ISSN 2704-7180 Post horn (Milano)
POST HORN SOUNDS THE CHARGE! IL CORNO DI POSTA SUONA LA CARICA!
Direttore Responsabile/Editor in Chief Claudio Ernesto M. Manzati
Redazione/Editorial Board Giorgio Migliavacca Thomas Mathà
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Collaboratori/Contributing Editors Lorenzo Carra Rocco Cassandri Piero Bartoloni Federico Borromeo D’Adda David Feldman Arthur H. Groten Serge Kahn Chris King Martino Laurenzi David Lee Ulf Johan Lindahl Raphaël Livnat Mirco Mascagni Roberto Quondamatteo Emilio Simonazzi Anthony Virvilis
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Editing: November 2019 Court of Milan: Periodicals Registration No. 31, 14 February 2019 ISSN 2704-7180 Post horn (Milano)
SOUNDS THE CHARGE! Claudio Ernesto Manzati After releasing the test issue N 00 of “POST HORN Magazine of International Postal History” at Milanofil 2019 and officially presenting it at Stockholmia 2019, the timely release of this issue, N 01, was not so obvious. In fact as soon as the New York-based Scandinavian Collectors Club (SCC, http://www.scc-online.org/posthorn) heard of the launch of POST HORN, they contacted us claiming primogeniture rights on the use of the name. In fact, the SCC, which includes collectors of stamps and postal history of Northern Europe from all over the world, have been publishing since 1943 a magazine called “The Posthorn Journal of Scandinavian Collectors Club”. It took about 7 months and a live meeting with the SCC Board representatives in Stockholmia 2019 to come to an agreement between the parties. The meeting was successful thanks to the friendly and much appreciated mediation of the Royal Philatelic Society London and of Wolfgang Maassen, President of the International Association of Philatelic Journalist. We must, however, take a step back to 2018, when, with Thomas Mathà, Giorgio Migliavacca and Clemente Fedele, we decided to launch our magazine, selecting among many options its name and, with it, its editorial line. The name underwent due diligence by BRUGGER & PARTNER, a law firm specializing in TradeMark with the European Trademark Agency. The outcome was that the name was free in segment 16, ie. that relating to newspapers and magazines. For the sake of the record, it is important to point out that the name POST HORN is the symbol of
the brand and is freely used by other newspapers and magazines, by Philatelic Associations and by National Post Offices. The application for registration filed with the European Trademark Agency was approved this July; in the meantime the SCC filed the request to register its trademark through the American Federal agency. Coming back to the present day, a draft agreement is currently being revised that states the need to inform the respective SCC and CIFO constituencies of the agreement, and provides for exchanging an advertising page in their respective magazines. We are looking forward to signing that agreement shortly. Thanks are in order to Chris King, Past President of Royal Philatelic Society London, and to Prof. Charles Openheim, RPSL Fellow and Trade-Mark expert, for their impartial assistance in facilitating the reaching of an agreement between SCC and CIFO. So – as they say – all is well what ends well. I would also like to thank - on behalf of Thomas and Giorgio as well, who share with me the birth and growth of this magazine – the many of you who expressed nice words of appreciation for our Number 00. Although the task for our editorial staff is now more difficult due to the greater expectations, we willingly welcome this challenge, knowing that we can count on a large number of friends who are certainly going to provide the material and the stories to share in our POST HORN Magazine of International Postal History. Happy reading! EDITORIAL_POST HORN
POST HORN SOUNDS THE CHARGE!
Claudio Ernesto Manzati
GARIBALDI’S PANETTONE Rocco Cassandri
THE HARRIS’ QUATTRINO Roberto Quondamatteo
“NON ANGLI SED ANGELI” THEY ARE NOT ANGLES, BUT ANGELS Thomas Mathà
1879. 20 RUBLES FROM DAGHESTAN TO JERUSALEM Lorenzo Carra
MAIL TRANSPORTATION AND FUMIGATION OF LETTERS AT PIRAEUS DURING THE 1884 CHOLERA EPIDEMIC Anthony Virvilis
ETHIOPIAâ€™S UNIQUE POSTAL HISTORY Ulf Johan Lindahl
LA BOLGETTA - MAIL BAG
GARIBALDI’S PANETTONE Rocco Cassandri Rome, Italy
Fig. 1: Letter from Caprera with Francesca Garibaldi‘s signature dated 28 December 1878. Fig. 2: Cover franked with a King Victor Emmanuel II 20 cent stamp cancelled with bar numeral 177. The “Piroscafi Postali Italiani” (Italian mailboats”).
“Caprera 28 dicembre 1878 Signora Angiolina Grazie per il magnifico Panetone e più per il gentile Ricordo. Tutti in famiglia si uniscono a me per ricambiare con lei e la sua amabile famiglia i più sinceri auguri. L’invio una fottografia del Generale firmata. E damé tanti baci colla speranza di rivedervi presto a Torino. Buon fine d’anno e miglior principio del novello. Sempre sua afta amica F. Garibaldi
Caprera 28th December 1878 Mrs. Angiolina Thanks for the wonderful Panettone, and even more for your kind remembrance. Everyone in the family joins me in sending you and your lovely family the most sincere wishes. I am sending you a signed photo of the General. And I am adding many kisses with the hope of seeing you soon in Turin. Wishing you a good end of the year and a better beginning of the new one. Your always affectionate friend F. Garibaldi
With this short message (Figg. 1 and 2) Francesca Armosino, Garibaldi’s last partner, whom he married the following year after the dissolution of the General’s previous marriage with the Marquise Raimondi, thanks a family from Turin for the Christmas gift of a panettone. It’s Christmas of 1878 and we like to imagine our “hero of the nation and the two worlds” celebrating with the family eating a slice of the traditional Milanese dessert. Garibaldi’s eating habits had always been modest, perhaps as a way to counterbalance the rich gifts that the king had granted him in exchange for the epic undertaking he had carried out by giving Sicily and the whole of Southern Italy to the Savoy monarchy. In ‘78 Garibaldi is 71 years old and is very tired both physically and spiritually because of his old war wounds but even more so because of the disappointment for the succession of governments ever more distant from the people and from the feelings that had spurred the Risorgimento wars. The endless struggle against southern banditry and the draft dodging among the poorest peasant classes were tragic examples of this. Yet another resentment Garibaldi had towards the government and the Savoys in particular was due to the continuous rejection of his requests for annulment of his previous marriage, never consummated, with Marquise, a necessary condition in order for him to marry Francesca Armosino. Only after threatening to apply for French citizenship and rejecting the Italian one did the magistracy decided to find a legal way to proceed with the annulment. On 26 January 1860 Garibaldi was finally able to finally marry Francesca Armosino, with whom he had shared the last 15 years and who had given him three children: Clelia (born in 1867), Rosa (born in 1869 and who died at 18 months of age) and Manlio, the last child (born in 1873).
Garibaldi, as already mentioned, was also physically very tried. A severe form of arthritis that had worsened over the years, affected his mobility and caused severe pain. A clear proof of this can be found in the autograph written with uncertain and shaking hand on the photo attached to the letter of thanks. This is very different from the autographs from previous years when he was in good shape and ready for the struggle and for the continuous challenge of the attempt to reach Rome (Figg. 3 and 4). In his last years he moved around using a custom-built wheelchair which can still be seen in the museum house of Caprera (Fig. 5).
Figg. 3 and 4: Garibaldiâ€™s autograph photos from two periods of his life. Fig. 5: Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1882.
Even during the last trips that he made for various reasons to Rome in 1879, to Genoa and Milan in 1880 and to Naples and Palermo in 1882, he moved around by wheelchair or even, as in the case of the trip to Milan, lying on a bed. And it is precisely from Palermo, his last journey, that on April 16 he returns to Caprera even more tired and sick, with an ugly bronchitis that worsens and which a few weeks later, on June 2, 1882, at age 75, causes his death.
Garibaldi had left precise dispositions in writing about his funeral and his wish to be cremated and buried in the family cemetery in the garden of his house (Fig. 6) close to his daughters Rosa and Anita, who died in the previous years. He was instead embalmed and buried with a state funeral in “pomp and circumstance”, and with a great following of those same authorities who had in turn acclaimed him, used him, but also on some occasion imprisoned him.
Fig. 6: Sacrarium Cemetery in the garden of Garibaldi’s home in Caprera.
Let’s now go back instead to Christmas of ‘78 and to the panettone just received. We like to imagine the General at his table, surrounded as usual by the closest family members: Francesca with the children she had from Garibaldi, Manlio and Clelia; Ricciotti, Menotti almost always in Caprera and Teresita with her husband Stefano Canzio, who was very close to the General. As often happened, old friends and comrades in arms visited the General in Caprera, like Medici, Cosenz, and Turr, who had became generals in the Sabaudian army, or like doctor Enrico Albanese (Figg. 7 and 7a) who had followed and cared for him through all his endeavors. We like to think that perhaps even during those Christmas holidays some of them were present to cheer up a Garibaldi who was ailing but also fondly reminiscing about past events. And we also like to think of them eating - in addition to Sardinian sweets certainly on the table - even our Panettone which had just arrived from mainland Italy.
Figg. 7 and 7a: Dr. Albanese’s discharge from the military after the “Impresa dei Millle”.
Francesca Armosino, who was she?
Francesca Armosino with Garibaldi and their daughter.
Francesca Armosino was born on 18 July 1848 in a small town in the province of Asti to an Armenian family who had taken refuge after fleeing Armenia to escape the Turkish massacres. There she had been found by Achille Fazzari to whom Garibaldi had entrusted the search for a nurse for the grand daughter whom his daughter Teresita was about to give birth to. In entrusting the task to his trusted friend Fazzari, Garibaldi recommended that she be ugly because, as Montanelli writes in his Biography of Garibaldi, “….with all those single males, there in Caprera, nailed by the susceptible virtue of Sardinian women, a beautiful nurse could be dangerous”. Francesca then at the age of 17, already the mother of an illegitimate child, moves to Caprera in April 1865. Although not exactly beautiful, she soon turns out to be very intelligent and becomes Garibaldi’s partner giving him three more children, Clelia, Rosa, who will die at 18 months, and Manlio. Their union grew stronger due to the deterioration of Garibaldi’s health, lasting until the death of the hero of the two worlds in 1882. They were be able to marry only in 1880 with a civil ceremony officiated by the mayor of La Maddalena and surrounded by all the sons of Garibaldi who purposely traveled to Caprera. Francesca, in the last 14 years of his life, proved to be a good administrator and a good companion and wife for Garibaldi, waiting for him and comforting him during all the time he spent in the Caprera retreat. She died in 1923 and is also buried in the cemetery of the garden of the Garibaldi house.
The Panettone, what is it? The Panettone is a typical Milanese cake, and it has always been the most iconographic dessert on the Italian Christmas table. While there are is specific recipe, prescribing precise proving and cooking times, both the years and the Italian creativity have introduced many variations. The original recipe includes a mixture of: flour 0, fresh eggs, milk, butter, sugar and / or honey, candied orange and citron, sultanas, vanilla, salt and, finally, sourdough. The origins of the recipe are ancient and the tradition dates them at the end of 1400 at the court of Ludovico il Moro. As the story goes, a cook’s assistant (sous chef?) named Antonio prepared a sweet bread for the Christmas party, and this bread was an immediate hit, being baptized as “el pan del Toni” (“the bread of Tony”) which over the years became Il Panettone. Over time, although still conserving its Milanese matrix, it has become the Christmas dessert of all Italians, but is also known and appreciated in many other countries of the world. From the artisanal productions by the Milanese “offellee” to the industrial production by the famous names like Alemagna, Motta and Besana, the latter also thanks to the advertising by Gino Boccasile. The flavor and the aroma of the Panettone immediately evoke the memory of Christmas and this ritual continues unchanged over the centuries.
A traditional Panettone.
Fig. 1: Cholera-infected pump. Historical artwork showing Death supplying water infected with the cholera bacteria from a pump.
MAIL TRANSPORTATION AND FUMIGATION OF LETTERS AT PIRAEUS DURING THE 1884 CHOLERA EPIDEMIC Anthony Virvilis Piraeus, Greece
In the summer of 1884, a cholera epidemic broke out, following errors by the British sanitary authorities in Alexandria the previous year. The epidemic first appeared in Toulon and then in Marseilles. It spread through Italy, with Naples being the afflicted region. Measures taken each time by the Greek government for the avoidance of the infectious diseases of cholera and plague in Greece were severe, as in this case as well.
1 Following the withdrawal of the French occupying forces from Piraeus in 1856, the new lazarette of the city started operating in a new site. The reasons for changing its location from the one in the inner port, in front of the present church of St. Nicholas, were three: the ruinous state of the previous establishment (used as barracks by the French army), the cholera epidemic brought by the French soldiers to Piraeus and Athens in 1854 and the expansion of the city. As a new location the Eaetionian shore was selected in the outer Piraeus port, which, in antiquity, was called Cantharos. G. Bussolini in his book Delle Istituzioni di Sanita
Marittima nel Bacino de Mediterraneo (Trieste 1881) describes the two Piraeus lazarettes, i.e. that of Cantharos and the one of St. George at Salamis: The first of the above mentioned lazarettes called Cantharos, from where it is situated, is intended for the acceptance of vessels and persons of origin suspected for infectious diseases only, where they are subjected to five daysâ€™ observation. It consists of thirty buildings of various shapes, interspersed, of lodge type and of rather limited dimensions. Its position is excellent with very healthy air and a very good anchorage. On the other hand, it has the serious disadvantage for a quarantine
establishment of not being surrounded by a wall at all. For this reason, in order to achieve successful isolation for a period of quarantine or observation, it is necessary for a zone of sanitary guardians or soldiers to be installed around it, with all the various risks that action would entail. As a watch station for a short period it corresponds well enough to its scope, given that traffic to Piraeus is much reduced when infectious diseases are simmering in Europe or the Near East, and instead of the usual great commotion of small boats and local trains connecting the port to Athens, visits to this classical country are suspended.
Fig. 2: Map of Piraeus harbour with the Cantharos lazarette. Fig. 3: The port of Piraeus. Behind the anchored ships the installation of Cantharos lazarette.
