferrara (Venetia to Kingdom of Italy or Emilian Provinces)
Ferrara would be the Italian side of the rail crossing into Venetia when it was still a part of Austria.  Rovigo would be a candidate for the companion town at this crossing on the Venetian/Austrian side, though there may be some smaller towns that would also qualify.

Cormons - Udine (after unification of Venetia)
The rail line crosses the border at Cormons in Austria with Udine being the largest settlement on the Italian side. 

Brenner Pass railway entry north of Verona
Once the Brenner Pass opened in 1867, significant mail traffic via Innsbruck would have traveled this way.  It is unclear whether most of this mail traffic was to northern European destinations as opposed to much of Austria.

Open Questions:


Matha, T and Mentaschi, M, Letter Mail From and To the Old Italian States: 1850-1870, Vaccari, 2008.

Page 83-106 has the 1854 convention text here in Italian

Treaties of Austria and Hungary Vol 7

List of postal conventions for Austria are here:

convention of 1868 with north german states

hertslett's british conventons