On 14 June, Michael Papadopoulos MD was appointed Surveyor of Health Stations and Lazarettes (Government Gazette Issue [GGI] no. 252/20.6.1884). With the exception of the permanent lazarettes of Piraeus - known as Cantharos (Figg. 2 and 3)1-, on 12 June, temporary lazarettes were established in Delos (GGI no. 241/12.6.1844, staffed on July by 10 temporary guardians and at the end of August with an additional 5), Corfu (on the islet of St. Demetrius in Gouvia, where Eugene Pagiatis MD was appointed on 30 June and on 28 July an assistant deodoriser) Vido (GGI no. 311/1.8.1884, personnel were appointed on the same day), St. George of Salamis, and on 25 July on the Trizonia islets, in the Gulf of Corinth (GGI no. 302/25.7.1884)2. The same day provisions were put in force for disinfecting all arrivals from the Italian peninsula in the Delos and Corfu lazarettes. From 13 June to 30 September 1884, at the St. George lazarette, 10 sailing ships and 25 steamers as well as 1.036 passengers on board and 203 at the quarantine station were disinfected, in Corfu 40 sailing ships, 21 steamers, with 109 passengers on board and 355 at the Gouvia lazarette, in the Vido islet 28 sailing ships, 32 steamers and 254 passengers, in Cantharos 1 sailing ship, 11 steamers and 235 passengers, at the Trizonia islets 12 steamers, in Syra 125 sailing ships, 20 steamers, with 538 passengers on board and 21 at the lazarette, in Delos 54 sailing ships, 11 steamers and 49 passengers. In total, 250 sailing ships, 132 steamers, with 1932 passengers on board and 1068 at the lazarettes (daily Aeon, 1 October 1884). Let us not forget that every protective measure was deterring free movement and commerce, a fact causing great annoyance to those doing business with the Levant and Europe. The Cantharos lazarette during my visit (early June 1880) was intended for the acceptance of those suffering from smallpox, the stay of whom in Piraeus did not secure absolute isolation, or who did not have the financial means to employ nurses with whom they would stay in isolation. 2 The Trizonia islets are situated in the Corinthian Gulf and were used temporarily as a lazarette for the vessels who were loading currant from Patras, Aigion, Pyrgos or Zante.
Fig. 4: A quarantine station after an outbreak of Cholera in Marseilles harbour, France. In the first week in July the mortality rate was 24 per day. Dated 19th century.
The installation of lazarettes near urban centres worried public opinion as well. The catastrophic experience of the 1855-56 cholera in Piraeus, Athens and the islands of the Cyclades was still fresh. The daily Sphaera [Globe in English] commented on 16 June:
...The steamer arrived the day before yesterday from Marseilles as well as the vessel of Fraissinet bound for Volo,3 not wanting to be subjected to disinfecting departed for Smyrna and Thessaloniki. What preventive measures can be taken if they [the vessels] can obtain free pratique [license given to a ship to enter port on assurance from the captain to the authorities that she is free from contagious disease] just within a few miles of Greek ports, from where the passengers may freely come here? The daily Aeon [Century in English] commented on 20 June:
... the idea of the establishment [of a lazarette] on St. George, seems to us very inappropriate as this islet faces the sea lanes to Salamis. Moreover it is very close to Athens, and the temptation to breach the sanitary regulations is, therefore, very dangerous...
Fig. 5: The marking of Cantharos Health Office. It has been encountered so far on documents only. Fig. 6: Patient in typical cholera attitude. French medical book c1890.
The newspapers of the time, quite sensitive in informing the public, were regularly publishing either reports from their correspondents abroad or relevant governmental communications regarding the epidemic. The Sphaera of 22 June published the following information:
...It was also ordered that the mail transported from Brindisi, should be disinfected in Corfu and Piraeus... The next day Aeon reported:
...As from today the fumigation of correspondence arriving from Brindisi as well as the newspapers of the West commences at Cantharos. For this reason there will be a delay of some hours for their distribution by the post (Fig. 5)... However the strict regulations for disinfection were causing problems and delays not only to mail transportation, to commerce and the transportation of passengers, but also to the shipping companies which linked Greece with abroad, creating an uneconomic situation for the continuation of their scheduled itineraries.
3 The contract of 28 May / 9 June 1874 between Greece and the French Company A. L. Fraissinet & Co was extended with a supplement of 5/17 May 1882, to include one weekly calling to and from Volos.
Fig. 7: The Cholera quarantine at Bardonnechia on the Franco Italian frontier.
Fig. 8: Cholera Prevention. Man dressed in a large blue overcoat, a clay pipe in one hand and a mask over his face, surrounded by boxes containing herbs. Behind him is the ghostly apparition of cholera.
The Sphaera of 29 June advises:
...As a consequence of the disinfection imposed on arrivals from Brindisi, the Hellenic Steamship Company has suspended its sailings between Corfu and Brindisi. Each Wednesday the Austrian steamer will take passengers and mail from Corfu, and on her return, the same [passengers and mail] will embark on a Greek vessel for Piraeus. Mail bags will be disinfected at Corfu... The same information is provided by Aeon of 29 June:
...Communication with Italy by Lloyd and by the Greek line, PiraeusCorfu-Brindisi was suspended. Only the steamers of the Florio line4 [will continue] bringing mail from Europe each week... On 2 July, the same newspaper provided detailed information:
...From today we shall receive no more mail from Europe via Brindisi, except on Saturdays when the Italian steamer arrives in Piraeus. Other mail from Europe comes on Wednesdays via Trieste, when the Lloyd steamship arrives still free of any disinfection...
In the same paper of 6 July, the following characteristic report from abroad is also published, showing how the problem was tackled in the afflicted areas during the epidemic and after:
From Marseilles they send to an Italian newspaper the following report: Due to the cholera, unfortunate Marseilles was transformed into a place of looting, left to thieves and criminals. As most of the houses and shops were evacuated and everything was deserted, the unprincipled have taken over (Fig. 9, page 27) [...] In Paris there was complete health in general and all inhabitants returned to theatrical and other festivities. The following expressive song, sung with complete joy by the public in the streets is remarkable as an exorcism or as a medicine against the sickness: To fight cholera Ah, Ah! Musette takes a stroll in the woods Ah, Ah! With her dearest To give joy to her heart Against cholera Ah, Ah!
4 In 1881, the old steamship company Ignazio & Vicenzo Florio of Palermo was amalgamated with the company Raffaele Rubattino of Genova creating Navigatione Generale Italiana with Genova as its seat. At the time of the amalgamation, I. & V. Florio owned 43 steamers totalling 32,809 tons net, while the Rubattino fleet consisted of 18 steamers of 26,918 tons net.
However, the information received from abroad was alarming. It obliged A. Mansolas, the Director General of the Posts, to examine the possibility of the disease being transmitted by incoming mail. The daily Aeon of 11 July reported:
Professor of Chemistry Mr. A. C. Christomanos, was called upon by Mr. A. Mansolas, General Director of the Posts, to express his opinion on the fumigation carried out in Cantharos of the mail bags arriving from France and Italy. From his lengthy report we extract the following: Mr. Director, I have the honour to tell you that the fumigation which is presently carried out in Cantharos of the incoming mail from France and Italy is a parody of disinfection, and totally improper. The tarred mail bags are transported from the boat (belonging to the ship under disinfection) by the guardian of the quarantine station to the location of the smoking process; they are unfastened there by the quarantine clerk, who takes them in his hands and empties the enclosed letters and newspapers on a dirty and not disinfected table. The same clerk handles the letters with care using some small and unsuitable tongs, places them on the table and incises them using a chisel. He then unfastens the parcels of newspapers using a pair of scissors and places them with the tongs on a wire meshed net within an old wooden drawer, which was once used as a wash-basin. Subsequently, he sets fires to some pieces of wood, usually from broken windows or oil barrels, with a bundle of straw, positioned below the netting and after throwing a handful of sulphur on the fire, he shuts the drawer (Fig. 10, pages 28 and 29). After three minutes only, he opens the drawer again, and this time without any precaution takes out the letters etc. and encloses them again inside the same mail bags from France and Italy, directing them to the Athens post office by train, or to the Piraeus post office, and then allows himself to circulate freely, without any care, in the city of Piraeus. In addition, in the central post office, these mail bags are opened in the distribution room and remain there until the departure of the next vessel for abroad. In other words, each and every procedure in Cantharos is absolutely careless! And if the competent authorities are aware of this situation, which is totally in vain, let them stand up for their beliefs and declare that from now on there will be no more mail disinfection, as it is without any purpose at all and is useless. If, however, they still hold this opinion or if they undertake the responsibility for lifting the disinfection, then they should not allow such a situation which is not only inept but quite dangerous [...] 26
Fig. 9: Slitting of mail in Marseille. It is shown the method of slitting the letters and the large tongs for the transportation of corpses (courtesy Guy Dutau).
The publication of excerpts from Christomanos’ report caused a great reaction and further press comment. The Royal Medical Congress5 appointed their members G. Crinos and M. Chatzimichalis to draw up an appropriate report. The daily Aeon of 18 July wrote:
...According to our information, Messrs Crinos and Chatzimichalis, who were appointed to examine the disinfection of the incoming mail bags from cholera infected Europe carried out in Cantharos, did not observe any failings in its performance. On the contrary, the clerk concerned is to be complimented on the exactness and conscientiousness with which he carries out his duty. This man performed the disinfection during the last and the previous years, as he does today, without any complaint being laid against him. They also think that disinfection by sulphurous acid [a gas] is already outdated, but they confess that this is the method used wherever this kind of disinfection takes place. It is true that Koch has already proved that, on the one hand, against the anthrax bacteria at least, nothing works, neither the sulphurous nor the phenic acid, [phenol or carbolic acid] and on the other hand, that only mercury perchloride or mercury powder (which “Ephimeris” wrongly names as the commercial bichloride, wrongly translating bichlorure de Mercure) kills them. But one cannot yet say that Koch’s experiment applies
5 The Royal Medical Congress was established in 1834 and its competence, amongst others, was “to convene and jointly confer on profound medical matters, on which the Ministry of Interior might ask its opinion”.
to all species of bacteria and to those of cholera. Messrs Crinos and Chatzimichalis then referred to the authority of the eminent epidemiologist Pettenkoffer from Munich who, when questioned by the German ministry of posts for the best way of disinfecting the incoming mail from the East Indies, answered as follows. At first, he observed, it is not certain that cholera is spread by letters and newspapers, at least there is no incident proving that. On the contrary, there are many examples, particularly in England, where the letters and newspapers from infected countries were never submitted to disinfection, demonstrating that cholera is not spread through them. However, if disinfection of letters and newspapers should be considered necessary, he believes the most appropriate form of disinfection is through a high temperature, where all viruses carried would be killed. However, such disinfection would be very costly and could easily lead to the accidental burning of letters and newspapers so treated... The findings of Crinos and Chatzimichalis Committee leaked out to the press before their report was drawn up and on 19 July the daily Aeon commented:
...We were greatly puzzled seeing some of today’s newspapers copying an excerpt from our comments yesterday on the disinfection carried out in Cantharos on incoming mail bags
Fig. 10: Instruments of handling and slitting of letters used in Europe (C. Meyer, Disinfected mail, Houston 1962). In Greece, chisels were normally used.
from infected countries, from which alone and out of context, one cannot get the full meaning. Our honourable colleagues [newspapers] ought, in our opinion, also to republish the information that Messrs Crinos and Chatzimichalis consider the disinfection system used by us by sulphurous acid at present, is obsolete and condemned by science. Therefore, in order to avoid any misunderstandings, we should mention that we write only credible information, as we get it, showing neither our approval nor disapproval in our writings. Furthermore, we cannot do otherwise in this particular case, as this is a subject of we have no knowledge whatsoever, concerning scientific matters quite far away from our interests as journalists. Finally, we are obliged to mention to our friend, Professor Christomanos, that what we reported yesterday was not based on Messrs Crinos and Chatzimichalis’ report, who, as far as we know, have not yet drawn up or submitted any report to the Ministry, but on oral statements that they have made already to the Minister of the Interior as well as to several others here... The report was publicised immediately it had been submitted. On 2 August, the daily Aeon published the report of the Medical Congress members G. Crinos and M. Chatzimichalis. The detailed description of the disinfection process of the postal items is quite eloquent:
...As we saw the way the postal dispatches are disinfected in Cantharos, we had to wait for the arrival of a steamship from an infected country. The first, after the commission was given to us, was an Italian ship, arriving from Brindisi on 14 July. Letters, newspapers, books and other items sent by post, were placed in mailbags, which were in turn contained in bigger ones, which were tarred. These tarred mail bags were transported and disembarked on shore by the Italian vessel’s launch. From the shore, these mail bags were carried by a sailor from the launch to the smoke room, i.e. in the room where fumigation by burning sulphur takes place. This is also used as the place where ships’ Masters give their sworn statements. The work of disinfection in this room is carried by a single clerk, in the following manner: The clerk, using a clasp-knife, cuts loose the straps with which the tarred mail bag is tied. He then grasps the bag from the bottom and turns it upside down, so the mail bag’s contents fall to the floor. He uses tongs to pick up one of the inner mail bags, cuts off the straps with which it was tied as well and using tongs or a stick with a hook at its bottom or using both instruments together, he lifts the mail bag from the bottom edge and turns it upside down, so all the packets it contains fall on the floor. Each of these packets is brought by the fumigator to the table with the use of tongs, holding it by the straps and who then opens it with a knife.
Fig. 11: (a) Slitting of mail by the use of a sharp chisel and a wooden mallet. (b) and (c) The fumigation box. Figures (a) and (c) are sketches drawn by Takis Karatzas, as per description of Crinos-Chatzimichalis report.
Then, he takes the letters from within the mail bags with the tongs and lays them in twos, threes or fours, in reverse order of their total thickness. He produces one or two cuts on the letters using a sharp chisel and a wooden mallet (Fig. 11a). When a good number of letters are chiselled, the fumigator handles them with the use of tongs and brings them to the disinfection or fumigation box. The preparation of the parcels of books and newspapers to be submitted to smoking, like the letters, consists only in taking off the strings, which are cut off by a knife or scissors. These items are not submitted to smoking but are thrown under the table. All the objects gathered under the table are deposited in a tin box, after the completion of smoking all paper items, i.e. after the end of the smoking process in the fumigation room. The box is transported, as I have said, to St. George lazarette, where it remains for eleven days. The container in which smoking by burning sulphur is carried out is a large wooden box, specially built for this purpose. Though fairly simple, it fulfils the purpose for which it was built, i.e. smoking with sulphur dioxide (sulphurous acid). It was never used and never could be used as a wash-basin, as previously noted, obviously as a joke only, by the professor of experimental chemistry in the report he submitted (Fig. 11b). The box measures one metre in width, 1.18 m in height and
0.79 m in depth. Its capacity is approximately one cubic metre. At a depth of 0.43 m from the top of the box, there is a thin iron mesh, and at 0,80 from the top, there is another similar mesh. The items directed to be disinfected are placed on these two layers of mesh. On the upper layer, the access is through an opening on top of the box, and on the lower, through a door on the front of the box (Fig. 11c). When the fumigator has a good number of letters, newspapers, etc, he sets fire to pieces of paper (already crumpled by hand), placed on a stone base contained inside the box. He then rapidly throws, or rather places on top of the paper two handfuls of crumbled sulphur and shuts the door of the box. At the time we were present in the smoking room, the items remained under the effect of the suffocating gas caused by the burning of the sulphur from 12 to 25 minutes. During that time, the fumigator had prepared a good number of letters, newspapers and books to be treated likewise. When the items put in the box have been smoked, the clerks of the Athens or Piraeus post offices, who have free entry to the smoking room, take them out of the box and put them, not into special bags, but into the original tarred mail bags and carry them to their places. The inner bags are delivered, as I told you, to the vessel which brought them, and the wrappers of parcels, strings etc. are burnt, as we were advised...6
6 Eight years would pass before the competent Ministry of Interior decided to change the fumigation method. The daily Acropolis of 13 August 1892 reported: The Medical Congress suggested to the Ministry of Interior the provision of Genest Herschen apparatus for the disinfection of letters and postal parcels, and the clothes of those under quarantine at the main lazarettes of the State and the Piraeus Sanitary Office. This provision is absolutely necessary as the smoking method we practise is old and totally ineffective. Bulgaria is already using three. There are two kinds, mobile and stationary. They are made of metal, and cost from 3,000 to 15,000 drachma. depending on size. There is a minor disadvantage so far
as registered letters are concerned: owing to the high temperature created, seals of Spanish wax are melted, but this can easily be corrected. The Ministry requested from our Embassy in Paris the relevant invoices (quotations), which arrived the day before yesterday. It was decided to purchase two disinfectors, the first of stationary type for the lazarette in Delos, and the second of mobile type, for the Piraeus Sanitary Office and the Post Office. On 20 August the same newspaper reports that the following week two disinfectors are coming from Paris costing 20,000 gold francs which shall be installed at the lazarettes of Delos and Vido at Corfu. In the next year the disinfection of the postal items by smoking stopped.
Fig. 12: The steamship Tigre.
The case of the steamship Tigre Researchers and collectors should take a note of the objective conditions of the period when they check the itinerary of a letter. Press reports often show that delays in the transportation of mail were due, not only to ships unable to brave bad weather, having to wait for better weather, but also to delays or suspension of communications for fear of epidemics. In addition, a similar reason for a delay, this time of lesser importance after 1858, vessels coming from infected places with sick passengers on board, instead of calling at Piraeus, could be ordered to make for Delos. So there are cases in which mail destined for mainland Greece through Piraeus, was first landed at Delos, fumigated there, and subsequently sent to Syra to be finally forwarded to Piraeus for onward transmission. The case of the Messageries Maritimes steamer Tigre in July 1884 is typical.7 The daily Aeon of 6 July reported:
...The French steamer â€œTigreâ€? of the Messageries Maritimes, coming from Marseilles, arrived yesterday morning at Piraeus roads and anchored at a distance of a mile, hoisting the flag of quarantine at her mast. The Piraeus Sanitary Officer and the Port Authorities went to the vessel by steam-launch and asked the Captain and the vesselâ€™s doctor from whence they had come and enquired about the health of those on board. They confirmed to the Sanitary Officer that they had come directly from Marseilles, and that there was on board one person suffering from cholera and another suspected to be. The Sanitary Officer ordered the Captain to sail immediately to Delos to perform quarantine, stating at the same time that it was not permitted to disembark either the mail bags or any other documents from the vessel. The Captain of the vessel replied that he would sail to Smyrna. The steamer therefore sailed after a while without any communication with the port... 7 The Tigre of length 106.72 metres, with displacement 3,232 tons and speed 12.50 knots, accommodated 132 passengers in cabins and was built in France in 1862 for the service of the Far East line, where she served the Suez - Hong Kong route until 1870. That year she was modified by adding 9 metres and during the period 1879-1891 was commissioned to the Mediterranean lines. She was scrapped in 1904 after 40 years in service.
Fig. 12a: The steamship Tigre after its elongation by nine metres.
In a few days, the newspaper returns to the subject again and on 10 July reports as follows:
...Here is exactly what happened to the Messageries Maritimes steamship “Tigre”. It shows the indifference of the Turkish sanitary authorities and what kind of disinfecting is carried out by them. The steamer, turned away from here, was accepted by the Clasomenes (a place close to Smyrna) authorities8 where she disembarked her passengers and mail bags. The French post office in Smyrna (Fig. 13), however, either intentionally or without thought, mixed the bags from France, without disinfecting them, with the letters from Smyrna. As a result, these bags were sent here by an Austrian steamer (Fig. 14). The post office here, having seen the bag seals of the Smyrna post office, accepted the bags without suspicion and opened them. The surprised clerk, during the sorting of the letters at the boxes, saw that those from Marseilles as well as from other parts of France were intact and not disinfected. The poor clerk found himself in an embarrassing situation, he was disturbed, he did not know what to do, and finally, he passed them on for distribution as he received them [...] The Government has a duty, to demand an explanation from the French post office in Smyrna, and to ask for severe punishment of the guilty parties... The above publication confirms the following: • the cooperation and the exchange of mail bags between the foreign post offices working in the Levant for onward transmission, was customary and well established. • the sorting of the letters was not carried out at an intermediate office, but at the first post office at the place of destination of the letter.
8 The islet of Clasomenes (today Kilizman) near Urla, is situated 20 km west of Smyrna. It had a telegraph office and was used as a lazarette from 1850 until the 1950s. A small steamer took the mailbags to the foreign post offices in Smyrna which had been set up in accordance with the respective Treaty of Capitulations. Every country who had interest for such a treaty would sign one separately with Turkey, based on the previous ones.
Fig. 13: The Messageries Maritimes agency on the Quay of Smyrna, where the French post office was housed as well. Fig. 14: The Austrian Lloyd Agency on the Quay of Smyrna.
It seems that the delays in delivering mail which arrived from abroad, and, in particular, from the West, which had to follow the itinerary prescribed by certain Royal Decrees, viz. Delos-Syra-Piraeus, as well as the case of the Tigre steamer, forced the authorities to issue the following circular, published in the daily Aeon on 11 August:
Messageries Maritimes steamers, arriving at Piraeus and Syra harbours every Thursday, must leave only their mail bags, and then proceed to Clasomenes to carry out the obligatory legal quarantine. However, the fear of an epidemic was great, and the newspapers were asking for strong preventative measures to be taken. Nevertheless, the Government remained cool. Having reliable regular information from the various Greek Consuls, they did not want to disrupt commerce. A circular published in the pro-government newspaper Efimeris ton Sizitiseon [News of Debates] of 29 September calmed public worries as follows:
We are obliged to write again on fumigation because of the news written or spread by certain newspapers, so we first deny what was published in â€œEthnophylaxâ€? [National Guardian] on 15 inst. about the death of a person going from Piraeus to Constantinople and to confirm that this is a myth. The Royal Medical Congress, which is the competent body and therefore responsible, has on four occasions discussed and four times denied the proposal to subject all arrivals from Marseilles to treatment.
We have been assured officially that this city, and all the others between Marseilles and Paris, are in perfect health. Cholera in Naples is not significant at all; in Genoa it is greatly abated and almost extinguished; and in Paris the inhabitants are not worried at all, because new cases among the lowest class are not of any significance, and as all arrivals by sea from places infected with cholera are treated in Marseilles. If Greece submits arrivals from all healthy places to fumigation whenever cholera appears in a single place in Europe, because they communicate with that single infected place by train, the only practical result would be that Greece would be totally isolated, and certainly not to her benefit. Great caution there should be, but only where there is a need; because if there is no need, caution is detrimental and not beneficial.
On 6 November the vessel Cambodge of Messageries Maritimes called at Piraeus coming from Marseilles, but still she was not permitted to disembark passengers and, therefore, she continued her voyage to Clasomenes. A long relevant report is published in the daily Aeon on 13 November by the scholar, lawyer, director of the Parliamentary Library and editor of the newspaper Timoleon Filimon (Fig. 16), who was a first-class passenger, returning from Paris. The Government, in order to avoid the country’s commercial blockade, was finally forced to commission the torpedo boat Psara from Corfu to Brindisi each Thursday for the transportation of mail.9 Later she was replaced by Mycali 10 departing each Wednesday (Fig. 15). When the epidemic diminished, the temporary guardians of Delos, Corfu and Trizonia were dismissed on 1 December. The dailies Aeon and Nea Efimeris [New Newspaper] of Piraeus on 7 December 34
Fig. 15: The gunboat Μυκάλη (courtesy Hellenic Maritime Museum). Fig. 16: Timoleon Filimon.
9 In accordance with a Ministerial Decision, the torpedo boat “Psara” stationed in Corfu, would sail from there each Thursday to Brindisi, from where, after picking up the mail bags, shall return to Corfu each Friday midnight (daily Aeon, 17 August). 10 Mycali (ex Sfaktiria till 1881) was an iron gunboat 52 tons, 22 metres with speed of 10 knots, built in France in 1880, carrying a Krupp gun of 22 and torpedos. She participated in the wars of 1897 and 1912-13 with the Ionian naval squadron at the Amvrakikos bay operations. 11 Luis Feraldi was the son of François Feraldi, French citizen of Italian origin and multifarious businessman who came in Greece at 1826
addressed their congratulations to Luis Feraldi,11 director of Piraeus Agency of Fraissinet line, as, despite the disinfection, communication with France did not stop, contrary to Messageries Maritimes which, although subsidised, had suspended calls to the Greek ports. The same policy was followed by the ships of the Austrian Lloyd for Piraeus and Syra12 as well as by the Italian Societies13 who had interrupted their itineraries to Greece. The temporary lazarettes were closed on 28 January 1885 (GGI no. 9/31.1.1885).
and undertook the transportation of mail in the interior and abroad in 1833. His brother Theophile has signed the additional contract of 1882 for the account of the French company (see footnote 3). Luis remained Fraissinetâ€™s agent at least till 1907. 12 Following an announcement by the General Posts Directorate, from next Tuesday [14 August] mail dispatches from Athens, Piraeus and Syra to Trieste only are repeated, carried out by Greek steamships meeting at Corfu with the Austrian ships of the Alexandria-Trieste line. At the same time, mail may be sent to the rest of the Austro-Hungarian territories, Germany, Russia, Romania and Serbia through Trieste (daily Aeon, 11 August).
13 After the temporary suspension of the BrindisiPiraeus-Constantinople line by Italian steamships, the mail dispatch from Athens and Piraeus to Western Europe and Constantinople by the abovementioned vessels will no longer be available, as of today. Due to the suspension of this line, no mail arrived from Europe today (daily Aeon, 11 August). The Italian shipping companies serving the connection with Greece (Corfu-Piraeus) at that time, except Florio-Rubattino (vessels Peloro, Scilla, Solunto etc.), were the companies Adriatico Orientale (vessels P. Carignano, P. Tommaso, Brindisi, Adriatico etc.), Peirano-Danovaro (vessels Principe Amedeo, Americo Vespucci, Alessandro Volta, Messina etc.) and Navigazione Generale Italiana.
Fig. 19: Letter from Catania on 30 November 1884 (new calendar), forwarded through Napoli (1/12) to Brindisi (2/12), boarded on Mykali, delivered to the Corfu Health Office for fumigation (two vertical slits) and arrived in Patras on 22 November (old calendar). Left page: Fig. 17: Officers of ships detained at Marseilles, France, visited in quarantine by their wives and children during the cholera epidemic of 1884. Fig. 18: Letter from Venice of 22 August 1884 (new calendar) forwarded to Brindisi post office by train (24 August). It remained there for a period of four months due to the suspension of communication with Greece. On the reopening of the shipping line it was forwarded to Corfu, fumigated at the Health Office (two vertical slits) and arrived in Athens on 13 December (old calendar).
Fig. 1: Rear Admiral Frederic R. Harris served as Chief of the Civil Engineers and Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks from January 21, 1916 - November 30, 1917. Harris foresaw the need for rapid expansion of naval facilities as the war loomed during his administration and began building up the naval shore establishment U.S. Navy - Creative Commons 2.0.
THE HARRISâ€™ QUATTRINO
Roberto Quondamatteo Rimini, Italy
Rear Admiral Frederic R. Harris U.S.N. passed away July 20th, 1949, at the age of 74 (Fig. 1). In addition to having served his country with honor and devotion, Frederic Harris was a great collector and passionate philatelist. His famous collections of Ancient Italian States and Ceylon, considered the best of all times were completed in the U.S.A. and well-known worldwide. His most important collection, however, was the “Hawaii collection”; given his great knowledge of the stamps and of the postal history of Hawaii, Harris collaborated to the publication of the prestigious volume “Hawaii, its Stamps and Postal History” (Fig. 2, next page) published in 1948 by the Philatelic Foundation. He obtained much recognitions: he was the Secretary of the Directors’ Committee of the Third International Philatelic Exhibition (TIPEX), held in New York in 1936 and President of the Centenary of the Stamp International Exhibition(CIPEX) of 1947, and one of the founders (as well as a Trustee) of the Philatelic Foundation, of which he was President until his death. In 1950 his name was included in the Hall of Fame of the “American Philatelic Society” in consideration of his contribution to philately.
Fig. 2: Henry Albert Meyer, Rear Adm. Frederic R. Harris, William J. Davey, John K. Bash and others “HAWAII Its Stamps and Postal History” The Philatelic Foundation, 1848.
Fig. 3: 1851, 5c Blue (2). Type I — the left-hand position of the setting of two — full margins, deep shade and clear impression, corner crease and small tears, but free of any repairs or serious faults, tied by a bold 7-bar grid cancel, also showing a red “Honolulu * Hawaiian-Islands * circular datestamp for Oct. 4” (1852) on bluish folded cover – Robert A. Siegel auction 2014 – “Hawaiian Stamps and Covers”.
Fig. 4: 1851, unused 5c Blue (2), Type I with “P” INDENTED – “THE MISSIONARIES OF 1851-1852” - Robert A. Siegel auction 2014 “Hawaiian Stamps and Covers”.
Among the many notable pieces of his important Hawaii collection, one worthy of being remembered is the spectacular letter from Honolulu of October 4, 1852 addressed to Portland ME. U.S. America, franked with a single copy of the 5c Blue Hawaiian Missionary Type I stamp (Figg. 3 and 4). Only 8 similar letters are recorded and the Rear Admiral’s is one of the only two known examples with the red handstamp “FORWARDED Via S. FRANCISCO/ BY G.D. GILMAN/LAHAINA”. The letter, which successively belonged to great collectors like Charles F. Meroni, David Golden, Guido Craveri and Tito Giamporcaro, was sold at auction on October 2014 for US $ 110.000 by “Robert A. Siegel” of New York.
Fig. 5: 1850 – NAPEX A.P.S CONVENTION – National Philatelic Exhibition.
At the National Philatelic Exhibition (NAPEX) organized in September, 1950 by the Washington Philatelic Society, the prestigious house of auction “Harmer, Rooke & Co.” of New York announced the sale of part of the Harris collection (Fig. 5), which took place on November 14-17 of the same year, and was accompanied by the publication of three specific auction catalogues (Fig. 6, next page).
Fig. 6: November 14th – 15th 1850 – Postage Stamp Collection formed by the late FREDERIC R. HARRIS REAR ADMIRAL U.S.N. – ITALIAN STATES – PART 1 – Harmer, Rooke & Co. INC.
Among many important items of the Old Italian States belonging to Harris and sold in the New York auction lot # 775, afterwards called “Quattrino Harris” (Fig. 7), deserves special attention. The description of the lot read: “Enormous margins all around. Light cancel. A superb copy”. The “Quattrino Harris” in addition to presenting uncommon margins (it is possible to count at least 7 adjoining stamps), is considered by the experts for its freshness, for its excellent condition, and for the position of the circular datestamp, one of the most beautiful examples of this stamp on blued paper in the world. It sold for nearly 7 times the auction starting price. The first issue (April 1851) of the stamps of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (also called “Marzocchi” because they represent the Lion of Etruria aka ‘Marzocco’, which was the symbol of the independence of the Florentine Republic) were printed on blued paper. Beginning in 1853 the paper color changed becoming progressively more grey. Since the quattrino value was printed only beginning in September 1852, it is quite difficult to find beautiful copies of this value printed on blued paper. Additionally,
on top of the above mentioned features, which already make this stamp unique and unrepeatable, the lion’s shield shows the constant print flaw called “ovetto”. This flaw was classified by Cesco Giannetto as ‘XI Difetto “M” ‘ in his study, published in 1960, titled “Difetti costanti nei francobolli del Granducato di Toscana” (Fig. 8). The “Quattrino Harris” reappeared after 48 years in the prestigious auction number 108 held in Zurich by Corinphila on December 5th, 1998. It was part of the “Seta” (Silk), an important collection started on 1915 by an enthusiast industrial who, besides having substantial financial means, was endowed with a great aesthetic taste that led him to buy stamps and covers of great quality and beauty. The rarities in the “Seta” collection came from the famous collections of Ferrari, Chiesa, Weinberger, Rothschild, Hind, Caspary, Burrus and Harris. The expertise of Dr. Giorgio Colla, from Turin, that accompanied the lot 401, stated “…in my opinion the specimen, probably the most beautiful known, is original as well as the datestamp and it is perfect…”. Naturally the lot had great success, almost tripling the auction starting price.
Fig. 7: 1 quattrino “Harris” – black on light blue paper, Sassone n. 1a – Corinphila 1998, lot 401.
Fig. 8: Cesco Giannetto, “Difetti costanti nei francobolli del Granducato di Toscana” – “Constant flaws on Grand Duchy of Tuscany stamps” – Centro Filatelico Internazionale, Milano 1960.
Left page: 1899. 500 Francs der Compagnie Impériale des Chemins de Fer Éthiopiens. Below: Fig. 1: Emperor Menelik II. Fig. 2: Alfred Ilg.
ETHIOPIA’S UNIQUE POSTAL HISTORY Ulf Johan Lindahl
Greenwich, Connecticut (USA)
Emperor Menelik’s victory at the Battle of Adwa, on 1 March 1896, was a defining event for Ethiopia (Fig. 1). His army of 100,000 spear and gun-wielding soldiers, peasants, and men commanded by Ras Makonnen – father of the future Emperor Haile Selassie – crushed the Italian colonial army that had been expanding Eritrea by occupying regions of Ethiopia. Menelik’s victory established Ethiopia as an independent nation in the horn of Africa surrounded by colonies ruled by Italy, Britain and France. Menelik’s advisor on foreign affairs was Alfred Ilg, a Swiss (Fig. 2). He travelled to Ethiopia in 1878 in response to a request for an engineer to come to Ethiopia to assist the Emperor to modernize his country. In 1893, the Emperor granted Alfred Ilg and Léon Chefneux, a Frenchman, the rights to set up a private postal service and to construct a railway and telegraph line from Djibouti to Addis Ababa.
They travelled to France and engaged the French government to print a set of seven stamps engraved by the famous artist Louis-Eugène Mouchon. The four low values show Emperor Menelik in profile while the three high values depict the heraldic Conquering Lion of Judah (Fig. 4). Arthur Maury, the most prominent stamp dealer in Paris, obtained a commission to sell them to collectors. Printed in 1894, the stamps were brought by Chefneux to Ethiopia in 1895 where they were used for the first time on 29 January 1895 in the ancient, walled city of Harar. In 1892, the French Capuchin Fathers at the Catholic Mission in Harar had established a mail courier between Harar and Obock – a port town opposite the future Djibouti. They were entrusted to sell the Ethiopian stamps and remained in charge of the mail that was carried by camels through the frightful desert between Harar and Djibouti. Several weeks later, after Chefneux had reached Addis Ababa, then called Entotto, a Frenchman was given the task to organize the postal couriers to Harar and to sell the stamps. The first courier left Addis Ababa on 29 May 1895. Only one cover from this inaugural mail dispatch carried by the private Ethiopian Posts exists in private hands (Fig. 5). It was sent by Empress Taitu to Alfred Ilg in Zurich. The Empress was replying to a letter from Ilg. He had written to let her know he was returning to Ethiopia with his Swiss wife, Fanny, nee Gattiker. He beseeched the Empress to accept her, while he promised to continue to support his Ethiopian “wife” and two children.
The Centennial of the Battle of Adwa was commemorated in 1996 with a set of six stamps designed by Ethiopia’s leading stamp designer, Bogale Belatchew who passed away in July 2019 (Fig. 3). He designed 75 issues between 1973 and 2019. The victory was also a defining event for Ethiopia’s embryonic postal service, which had to forge its own path and in the process create a unique postal history among European colonies in Africa.
Fig. 3: “Centennial of the Victory of Adwa” stamps released in 1996 designed by Bogale Belatchew. Fig. 4: Ethiopia’s first stamps issued in 1895. Fig. 5: Cover sent by Empress Taitu to Alfred Ilg with first mail courier from Entotto (Addis Ababa) May 29, 1895. The seal of the Empress is on the cover’s back.
Fig. 6: The cleft stick logo of Ethiopian Postal Service Enterprise.
The Ethiopian stamps were only valid inside the country and paid for internal transportation since Ethiopia was not admitted to the U.P.U. until 1 November 1908. All mail addressed abroad had to be additionally franked with French colonial stamps when the mail left via Djibouti, or with stamps from India, as used in Aden, when it left via Zaila, a town on the Gulf of Aden coast near Djibouti. Over the years, selected stamps issued for Obock, Djibouti, the French Somali Coast, French Levant and Port-Said were sold and used in Ethiopia. Only recently we have been able to obtain more information about which stamps and which denominations were sold, and when they first were used on mail from Ethiopia. Research by this writer published recently has shed light on this aspect of French colonial philately. Only a handful of Europeans lived in Ethiopia in 1895, while travelers, hunters and explorers seeking adventure were few and far in-between in the immediate years after the Battle of Adwa. The volume of mail was low. Only Europeans and some Indian and Middle Eastern merchants used the postal service. A portion of Ethiopia’s Coptic clergy and some government officials could read and write Amharic, but they did not use the postal service. They traditionally engaged private messengers (“melektegnas”) who carried the mail in a cleft stick. Since there were no post offices outside Addis Ababa, Harar and Dire Dawa until the mid1920s, mail sent to the interior continued to be carried by melektegnas even into the 1930s. Envelopes held in a cleft stick became the symbol of the Ethiopian Posts after World War II – a distinct symbol compared to the post horn many other nations adopted (Fig. 6). A project by the Ethiopian Philatelic Society to record all surviving mail from 1895 to 1909 has so far (May 2019) reached a total of just over 1,250 items of outgoing mail. The total includes 50 items of internal mail. Less than 300 items have been recorded from the first seven years (1895-1901). In addition, less than 80 items of incoming mail from those 14 years have been recorded. They include only one cover from 1895 and one postal card from 1896. It is estimated that 90% of the surviving mail has been recorded in the Ethiopia Cover List. 47
Mail from Italian Prisoners of War Approximately 1,900 Italians were taken prisoner at the Battle of Adwa. They were marched to Addis Ababa on their feet and were held as prisoners of war. A peace treaty was signed with Italy in October 1896; it recognized Ethiopia as an independent nation and permitted repatriation of the POWs. Representatives of the Italian Red Cross came to Ethiopia and worked into mid-1897 to repatriate the POWs via Harar and Zaila, where they boarded ships bound for Eritrea and Italy. When Alfred Ilg returned to Ethiopia with his wife in late 1896, he brought with him postal cards printed in Paris in three denominations with a new depiction of Emperor Menelik turned right and a text that read: “Menelik II, Æthiopiæ Imp. Rex” (Fig. 7). The postcards became popular and were used until 1906, when they were sold out. Among the three categories of preserved mail from the preU.P.U. period, the postal cards represent 26%, covers 60%, and picture postcards 14%. The Italian POWs used the postal cards to write home. Most of the preserved mail from 1896 and a good portion from 1897 are POW mail. They do include a few covers franked with Indian stamps cancelled in Aden that were used by the Italian Red Cross. Such covers are marked with a hand-stamp reading: “Croce Rossa Italiana – Spedizione per Prigioneri d’Africa” (Figg. 8a and 8b). Ethiopia’s borders had not been established at the time of the Battle of Adwa. The area ruled by Menelik consisted primarily of Shoa Province (the highlands around Addis Ababa) and land to the East that incorporated Harar (Fig. 9). Recognizing the importance of Ethiopia, Britain and France sent diplomatic missions to the Emperor, in 1897, to establish formal relations. Several French scientific missions arrived to explore the areas to the West that bordered the White Nile territories, while Menelik sent military expeditions to the South to aggressively expand Ethiopia’s empire. The British diplomatic mission left Zaila in March 1897. When it passed through Harar, some members bought pre-cancelled Ethiopian postal cards. To support the mission, the British had organized a courier service between Zaila and the mission while it was in Ethiopia. Its members used some of the postal cards to send messages and franked them with Indian stamps that were cancelled in Zaila.
Figg. 8a and 8b: Italian POW mail sent by the Croce Rossa Italiana from outside Harar franked with Indian stamps as used in Aden where they were cancelled. Rome arrival. Fig. 9: Map of Ethiopia before its borders were expanded in 1897-98. Left page: Fig. 7: Earliest recorded use of a 1-guerche postal card; sent by Alfred Ilg on September 24, 1896.
A treaty was signed with Menelik. The following year, 1898, the British established a British Agency (later Legation) in Addis Ababa. It organized its own mail couriers to Zaila, and, after 1902, to Djibouti. It accepted mail from British civilians and subjects and effectively deprived the Ethiopian Posts of revenue. This mail was franked with Indian stamps, as used in Aden, where they were cancelled. This consular mail did not use Ethiopian stamps and continued to operate into 1908. Little is known about the volume of mail the British couriers carried, but comparative numbers of recorded mail addressed to different countries suggest it was sizable. To date, only 24 covers originating in Ethiopia and sent through the Ethiopian Posts addressed to England have been recorded. Nine of them announcing new issues or filling orders for Ethiopian stamps (Fig. 10) were sent by post office officials to Whitfield King & Co., a well established stamp dealer in Ipswich. It has been estimated that up to 3% of the mail that passed through the Ethiopian Posts has survived. It includes 340 items to Switzerland, 251 to France, 185 to Germany, 125 to Italy, and 81 to Austria. The volume of mail addressed to England and sent through the legation was comparatively similar. However, it has not been clearly identified as having originated in Ethiopia. The Italian legation later partnered with the British and some Italians used this postal alternative. Their mail was also franked with Indian stamps.
Fig. 10: Cover addressed by J.A. Michel to England in 1907 franked with Dagmawi stamps and 50c Port-Said stamp that was cancelled at the French post office in Dire Dawa.
Domestic and Incoming Mail Two developments that became important for the struggling Ethiopian Posts occurred in 1897. The French began to supply the Catholic Mission in Harar with stamps from Djibouti that were then sold in Ethiopia. The relationship expanded and the Mission began to supply stamps to Addis Ababa. By 1907, about half of the revenue the French Somali Coast collected from selling stamps came from Ethiopia. The second important event in 1897 was the start in Djibouti of the construction of the railway linking Djibouti to Addis Ababa. Unfortunately, the construction costs became prohibitive and the link was not completed. The terminus was located on the plains below Harar which became a new town, Dire Dawa, now Ethiopiaâ€™s second largest city. The railway was completed in December 1902, but it had begun to be used as soon as it reached the border to transport mail. Residents in Dire Dawa franked mail with French Somali Coast stamps and gave it to railway staff to post it in Djibouti. It was not until 1 November 1906 that a French post office was opened in Dire Dawa. The construction of the extension of the railway began in 1909 and it reached the outskirts of Addis Ababa in 1917. All mail up until the Italian occupation, in May 1936, was transported by rail to Djibouti since there was no air mail service nor any roads leading out of Ethiopia. The earliest recorded internal mail
from Ethiopia is recorded from 1897. Two of the three known covers were sent by French explorers to each other while they were in Harar and in Addis Ababa (Fig. 11). We also find a few items of incoming mail, including
a cover from Poona, India to Emperor Menelik (Fig. 12). It is possible that the sender congratulated Menelik on his victory at Adwa. Indeed the defeat of a European army in Africa had become a worldwide sensation.
Fig. 11: Internal cover from Addis Ababa (Entotto) on June 25, 1897 addressed to Harar. Fig. 12: July 1897 incoming cover from India addressed to Emperor Menelik.
Alfred Ilg’s Independent Ethiopian Posts The volume of mail fell sharply in 1898 for two reasons. Fewer foreign missions arrived in Ethiopia while Alfred Ilg informed the French colonial administration in Djibouti that he intended to set up an Independent Ethiopian Posts with offices in Harar and Addis Ababa. The French, intent on increasing their influence in Ethiopia since the port of Djibouti depended on trade with Ethiopia, prohibited the French Capuchin Fathers and the Frenchman in charge at the “Ethiopian Posts” in Addis Ababa from accepting mail from residents in Ethiopia unless they were French. The aim was to make Alfred Ilg’s service financially less viable. The sale of Ethiopian stamps came to a halt and most residents in Addis Ababa went without a mail service for several months. Covers sent with the French couriers now appear without Ethiopian stamps but marked on departure with the same Ethiopian date-stamps as in the past. Alfred Ilg turned to his father-in-law in Zurich to recruit Swiss postal clerks to come to Ethiopia to manage his Independent Ethiopian Posts. Otto Gattiker and three Swiss clerks, Mühle (Fig. 13), Wüllschleger, and Spitzer arrived in 1899. Sadly, Spitzer died while crossing the desert on their way to Harar. The Independent Ethiopian Posts was organized with Wüllschleger as Postmaster in Harar based in its only telephone office (Fig. 14). Henri Mühle was placed in charge in Addis Ababa.
Fig. 13: Henri Mühle, Director of the Ethiopian Posts in 1899-1903. Fig. 14: Ethiopian Post and Telephone office in Harar. Fig. 15: The mail is about to leave Harar’s post office for Addis Ababa carried on donkeys. Fig. 16: The French post office at the French Catholic Mission in Harar.
Fig. 17: First mail sent through Alfred Ilg’s Independent Ethiopian Posts on May 12, 1899. Fig. 18: Earliest recorded use of Harar Postes Françaises canceller October 28, 1899.
The Independent Ethiopian Posts initiated their service on 12 May 1899 with two couriers per month to Harar’s telephone office (Fig. 17). The mail was carried in bags on the backs of donkeys (Fig. 15). The distance of 310 miles was typically completed in ten days. When the mail arrived at Harar’s telephone office it was postmarked in transit and handed over to the French Capuchin Fathers across town at the Catholic Mission. It became known as the French post office (Fig. 16). It had a semiautonomous relationship with the postal authority in Djibouti and began to use a canceller that read “Harar Postes Françaises” in October 1899 (Fig. 18). Mail posted at the French post office did not require Ethiopian stamps since it only paid for internal transportation.
Indian Stamps use in Ethiopia The British and French had continued to compete for influence in Ethiopia. It appears the British had convinced MĂźhle to direct the outgoing mail through Harar to Zaila, rather than Djibouti, since a large portion of the recorded mail from 1900 is franked with Indian stamps (Figg. 19a and 19b). When the newspaper in Djibouti reported on the completion of the railway in Dire Dawa in December 1902, it wrote that the company had contracted with the Posts to transport mail. The reporter opined that there was no longer any need for customers of the Ethiopian Posts to have the mail sent through Zaila since the railway reduced the delivery time by several days. The comment indirectly confirms that the British had succeeded in temporarily thwarting the French in their efforts to profit from selling stamps in Ethiopia. Mail franked with stamps from India now become rare in the record.
Figg. 19a and 19b: Postal card franked with Indian stamps sent through Zaila and Aden. Card sent by Carlos Erlanger; a naturalist who described several new species from Ethiopia.
The Annual Overprints The Independent Ethiopian Posts soon had an obstacle to overcome since its finances were shaky. The volume of mail remained low, although there was income from transporting packages, newspapers from abroad, and gold exported from the gold mines in Wallaga in the western part of the country. In 1900, Ethiopian stamps were sold by Arthur Maury deeply discounted at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Some of them found their way to Ethiopia where they were used to frank mail. It deprived the Ethiopian Posts of income from selling stamps. The financial situation had become critical in mid-1901. Henri Mühle announced that the Posts would close - a decision he rescinded shortly thereafter. He had found a solution. Mühle hand-overprinted the stamps of 1895 with the word “Ethiopie” in violet (Fig. 20). Fig. 20: Cover to Italy franked with strip of Ethiopie overprinted stamps in February 1902.
He then circulated a hand-written notice to the 41 regular customers in Addis Ababa announcing that as of 18 July 1901 only stamps with this overprint would be valid for postage. In addition to saving the Posts, it had two important consequences: 1. Since “Ethiopie” was easy to forge, the Posts initiated a policy of annually releasing a new overprint – a process that was maintained into 1908. 2. Collectors could not buy the overprinted stamps from Maury in Paris; dealers and collectors now had to buy them from the Ethiopian Posts. It became financially beneficial since the value of a set was 31 ¾ guerches. The 8 and 16-guerches stamps that were seldom used for postage were now sold in “collections,” mint or CTO, that included all seven values. This added revenue was important since postage for a regular letter was 2 guerches and ½ guerche for a card. Covers with complete sets begin to appear in the philatelic record in 1901. Today, close to 10% of the recorded mail from 1895-1908 can be classified as philatelic. Since the two highest values were rarely used, covers with complete sets are often the only recorded usage of these high-value stamps. 55
Jean-Adolph Michel arrives in Ethiopia In 1901 a new development took place resulting in an unexpected monumental impact on the Ethiopian Posts; Wüllschleger, Harar’s Postmaster, committed suicide. To replace him, Alfred Ilg recruited a Swiss, Jean-Adolph Michel (Fig. 21), 21 years old, who arrived in Harar in October 1901, where he sent a postal card to his brother Fritz, an employee of the Swiss telegraph (Fig. 22). Michel was an enterprising person. He understood that philatelists appreciated unusual items as evidenced by his first card. When he passed through Djibouti, he had found that the Djibouti post office had encountered “shortages” of various values and had begun to use vertically divided stamps. Inspired, and on his own initiative, Michel divided stamps diagonally and sent several cards franked with them after he had arrived in Addis Ababa, where he began working under Mühle at the post office in Addis Ababa (Fig. 23). Michel was then transferred to Harar as Postmaster at the Ethiopian post and telephone office as of March 1902. Due to shortages of small values in Djibouti, the colonial administration had decided to release stamps from its stock of Obock stamps it had held after Obock’s post office had been closed. Obock stamps of both the “warrior” and “grouptype” were sent to Ethiopia and began to appear on the outgoing mail in 1901. Just before Michel arrived back in Harar, we find the earliest recorded picture postcard mailed in Ethiopia (Figg. 24a and 24b). Written by a Belgian traveler, it was franked with bisected Obock stamps (one of only three items from Ethiopia with these vertically bisected stamps). Fittingly, the picture side shows the train that had begun to transport mail between Djibouti and the rail-head as the construction progressed.
Fig. 21: Jean-Adolph Michel in 1918. Fig. 22: October 24, 1901 postal card sent by Michel franked with a diagonally bisected Obock stamp. Fig. 23: The post office in Addis Ababa where Henri Mühle was Director of Posts.
Before Michel left for Harar, he had helped create the second hand-overprint consisting of three Amharic letters that read “Bosta” (for Post). It was struck with violet ink and was issued on 1 April 1902. Michel had found an old (and the first) printing-press brought to Ethiopia by the Frenchman, Mondon-Vidhaillet, who was a linguist and who had managed the embryonic Ethiopian Posts in Addis Ababa in 1895-1898. Ever resourceful, Michel was also likely responsible for re-issuing the Ethiopie overprint struck with blue ink, in 1902, to be sold to collectors only – an idea that carried over to “Bosta,” which was re-issued in black.
Fig. 24a and 24b: January 14, 1902; earliest recorded picture post card sent from Ethiopia showing the train between Djibouti and Dire Dawa.
American Missions to Ethiopia 1903-1904 A third hand-overprint “Melekt” (“message”), struck with black ink utilizing Amharic type-font Michel had found, was issued on 15 April 1903 (Fig. 25). As with Bosta it invalidated the earlier issues. However, in practice both Ethiopie and Bosta were accepted as postage. Mühle, who had become Director of the Ethiopia Posts and had earned the praise of Alfred Ilg for his diligent work, fell ill. He died of smallpox in July 1903 and was buried in Addis Ababa. A Greek telegraphist, Aristide Voultzos, who had worked with Mühle, succeeded him in Addis Ababa. Although, Ilg was unhappy with Michel, he was appointed Director of “Postes et Télégraphes Ethiopiens” in October 1904. Travelers to Addis Ababa would pass through Harar and most of them met Michel since he was one of few Europeans living there. By 1903, America had become Ethiopia’s largest trading partner importing coffee and hides while exporting cheap cotton-cloth. However, there were no Americans in Ethiopia. Robert P. Skinner, America’s consul in Marseilles, was tasked by the U.S. government to lead a mission to Menelik in 1903 to negotiate a commercial treaty. The mission, which included 30 marines, met Michel and obtained important information about the route to Addis Ababa. Michel is mentioned in Skinner’s book “Abyssinia of To-day.” It also includes photos taken by Michel. A treaty was agreed with Menelik and the mission returned to the United States. After the treaty had been ratified by Congress, it had to be returned to Menelik.
Fig. 25: Melekt overprinted stamps issued on April 15, 1903. Right: Fig. 26: William H. Ellis who delivered the first commercial treaty between the United States and Ethiopia in August 1904. Below: Fig. 27: September 5, 1904. Cover sent by William H. Ellis reporting the delivery of the Treaty; one of 15 recorded covers addressed to the United States in 1895-1908.
Michel as Director of the Ethiopian Posts
A Mr. Loomis in the State Department was picked to lead the second American mission. It included William H. Ellis, who had independently visited Ethiopia in 1903 (Fig. 26). While sailing to England, Loomis fell overboard and drowned. Ellis was asked to head the mission. Ellis was rich, well connected socially and a flamboyant character and a wellknown Wall Street financier with offices at 23 Wall Street next to J.P. Morgan’s Bank. What few knew was that Ellis had been born a slave in Texas; he had left the small town in which he lived and set up a business and, because of his light-hued skin, was able to pass himself off as Mexican. Accepted as a white person, he was able to build his fortune. William H. Ellis had an audience with Menelik on 2 August 1904 as he related in a letter that he sent to Dudly Carter c/o Leslie Carter, America’s most famous actress on Broadway at the time (Fig. 27). Ironically, Menelik was the largest slave-owner in Ethiopia. However, it is fitting that America’s first treaty with Ethiopia was delivered by an African-American. Unfortunately, William H. Ellis fell on hard times. He died penniless in Mexico City, where was buried.
Appointed Director of the Ethiopian Posts in October 1904, Jean-Adolph Michel went on the offensive. He immediately created a new hand-overprint, but Ilg did not permit him to put it in circulation. A new issue had been planned for 1905. However, it did not stop Michel from selling the stamps to collectors and making more of them in the years that followed. This subordination would have consequences for the future of Ethiopia’s postal history and philately. Fluctuations in the exchange rate between the French gold franc and the Ethiopian silver thaler had unbalanced the ratio of 25 centimes = 1 guerche. Michel had obtained a printing set meant for children and used it to handstamp the 1895 stamps with new values: 05, 10, 20 up to 3.60 to re-denominate the stamps so that 25 centimes = 20 Ethiopian centimes, or 1 guerche. The stamps were issued 1 January 1905. Michel had imported a bicycle, possibly the first in Ethiopia, and a camera. He went to work producing the first series of picture post cards with scenes from Ethiopia: Harar and its surroundings (Fig. 28, next page). The cards went on sale in January 1905. In subsequent years he produced several other series including one with scenes from Addis Ababa. These cards are now an important visual historical record. In the first quarter of 1905, large German and Austrian missions passed through Harar and they bought many of Michel’s postcards that they sent to Europe. Their interest in stamps inspired Michel to claim a shortage of small values had emerged that “forced” him to create provisionals. He added “05” to a few hundred of the retired Ethiopie, Bosta and Melekt stamps. He also bisected the ½-guerche stamp and added “5 c/m.” To ensure these “Harar Provisionals” were accepted by philatelists, Michel wrote to Bolling, a French dealer, explaining the reason for the provisionals. Only the bisected stamps ended up being used in the mails. The other “Harar Provisionals” have only been recorded on mail Michel sent to his brother, who was his agent for selling stamps in Europe. Michel introduced an important change in April 1905: a requirement that the addressees of incoming mail pay inland postage. To collect these payments, Michel created postage due stamps. The 1895 stamps were hand-stamped with two versions of a large “T”. Used only briefly, those issue were followed by stamps overprinted “Taxé à Percevoir.” 59
Fig. 28: Postcard produced by Michel; “Panorama of Harar” franked with an Ethiopian 10c Numerals stamp and a 10c Somali Coast stamp. Fig. 29: The only recorded incoming cover from the United States to Addis Ababa in 1895-1908 with a 1905 Ethiopian postage due paying the inland postage in Harar.
They were used into 1907. Surviving incoming mail from 1895-1909 is rare. Less than 80 items have been recorded to date. Among them are 40 covers and cards that have one or more of Michel’s postage dues to indicate that the internal postage had been paid. One is the only recorded incoming cover from the United States to Addis Ababa in the pre-U.P.U. period (Fig. 29). Franked with a 5c Lincoln stamp in Chicago, it received a 1-guerche postage due in Harar one month later. To date, only 15 outgoing covers addressed to the United States in 1895-1908 have been recorded. At the end of 1905, Michel’s activities included
hunting and collecting wild animals that he kept in his courtyard and likely tried to export to Europe. Actually, Michel sent a cover to the famous German lion-tamer, Mr. Seeth, who performed across Europe with lions Emperor Menelik had given to him in 1898 when he visited Ethiopia! Two new hand-overprinted issues were released in 1906. The first was created with the “Numerals” of 1905 handoverprinted “Menelik” in Amharic. Since few Numerals remained, these stamps were sold out in mid-1906 when a second issue with a different hand-overprint that also reads “Menelik” was released.
Menelik’s Imperial Ethiopian Posts Alfred Ilg had fallen out of favor with the Emperor and left Ethiopia permanently in 1906; he transited through Harar on his way home. Michel was placed in charge of the Ethiopian Posts. In October, at the request of the Emperor, he went to Addis Ababa thinking he would stay a few months. However, around year-end Menelik expropriated Alfred Ilg’s private Posts and re-branded it as Imperial Ethiopian Posts with Michel as its Director. Michel remained in Addis Ababa. The French opened a post office in Dire Dawa on 1 November 1906 to serve the growing community of Frenchmen and other Europeans connected to the railway project and the trade it generated. This post office was opened without permission from the Emperor. To avoid political complications, the French decided that this Abyssinian post office should be subordinate to the French post office in Port-Said, Egypt. It was supplied with stamps from French Levant that were passed on and sold in Harar and in Addis Ababa since the sale of French Somali Coast stamps ceased. The French Levant stamps were soon sold out. The re-supply in February 1907 consisted of stamps from Port-Said. They were also sold in Harar and in Addis Ababa and used to frank mail addressed abroad. Since Djibouti’s
sales of stamps to Ethiopia had been considerable, its administration protested. By the middle of 1907, the sale of French Levant and Port-Said stamps was stopped. Djibouti resumed selling its stamps in Ethiopia. In mid-1907, Michel issued a new hand-overprinted set that reads “Dagmawi” (the “second”) referring to Menelik II. A new set of postage due stamps was also issued, but they have not been recorded used for that purpose. However, a few have been found used as postage on outgoing mail in 1908. Michel’s management of the Imperial Ethiopian Posts deteriorated in 1907. In mid-1907, the French decided they would allow their consular couriers to carry mail from the public. A handful of covers have been preserved from late 1907 and early 1908 franked with French colony stamps that were cancelled with a mute Maltese Cross canceller (Fig. 30) or a circular Consular Addis Ababa postmark without a date. Cut off from most of the modern world the residents in Addis Ababa (and Michel) were able to see the first automobile arrive in December 1907 driven from Djibouti by an Englishman and his engineer. Interested in all things modern, it took only a few days before the Emperor drove the car! The first airplane did not arrive until 1929.
Fig. 30: December 1907 cover sent with the French legation’s courier franked with a 25c Somali Coast stamp cancelled with the Maltese Cross in Addis Ababa.
The Reorganization by the French
The French convinced the Emperor to let them re-organize his Posts and prepare it for entry into the U.P.U. The Postmaster in Djibouti, Roque, was brought to Addis Ababa in 1908. In February he received Michel’s stock of stamps; 65,567 in total. Since it was difficult for collectors to obtain stamps from mail that had been sent from Ethiopia, and it was difficult to buy them from Ethiopia, forgers went to work. One of them was Michel. In late 1905, he re-produced the Ethiopie overprint with a different handstamp and sold them to dealers. They quickly saw the difference and alerted Alfred Ilg. He demanded Michel stop selling them, but he did not. Fournier also produced excellent “facsimiles” to which he added his own overprints imitating those of all issues released in 1901-1908. Many other forgeries were produced in Europe, and in the 1970s in Addis Ababa a Greek stamp-dealer went to work making fakes. Roque was practical and effective in his approach. He ordered a new set of stamps to be printed in Paris. After it arrived it was issued on 29 January 1909 following Ethiopia’s admission to the U.P.U. (Universal Postal Union) on 1 November 1908. He also recruited six French postal clerks. They arrived in Ethiopia in May and began their tasks on 1 June 1908 in Addis Ababa, and in Harar, where the French post office had been closed. The Dire Dawa post office became an Ethiopian post office. A new General Post Office was opened in Addis Ababa, inaugurated by the Emperor in August 1908, shortly after a second post office had been opened in Addis Ababa’s central market. There were now four post office in Ethiopia. It remained that way into the mid-1920s when
Fig. 31: An early cover franked with stamps from the 1909 issue addressed to Cairo. Fig. 32: A rare internal cover sent by an Ethiopian addressed in Amharic and franked with 1909 stamps in 1915.
Ras Tafari, future Emperor Haile Selassie, embarked on an expansion of the postal system which resulted in post offices being opened in small towns across Ethiopia. Surviving mail from most of those post offices is rare; only 2 or 3 covers have been recorded from some of them. After Michel had handed over his stock of stamps, the old issues were declared valid for postage. Ethiopie and the issues that followed therefore began to appear on the mail that continued to be carried by donkeys to the train at Dire Dawa. However, it appears that a shortage of low values developed or was about to be felt. A reported 7,500 of the ½-guerche stamps were released from the government stock and hand-stamped “1 Piastre” with a scroll below. Issued on 15 August 1908, they had been sold out or withdrawn by early October since they are no longer found on later mail. The enterprising Michel, no longer employed by the Posts, created an imitation that he began to sell. Its overprint was blue rather than greenish-blue. It became clear that the new stamps would not arrive from Paris in time for Ethiopia’s admission to the U.P.U. Stamps of all seven values were released from the government stock and overprinted with a printing press in values from ¼ piastre up to 16 piastres matching the underlying values in guerches. The stamps were issued on 1 November 1908, the day Ethiopia became a member of the U.P.U. The sale of French colony stamps ceased; Ethiopian stamps were now valid for postage to all U.P.U. member countries. The use of this issue was short-lived since the new stamps were issued on 29 January 1909 (Figg. 31 and 32). The Ethiopian Posts prospered in the decades that followed, managed by French clerks and a growing staff of Ethiopians.
American Legation Mail The British and Italian legations had continued to use their joint couriers. When an American Legation was established in Addis Ababa, in 1908, it set up its own couriers to Djibouti, where the mail was transferred to the Binger, a small boat that took the mail to Aden whence it entered the U.P.U. mail-stream franked with Indian stamps (Fig. 33). In 1911, the American Vice-Consul, Guy Love, wrote to his mother in Coshocton, Ohio, that the consular service would cease on 13 October 1911. All his mail thereafter was franked with Ethiopian stamps and was handled by the Ethiopian Posts. Guy Love suddenly died in 1913 just after he had sent a letter to his mother saying he would return home.
Royal Italian Commercial Agency Mail The Italians continued to be interested in Ethiopia and had received permission to set up Royal Italian Commercial Agencies in a few towns across Ethiopia. Their purpose was to explore commercial possibilities that could advance Eritrea’s interests. Activated in 1908 in Adwa, Macalle, Dessie and a few other locations, the Italian staff made arrangements for their own mail couriers to Eritrea. Their mail was franked with Colonia Eritrea stamps that were cancelled in Adi Ugri or Adi Caie, in Eritrea, on the border to Ethiopia. The agencies were supplied with date-stamps that included the town name and “Etiopia” in Italian. A few items have been recorded from Dessie and Macalle postmarked with these cancellers (Fig. 34). They were seldom used to avoid the political complications of Italians operating a mail service in independent Ethiopia with Italian cancellers that read “Etiopia” just as Ethiopia was joining the U.P.U.!
Fig.33: February 1911 cover from the American Legation in Addis Ababa franked with Indian stamps cancelled in India sent by Vice-Consul Guy Love to his mother in Ohio. Fig. 34: Colonia Eritrea card with rare cancellation “Macalle (Etiopia)” as used by the Royal Italian Commercial Agency in November 1908 after Ethiopia had joined the U.P.U.
The Dire Daoua Provisionals The last use of the 1895 stamps occurred in October 1911 when the French Postmaster in Dire Dawa, Joseph Guillet, decided to issue provisionals falsely claiming that a delivery of 1909 stamps from Addis Ababa had been delayed and that he had run out of stamps. The seven values of the 1895 issue were hand-overprinted “AFF. EXCEP. FAUTE TIMB” (Exceptional Franking – Lacking Stamps), mimicking similar issues that had appeared in Madagascar where Guillet had previously worked as a Postmaster. Guillet prepared covers with complete sets addressed locally or to Harar. The stamps were cancelled with a date-stamp that was not in use at the time. Covers addressed to Harar were stamped with a Harar canceller he had taken with him when he was transferred from Harar to Dire Dawa in 1909. To ensure he could sell these untraveled “Dire Daoua Provisionals” to dealers in Europe, Guillet had a friend send registered letters franked with the 4-guerches value to dealers explaining the situation. The stamps were listed in catalogues; as a result Guillet’s sales took off. These stamps have long been considered rare, but research by this writer has recorded around 100 sets and 100 sets on covers. However, only two of the covers to Europe that traveled in the mails have been recorded.
The Animals & Rulers Stamps Michel returned to Europe in 1909, where he married. Emperor Menelik became increasingly frail and died in December 1913. He was succeeded by his 16-year old grandson, Lidj Iyasu. There were no changes in the postal system nor were any stamps issued to mark the change in power. Alfred Ilg lived in Zurich and died in 1916. Michel returned to Ethiopia with his wife in 1912 and began working for a rubber plantation. He became friends with Lidj Iyasu and named one of his children after him. Lidj Iyasu appointed Michel as an Advisor to the State shortly before Ras Tafari and Zauditu, Menelik’s daughter, deposed him in October 1916. Ras Tafari was made Regent in 1917 and Zauditu crowned Empress – an event that was commemorated with three different overprinted issues using the 1909 stamps. Ras Tafari had been educated by the French Capuchin Fathers in Harar and knew Michel. When Ras Tafari became Regent in 1917, he commissioned Michel, or Michel convinced Ras Tafari, to issue a new set of stamps. The process began in early 1917. The French in charge of the Posts thought they would be printed in Paris. However, Michel, working with his brother Fritz in Bern, and an Ethiopian friend, Zamanuel, who was appointed as Minister of the Posts, secretly arranged to have the stamps printed in Switzerland. They were based on rough sketches by Michel depicting animals and on photos of Ras Tafari and Empress Zauditu taken at the coronation. Due to unknown complications, Michel had to front the payment for the stamps. To ensure repayment, he arranged a contract with Zamanuel that gave him 10% of the new stamps for Michel to sell in Europe and the right to reprint them after ten years. He also received six of the old cancellers and the hand-stamps he had used when he was Director of the Ethiopian Posts. With World War I over, Michel returned to Europe in 1919 and settled in Nice. The new stamps, dubbed the “Animals & Rulers” were issued in June 1919. They were used with various surcharges into 1928 when Ethiopia’s fourth set of stamps was issued, now printed in France. The 1 and 2-guerches values of the “Animals & Rulers” depict Ras Tafari, who was crowned King in 1928 and Emperor in 1930 when he took the name Haile Selassie (Fig. 35). Haile Selassie returned to Ethiopia in 1941 after the British, with forces from Kenya and South Africa had liberated the country from the occupying Italians. Haile Selassie was included on most stamps of the 1940s onwards to the 1970s and appeared on a large denitive set in 1973 before he was overthrown by a military junta in 1974. He also appeared on numerous stamps issued by many other countries. Michel arranged to re-print the “Animals & Rulers” in 1931 and sold them as genuine through Bela Sekula. The stamps were difficult to distinguish as reprints since they had been printed using the same type of paper and inks. Michel was contacted by a Swedish philatelist, Ivan Adler, in the 1950s. Adler compiled the first specialized handbook of Ethiopia’s early stamps. Unfortunately, he relied on Michel, who made up facts as he went along. Michel also produced many faked covers using the cancellers and hand-stamps he had obtained in 1918. He became the chief faker of Ethiopian postal history. Jean-Adolph Michel died in 1967, outlived by Emperor Haile Selassie. It was only in the early 1980s the extent of Michel’s production was revealed. Fortunately, he was sloppy and his fake covers are easy to detect. Menelik’s historic victory at Adwa, in 1896, laid the foundation for Ethiopia’s postal history to forge its own unique path. As mentioned earlier, postal progress was energized by a small group of individuals in which Jean-Adolph Michel, the young 21-year old from Switzerland, emerged as the key player.
Fig. 35: Ras Tafari (future Emperor Haile Selassie) on the 1-guerche and 2-guerches stamps of the Animals & Rulers issued in June 1919.
More Information The Ethiopian Philatelic Society has a website www.ethiopianphilatelicsociety.weebly.com where exhibits of Ethiopian postal history can be seen. The Society has a searchable memory stick with all issues of its quarterly newsletter, Menelik’s Journal, published since 1985, available for purchase. More information can be found in “Ethiopia 1867-1936 History, Stamps and Postal History” a richly illustrated book by Roberto Sciaky published by Vaccari in 1999. Ulf J. Lindahl, is President of Ethiopian Philatelic Society
Essential Bibliography Adler, Ivan, The Stamps of Ethiopia Handbook Part 1, 1960. FIL-ITALIA, Vol XLIV, No. 2, Spring 2018, Mail from Italy’s Royal Commercial Agency in Dessie, 1908-1916. FIL-ITALIA, Vol XLV, No. 2, Spring 2019, Ethiopia 1896: The Italian Army Suffers a Bitter Defeat at Adwa. Gleichen, With the Mission to Menelik 1897, Edward Arnold, London, 1898. Jacoby, Carl, The Strange Career of William Ellis; the Texas Slave who became a Mexican Millionaire, W.W. Norton & Company, 2016. Menelik’s Journal, Mail from Ethiopia’s pre-U.P.U. Period, Parts I to IX, Volumes 31-35, 2015-2019. Prouty, Chris, Empress Taytu and Menelik II; Ethiopia 1883-1910, The Red Sea Press, 1986. Sciaky, Roberto, Ethiopia 1867-1936 History, Stamps and Postal History, Vaccari, 1999. Sciaky, Roberto, Ethiopia; Tewodros to Menelik - Postal History from the Napier Expedition to the Independent Imperial Post 1867-1908, Vaccari, 2002. Skinner, Robert P, The 1903 Skinner Mission to Ethiopia & A Century of American-Ethiopian Relations, Tsehai Publishers, 1903. Tristant, Henri, The Postal History of Ethiopia During the Reign of Emperor Menelik II (English translation by Huguette Gagnon, 1995), Parts I & II, 1977.
Old days mail and documents place us on the tracks of the English living and sojourning in Papal Rome.
“NON ANGLI SED ANGELI” They are not Angles, but Angels 1
Thomas Mathà Bolzano, Italy
All collectors have a dream or, possibly, many dreams. One of mine came true when I finally laid my hands on a magnificent “Mulready” sent to an addressee in Rome, then capital of the Papal States. Philatelists who collect and study postal history of the Papal States can easily attest to the special pleasure, not to say frissons, felt by owning a great “gem” of the philatelic world: a Rome-bound Mulready envelope or more simply the first ever prepaid postal stationery issued concurrently with the world’s first adhesive postage stamps (1d and 2d) on that momentous 6 May 1840. Coelebs in search of a Mulready Envelope, 1865. George Louis Palmella Busson Du Maurier (British, 1834-1896).
1 Non angli sed angeli, 573 AD, legendary motto of the future Pope Gregory, it referred to the English slaves at the Roman forum. It is the first documented mention of the presence of English in Rome.
However, it must be pointed out that the credit of the first prepaid postal stationery should in truth be given to Italy because some twenty-one years earlier (1819) the Kingdom of Sardinia issued, for the first time in man’s history, watermarked letter sheets “stamped letter paper” as it was called then, later on called “cavallini” (little horses) by collectors. On the outer part of the letter sheets was printed in blue ink a device designed by mint engraver Amedeo Lavy featuring a cherub riding a horse and blowing a posthorn; below this charming allegory was the tariff in centesimi which varied depending on the destination’s distance from the point of departure (15, 25 and 50c). This was a provisional issue, while the embossing punches with similar designs and tariffs were prepared for the 1820 issue. Even though technically the “Cavallini” are not the same as adhesive postage stamps and Mulready envelopes the reasoning for their creation is basically the same because it would seem that the British had understood the practical aspects of the “Cavallini” and had improved and fine-tuned the concept. Beyond their affinities, “Cavallini” and Mulready envelopes have something else in common: a good portion of the public did not quite understand their purpose and therefore they were short-lived. Nevertheless, during the course of time, both innovations enjoyed a tremendous success, even though they were far ahead of their times. Let us take one step at a time.
The Mulready envelope is a veritable jewel of world philately. The very inventors of the first-ever postage stamp created the Mulready envelope because they had many doubts about the general public acceptance of adhesive postage stamps and therefore provided an alternative choice. They thought that a prepaid postage envelope was a stroke of genius as far as postal communications was concerned. Yet, they were wrong: from the very beginning the postage stamp won the public’s favour bringing the Mulready to a standstill. As a result, in due course, the postal authorities decided to discontinue the sale of the prepaid Mulready envelopes. It is difficult for us to understand why such a visually attractive item which offered undeniable practicality proved unconvincing to its contemporaries, in spite of the fact that the illustrations of the address side had been created by William Mulready – one of the most important artists of the time. Even the father of the 1840 postal reform Rowland Hill wrote in his diary: “I fear we shall have to substitute some other stamp for that design by Mulready... the public have shown their disregard and even distaste for beauty.” The Mulready postal stationery envelopes were available in two formats: unfolded letter-sheets and unfolded envelopes; and in two denominations 1d (printed in black) for domestic use throughout the United Kingdom (maximum weight: ½ ounce) and 2d (printed in blue; maximum weight: 1 ounce). These splendid predecessors of what is usually described as “postal stationery” were meant for domestic use, although 2d letter-sheets vertical margins provided succinct information on posting Mulready letter-sheets and envelopes bound for colonial or foreign destinations, in which case they required additional franking using properly positioned (at the top) adhesive postage stamps. As mentioned earlier, the Mulready stationery generated
2 Huggins, Alan and Holyoake, Alan, The Mulready Postal Stationery. Its Genesis, Production and Usage. GB Philatelic Publications Ltd, Sutton Coldfield, 2015. 3 My thanks go to Karl Louis, AIEP expert for Great Britain, who has kindly provided this information from his archive. 4 The Louis Grunin, Great Britain, The Mulready. Spink Auctions, 2.4.1998, Lot 173. 5 Huggins/Holyoake, The Mulready Postal Stationery, cit., p. 115. 6 The Louis Grunin, Great Britain, The Mulready. Spink Auctions, 2.4.1998, Lot 174.
hesitation on the part of the public and very few individuals ventured to use such envelopes and letter-sheets for correspondence to foreign destinations; when you add these considerations to their short life you can appreciate that Mulready postal stationery to destinations other than the United Kingdom is pretty scarce and highly sought after2. Try to figure out what effect a Mulready envelope would have had on an addressee outside the United Kingdom! It looked like an actual ambassador of Great Britain. Since the Mulready postal stationery was introduced as an alternative to adhesive postage stamps its use was mostly limited to domestic correspondence. The idea of using it for correspondence to foreign countries, which in many instances required the use of additional postage stamps, must have looked unattractive and somewhat complicated. It is easy to speculate that anyone who sent a letter to a foreign country utilising a Mulready envelope must have had a very good reason, such as surprising the addressee with an unusual wrapping of the letter-sheet. This seems a reasonable conjecture to which we will return later. One penny Mulready envelopes sent to foreign destinations are decidedly uncommon, and only five sent to Italy have been so far recorded3: 1. 1d Mulready mailed on its first day of use (6 May 1840) to an addressee in Rome from where it was re-routed to Florence; 2. 1d Mulready mailed on 22 May 1840 to an addressee in Florence4; 3. 1d Mulready mailed on 1 June 1840 (ex Wills collection and ex Pitlochry collection5) featured in this article; 4. 1d Mulready mailed on 25 June 1840 (address side only), to an addressee in Naples; 5. 1d Mulready mailed on 20 June 1840 to an addressee in Chiavenna6 (folded inside).
Mulready from London to Rome 1840 (address side and reverse).
Small map of the Old Italian States (1830).
Let’s return to the number 3 Mulready which is an envelope (Stereo on reverse A 142): posted in London (backstamped in green ink by Portugal Street post office). From there it goes to the General Post Office where it is struck by a B/ PAID/1 JUNE/1840 date-stamp. This Mulready is pre-paid to the Franco-Tuscan border as witnessed by the faintly hand-written “P 1/7” at top center left, meaning P(aid) 1 shilling 7 pence. The British courier handed it over to the French counterparts at Calais as confirmed by the red French entry circle datestamp at lower right ANGL./2/CALAIS/2 - 3 JUIN 40. From there it goes to Lyon and in due course to the FrancoItalian border where it was stamped with the Kingdom of Sardinia entry hand-stamp VIA DI/ P.T BEAUVOISIN at top right hand-side. Then, it proceeds to Chambery and descends the Alps transiting in Turin from where it heads south to Genoa. The Rome-bound Mulready is placed in Tuscany’s mailbag which is opened at destination in Florence; the Mulready is then hand-stamped CORRISP.(ondenz)A EST.(era) DA GENOVA (Foreign Mail from Genoa). The 13-day journey is completed as the envelope reaches the Papal States capital where it is back-stamped with the circle date-stamp (cds) ROMA / ARRIVI 13/GIU./1840. The addressee pays the handsome amount of 50 bajocchi, which is to say more than 2.50 Italian Lire. This is in compliance with the Papal States postal tariffs: the basic weight letter could not exceed 6 denari in weight (7.1 grammes); if a sheet was enclosed (as was the case for Mulready envelopes) the tariff was the same set for one and a half sheet – in simpler terms the basic tariff times1 ½. Let’s keep in mind that in 1840 an envelope was definitely a rare sight while the traditional folded sheet or two sealed on the back was the norm. At the time Rome-bound letters from Great Britain were routed via France, Kingdom of Sardinia and Tuscany and were charged 33 bajocchi in the Papal States: in our instance the Mulready being considered one and a half sheet required the basic 33 bajocchi + 16.5 (50%) = 49.5 rounded to 50 bajocchi7.
Our interest for this fascinating document does not end here. As luck would have it this Mulready envelope was sent to an important personage: “The Most Reverend and Honourable Doctor Wiseman, Rector of the English College in Rome”. Needless to say my curiosity about this – until then unknown to me – luminary and his institution had been surpassingly stimulated. The other attention getter is the “Venerable English College” in Rome, the oldest English institution abroad, founded in 1362, it becomes known as the “Hospice” for English pilgrims visiting the Eternal City. In 1579 it becomes a seminary preparing English and Welsh men for the Catholic priesthood; since then it became the Venerable English College; it is located at 45 di Monserrato Street in the vicinity of the Farnese Palace and Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. During its 700 years of existence, its rich history is particularly interesting. In addition to the church (which in today’s version dates back to 1888) and to the Martyrs’ Chapel, mention must be made of the Refectory and its ceiling showing a splendid fresco of St. George. The garden is also noteworthy in that it has remained mostly unchanged since the 1600s and contains interesting remnants of the medieval church. Lastly, the big Stairway and the Cardinals’ Corridor are very impressive.
7 Mathà, Thomas: International Mail Crossing the Italian Peninsula. CIFO, Milano, 2018, p. 201 ss.
8 Langham, Mark: Il Venerabile Collegio Inglese, Roma. Storia e guida breve, Roma, 2009, p. 55.
Nicholas Wiseman (source: The Venerable English College, A short history and guide, p. 54).
Our Mulready’s addressee is Nicholas Wiseman, at the time Rector of the English College. The future Cardinal was born in 1802 in Seville from parents of Irish descent who had recently moved to Spain; after the death of his father in 1805 he was brought to his parents’ home in Waterford, Ireland. In 1810, he was sent to Ushaw College, near Durham, where he received his education until he was sixteen. It was then decided to send him to the Venerable English College in Rome which had re-opened in 1818 after
twenty years of closure caused by the Napoleonic occupation of the Italian peninsula. In 1824, Wiseman completed his formative education in Rome earning a doctorate in theology with distinction and the following year he was ordained to the priesthood. He had acquired great fluency in the Italian language and had a keen interest in Oriental languages which in due course would earn him the post of professor of Oriental languages in the Roman University. In 1828, when he was only 26 years of age, Wiseman was appointed Rector of the Venerable English College. His tenure as Rector has been described as “the golden age of the College8”, in fact they stand out for the restructuring, both architecturally and theologically of the institution during the postNapoleonic years. On 4 June 1840, he was elevated to Bishop of Melipotamus, and held an ordination service the next day. He left Rome on 1 August. In 1849,
Wiseman was appointed provicar Apostolic of the London District; in 1850, after Pius IX reestablished the Catholic hierarchy in England, Wiseman was elevated to the cardinalate, on 7 October; in a pastoral to English Catholics he announced that he had been appointed by the Pope the newlycreated Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Wiseman was a prolific writer with a number of important books and treatises to his credit; his most famous book is the 1854 romance of “Fabiola or the Church of the Catacombs” which met with a phenomenal success and was subsequently translated into many languages. In Rome he had excellent rapports with scholars and historians such as Angelo Mai and Gaetano Moroni. His health, however, had been gradually deteriorating, but he managed to remain active and his last visit to Rome took place in 1862; he departed this life on 16 February 1865.
The entrance to The Venerable English College in Rome, via Monserrato 45.
The Venerable English College in Rome: the Cardinals’ Corridor.
The Venerable English College: the Church.
Etching of the Hotel d’Angleterre in Rome. The Hotel d’Inghilterra, 2019.
This research generated more interest for other aspects of the English presence in Rome which could be gleaned from old correspondence and mail9. On an 1850 envelope posted in England I found a most beautiful print of the “Hotel d’Angleterre” in Rome. Just a stone’s throw from the legendary Spanish Steps and from the hustle and bustle of the haute couture shopping streets such as Via Condotti, Via Borgognona and Via Frattina you will find a very impressive palace which is now a luxurious hotel. The fame of the Hotel d’Inghilterra is due to its illustrious guests including those from the international aristocracy who sojourned there.
The mid-XVIth century building was transformed into a hotel in 1845; it originally served as guest quarters for the friends of the Torlonia Princes (major bankers and prominent mail forwarders) whose Palace is situated on the opposite side of the street. The Hotel d’Inghilterra owes its name to the celebrated English poet Keats who, together with his romantic colleagues – Lord Byron and Shelly, made it their favourite place of residence in the Eternal City. The Hotel’s logo takes inspiration from the English royal family coat of arms and testifies to the deep, centuriesold bond with England and the crown of the Windsors. Since its inception the Hotel has attracted aristocrats and internationally famous figures such as Franz Liszt, Hans Christian Andersen, Henry James, Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway and in modern times movie stars such as Liz Taylor and Gregory Peck10.
9 The following is a very useful book that illustrates the history of the English in Rome: Sweet, Rosmary: Cities and the Grand Tour. The British in Italy, c. 16901820. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
10 https://www.starhotelscollezione.com/it/ i-nostri-hotel/hotel-d-inghilterra-roma
from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Rome to a â€œJohn Waldie Esq. Care of Mess. rs Torlonia & Co.â€? Two shillings and nine pence postage had been paid at posting point which was sufficient to pay delivery to the French border; the letter was routed via France: Calais, Paris, Lyon, Pont de Beauvoisin; from there it entered the Kingdom of Sardinia and reached its capital, Turin, from whence it went on to Florence. At destination the Torlonias paid the Papal Post for their client 33 bajocchi.
The internal courtyard of the Torlonia Palace in Rome. Letter from Newcastleupon-Tyne to Rome 1833 (address side and reverse).
Mention has been made of the Torlonia bankers and their role as mail forwarding agents who facilitated postal communications to and from foreign countries. The Torlonias assisted their clients who needed to send mail abroad; however their familiarity with the modus operandi of foreign postal administrations explains their important role as intermediaries of mail from foreign countries to Italy11. The English community in Rome exchanged most of their pounds into scudi with the time-honoured assistance of the Torlonias. Popes Pius VI and Pius VII had bestowed on them several titles and on these and other occasions the Torlonias held fabulous receptions for their friends and clients â€“ six out of ten invitees were English. Even on the postal front the Torlonias were the quintessential touchstone for the English community in Rome. This aspect is confirmed by a letter dated 16 February 1833, sent
11 Rowe, Kenneth: The postal history and markings of the forwarding agents. Leonard H. Hartmann, Louisville, 1996, p. 223.
Letter from Rome to London 1848 (address side and reverse + detail of “THE BRITISH CLUB” handstamp).
Another English link to Rome comes from a letter posted in Rome to an addressee in London; it is dated 11 December 1848 and is backstamped with a most beautiful hand-stamp inscribed THE BRITISH CLUB ROME. Unfortunately I have been unable to get any information about this Club; what is sure is that it existed and must have had some notability.
12 Salles, Raymond: La Poste Maritime Francaise. Tome II. James Bendon, 1992, p. 42.
The letter was written by Charlotte Anne Mc Queen and addressed to the Secretary of India House in London, headquarters of the East India Company, the world famous British trading enterprise. It is rather probable that Ms. Mc Queen’s letter was handed over to the British Club of Rome for conveyance to destination. The letter shows in a different handwriting “Via di mare 28 12/48” which might have been added by a clerk of the Club and suggests that the letter was carried by a ship for the first leg of its route. The postmark is that of Rome dated 28 December. The French entry cds in red 2/E.-PONT./2 MARSEILLE means that the letter was sent to Civitavecchia where it was handed over to the French postal steamship “Mentor” for conveyance to Marseille12. The letter was back-stamped at its final destination by two London postmarks; the handwritten “2467” was either a ledger reference of the Club or written at destination (India House). Lastly we notice a faintly struck handstamp “5” in red ink which confirms the pre-payment of 5 bajocchi, the exact tariff for letters bound to foreign destinations. The tariff for the rest of the route was paid by the addressee in the sum of one shilling and three pence (“1/3”) due for the French transit and English postage.
13 The Keats-Shelly-House. A Guide. 4th Edition, Roma, 2017. 14 https://www.babingtons.com/it/pages/11623la-nostra-storia.
Some letters on display at the Keats-Shelley House. Library of the Keats-Shelley House. Babington’s Tea Rooms at Piazza di Spagna (2019).
Earlier, speaking about the Hotel d’Angleterre I mentioned the famous poet John Keats who died and was buried in Rome where he spent his last 100 days. At the right foot of the Spanish Steps at No. 26 you will find the Keats-Shelley House, a very impressive museum honouring the poets John Keats and Percy B. Shelley, as well as Lord Byron, the iconic protagonists of Romanticism and true giants of British literature. At the museum you will see the letters sent to the two poets, part of their correspondence with England and the rest of the world13. The Spanish Steps area was (and is) traditionally home to foreign visitors, especially English and American ones; facing the Keats-Shelley House in Piazza di Spagna there is another English establishment: the Babington’s Tea Rooms. It can be safely assumed that Babington’s was also a place foreigners used as an address for their incoming mail. It was created and elegantly furnished by two Englishwomen in 1893; it undoubtedly is redolent of the Grand Tour era and exudes an unmistakable British ambience that continues the grand tradition of prestigious tea rooms14.
Drawing of the Keats-Shelley House from the Museum catalogue).
This letter from Amsterdam to Rome (1753) was addressed to the “Caffee Angloise Place d‘Espagne”, therefore we know that more than 140 years earlier of Babingtons there was yet an English Coffee House in Rome at the same Place, serving the international community to receive letters.
1850 etching of Rome.
Assuredly the English were the first to divulge in pontifical Rome through their mail from England the news of adhesive postage stamps newly created and introduced in their mother country. This is duly confirmed by an interesting letter from London to Rome posted on 12 November 1843 when adhesive postage stamps had made their presence felt for two and a half years. This piece of mail presents some peculiarities: the sender instead of pre-paying the required postage up to the French border affixed on the letter a One penny brownishred stamp which was barely sufficient to pay the “late fee” that allowed the letter to belatedly enter the mail stream, although the post office had already Letter from London to Rome, 1843.
processed and bundled the mail scheduled for departure. The initial obstacle had been ‘stamped out’ but the required franking was missing; this meant that the addressee had to pay it. The British post handed over the letter to the French counterpart as witnessed by the French entry cds 2/ANGL./2/BOULOGNE. The Parisian postal administration decided to skip the overland route leading to Pont de Beauvoisin and instead send the letter to Marseille where it was entrusted to a Messageries Imperiales steamship that would land it at Civitavecchia. This is confirmed by the red hand-stamp VIA DI MARE. In due course the letter reached Rome on 25 November as per arrival circle date stamp of Rome’s General Post Office. The addressee - a viscount residing in via Ripetta at the Cappone Palace – paid 50 bajocchi, which included the British, French and Papal tariffs. Civitavecchia has just been mentioned; a British vice consul by the name John T. Lowe was stationed there from 1846, he was promoted to consul sometime in the 1860s and was still based in Civitavecchia. During three decades of service in the diplomatic corps he and his brother offered their services to the travelers and Papal States businesses and residents as postal forwarding agents. Both were direct ancestors of the legendary philatelist and postal historian Robson Lowe.
Letter from Letham to Rome, 1853. The Prince Vittorio Emanuele Camillo IX Massimo.
Still regarding British citizensâ€™ connections with Papal Rome, I found a very nice letter from Letham, Scotland, posted at the Cupar Fife post office on 6 January 1853; the addressee is one of the biggest aristocrat of the Papal States, Prince Vittorio Emanuele Camillo Massimo (1803 â€“ 1873) residing at his own Palace. Unfortunately the letter sheet is missing, nevertheless the addressee is Prince Camillo IX, the Superintendent General of the Papal Posts from 1840 to 187015; given his position at the pinnacle of the posts he was exempted from paying postage on his incoming and outgoing mail, both domestic and foreign. This is a rare instance of a letter from a foreign country, Great Britain, sent to the Papal States via France, Kingdom of Sardinia and Grand Duchy of Tuscany, as confirmed by the postmarks VIA DI / PONT DE BEAUVOISIN (Sardinian entry mark), CORRISP.(ondenza) EST.(era) DA GENOVA) Tuscany entry mark. There is no sign of a postmark on arrival and no taxation (even though it had been mailed from Scotland with no postage paid). I conclude this overview of the English visitors and residents in Papal Rome with a postal relic that I acquired from an antiquarion in...Rome a few years ago: a brass button from a uniform of an English Postmaster, dated ca. 1840. A brass button from the uniform of a British Postmaster.
15 Fedele, Clemente e Gallenga, Mario: Per servizio di Nostro Signore. Strade, corrieri e poste dei papi dal medioevo al 1870. Quaderni di storia postale, n. 10. Istituto di studi storici postali, Prato, 1988, p. 296. Also, Migliavacca, Giorgio; Compendium of the History of the Posts in Italy, CIFO, Milan 2017, pp. 186-187.
1879. 20 RUBLES FROM DAGHESTAN TO JERUSALEM Lorenzo Carra Mantua, Italy
Unusual and strange letters have great charm and have always aroused my curiosity. How could I resist this one, which still has inside the long original text? Without further ado let me show it to you immediately, beginning with the content. You too will be conquered. So I am starting from the text of the letter. Written in Cyrillic characters, in an archaic Russian, hardly understandable, almost dialectical, it gave Maria Adelaide Lala Comneno and a friend of hers, a professor at the University of Moscow, a lot of trouble. To both of them my heartfelt thanks for the translation.
The letter was written by a semiilliterate person, a woman, a widow as she declares herself, coming certainly from a prominent family in the public or commercial field, who had had the privilege (a rare case for those times and in that part of the world) of having received an education that allowed her, in some way, to learn how to read and write. The writing was quite difficult to decipher: with no capital letters, without punctuation, simple sentences, often truncated, not well-ordered, sometimes repetitious thoughts, first names that are often to be interpreted.
Portrait of Couple in Traditional Clothes, Dagestan,Russia, Prokudin-Gorskii Collection,1910.
Below is the translation, (in some instances the interpretation) of the content.
With 20 rubles enclosed. From Temir-Khan-Shura [20 rubles would be about 80/90 Italian liras or French francs. But this means little: it would be good to know the purchasing power of that amount, what, how much bread or meat could be had back then. And I believe that the prices in St. Petersburg, the capital, in Moscow, or in Odessa would be quite different from those of Temir-Khan-Shura].
Christ is risen (could also be interpreted as ‘Happy Easter!’) To His Most Reverend Majesty the Archimandrite Serafino in the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Your Reverend Father Archimandrite Serafino, We ask for Your blessing and holy prayers on the Holy Sepulcher [of] Our Lord Jesus Christ. We ask to serve the liturgy for the salvation and health of the servants [slaves] of God [the separation of the living from the dead is still practiced today in Orth odox churches: the candles for the dead are lit on the left, those for the living on the right hand side and the prayers for the travelers are recited separately - these, listed first, are the living] Efim, Praskovya,
Akulina, Tatiana, Iosef, Nikon, the sick girl Caterina, the little girl Alessandra, Marta with children, Nicola, Olga with children, traveler Matrona and Maria. Upon receipt, please inform and care to write whether there are fans [believers, visitors] from Russia and if there is anyone living in the Russian building. In [this] place lost in the Caucasus nothing is known about Jerusalem and whether it is possible to accept the intention of being [going] to Jerusale m for God’s sake, inform us [here] of sinners I [we] will happily wait for your answer. my address: in the Caucasus in the city of Timirkan-shura Evdokia Vukolovny widow Gavrilova I have the honor to respectfully come to you 1879 Evdokia Vukolova in the city of Timirkan-Shura May 6 days. About the health of Tatiana, Mary, Jacob with children, sick Eudoxia, Tatiana, another sick Eudoxia, Maria, Barbara, Maria, Anastasia, Agrafena, Anfeia, Cahterine. On the suffrage of the servants [slaves] of God [these are the dead] Nikita, Dormidont, Vukol, Anna, Fevrona, Simone, Anna, little Elizabeth, Sergio, Fedosia, Tikhon, Praskovia, Averyan the soldier, Peter, Barbara, Jacob, Joseph, John, George,, Eudoxia, Alessandro, John the soldier, Anthony, Avdej, Timothy, Akulin, Karp, John, Philip, Tatiana, Jacob, Maria, Anisya, Helen, Xenia, Anna, Matrona, Anna, Xenia. Write your address, it is safe for us to write, we would like to send a donation, but we do not know how to write in that case.
However, there are still a few things to understand and to explain, such as the various numbers, probably indicative of postal weights and tariffs: N 2 (top left) the registration number of the insured letter? 14 gm (grams?) Probably the weight. It seems low, however the envelope and the letter together (without the 20 rubles and some fragments of the seals that have fallen off) weigh just 14 grams. 2 h (on the right)? And after the letter, let’s now examine the envelope, which (at the top) is addressed:
To Excellence Archimandrite Serafino d’archante = of silver? (referring to the 20 rubles? It does not appear as if the envelope contained silver coins. More likely banknotes, such as those of the Figures)
The church of Christ Jerusalem Sending twenty rubles These sentences and words are repeated below in Cyrillic characters.
178 a progressive number of the insured re-isssued in Trieste? p 33/40 values expressed in different currency? Large manuscript endorsement in sanguine [illegible]? 32 f? could be the final tax, but ‘f’ could not be in Austrian florins or in French francs, as this would be an enormous, exaggerated amount. It could be an ‘S’ to indicate Austrian money equivalent to kreuzer (and 30 soldi would be the portion for the Austrian Lloyd for a letter of single Austrian weight via Trieste to Jerusalem - see G. Printz, The practical postal service in Austria, page 423. The two blue lines could simply be the indication and underlining of the destination. Vertical writing at right, in Cyrillic?
On the back, handwritten note in German:
eröffnet wegen aufgesprungener Siegel / neu gesiegelt (open for broken seals, sealed again) Labeling of the new seals: Bahnpostabgabeamt –Triest (Railway Post Office of deliveries Trieste).
On the back: 20 rubles And perhaps the indication and address of the sender. I could not understand more and I am asking for help from Russian friends or from specialists in the sector to explain the rates that were applied and which should be those provided for in the UPU treaty, which had come into force on 1 April 1879 and also applied to the Russian Post Office. Who knows whether this news arrived on time to far away Daghestan and to the already martyred Palestine?
Let’s now look at the path shown by the various stamps. VIENNA
On front side: in the center, in bluegreen ink, a stamp dated 1 May 1879 in which someone read as TGOROD, a locality that, despite many researches, I could not identify (I am told that “gorod” in Russian means ‘city’ or ‘district, hence Tgorod could be a small town (or post office?) of the city of Temir-Khan-Shura).
On the back the stamps of: TEMIR - KHAN - SHURA 2 May 1879. Temir-Khan-Shura (Темир-ан-Шура), that is the lake or the mythical cliff of Tamerlane, who is said to have camped here in 1396. In 1922 the place was renamed Buynaksk in honor of a Russian revolutionary. Buynaksk is a city in the Republic of Daghestan, near Chechnya, in Russia, not far from the Caspian Sea, located at the foot of the Caucasus mountains on the ShuraOzen river, 40 kilometers south-west of the capital of the Makhachkala Republic. Today it has a population of over 60 thousand inhabitants. TEMIR - KHAN - SHURA May 13th 1879 (so it was necessary to wait 11 days for the mail to leave, which is quite telling about the situation of those areas in general and of the post in particular). ODESSA June 19, 1879 (more than a month to get there! Crossing, probably on foot, all the Ciscaucasian region and probably passing through Rostov and Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. Today, looking at a map, one could notice that, as the crow flies, the distance from Buynaksk 88
to Odessa is practically the same as that to Jerusalem, but back then, in addition to not having planes, there was no possibility of forwarding the mail along that route. The Caucasus (Major and Minor???) represented a significant challenge to overcome: there weren’t roads and then, after the mountains, there was the desert.
VOLOCHYSK June 21, 1879 point of arrival of the mail from Ukraine and exchange office for the mail from Russia to Central Europe.
ODESSA June 20, 1879 immediately forwarded to cross the whole of Ukraine (from here on the routes were more regulated, even though the distances are still enormous).
PODWOLOCZYSKA July 4, 1879 (Austrian-type stamp in Polish), in the Podolian plain before Volochysk, in the Khmenytskyi region, on the road between Ternopil (in Polish, ‘Tarnopol’ in Russian) and
VOLOCHYSK 22 June 1879 forwarding of the letter, which crossed the Zbruch river and was handed over to the Austro-Hungarian Post Office.
PODWOLOCZYSKA VOLOCHYSK ODESSA
Khmelnytskyi (Hmelnicki) in what was then Podolia, and which today is Ukraine. The difference between the June 22nd date of Volochysk and that of July 4th of Podwoloczyska would suggest that it took 12 days just to cross a river, which by the way is quite a small one. It all happened on the same day: the first date is according to the Gregorian calendar, the one used by the Russian Orthodox church, while that of the Austrian stamp is according to the Julian calendar, the one we currently use.Once entered in the Austrian postal system, the letter arrived in Trieste, probably via Lemberg (today Lviv, Lvov or Lviv according to
languages), Krakow (Krakau in German) and Vienna, the capital of the Empire. In Trieste the note in German was added‘ eröffnet wegen aufgesprungener Siegel / neu gesiegelt’ (opened for broken seals, sealed again) and new wax seals added with the words: Bahnpostabgabeamt –Triest (Railway Post Office for deliveries - Trieste In Trieste, given the destination, the letter was embarked on a steamer from the Austrian Lloyd of the line to Alexandria. Here it was transferred to a ship of the Alexandria-Smyrna line to be delivered at 519 Jaffa, in Palestine. From there it was taken to Jerusalem
to be finally handed over to the Archimandrite. There are no stamps or dates for this last part of the journey. It can be reasonably assumed that it took more than two months from departure to arrival, and, if we consider the length of the route and, above all, the characteristics of the territories crossed, with no roads, and the river crossings, the time taken was relatively short. The letter with its contents, during its long postal journey, was treated with care and attention (it was even resealed for safety purposes) and it was conserved with diligence so that it could reach us, 140 years later, in truly excellent condition. 89
LA BOLGETTA MAIL BAG Giorgio Migliavacca
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Viaggio tra i colori e le particolarità della serie (Italian Castles definitive series: a Journey through its colours and distinctive traits)
by Ketty Borgogno, Asti 2019, perfect bound, colour cover, 160 pages (A4), colour illustrations throughout, in Italian. Bibliography, glossary and codification of the colours of the Italian Castles Definitive series. €39 + postage & handling; payment and postage queries to firstname.lastname@example.org; members of CIFO, AFIS, and SUBALPINA pay €35 + postage & handling.
It is truly refreshing to see the interest generated by the Italian definitives of the post World War II era. Most collectors cannot afford to assemble a specialised collection of any earlier definitive series because it would require a fat wallet; additionally, legendary collections of the past cannot be re-built because they were rich in unique and show-stopping items that have been sold to a number of collectors. Nevertheless it can be done by drawing specific distinctions such as limiting the collection to the stamps and not to their postal use on various categories of mail. This may not necessarily guarantee gold medal awards, or it may depending on how creative and original is one’s approach. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s stamp catalogues were not a great incentive when it came to the post World War II definitive series; nevertheless there was fire under the ashes and in the early 1970s new monographs (Malvestio, Zanaria, Giannetto, to name a few) sharing a sizable amount of information on specialised aspects, varieties, watermarks, and postal use of the Republican stamps generated an uproar because most of the items listed were accompanied by an eye-opening 90
retail market estimate. The next step was treasure hunting but the few pioneer specialists had already vacuumed the market and the exceptions were few and far between. The average collector made attempts but in the end — all considered — it was better to focus on new definitive series from their inception. Fifty years later this is still the trend. The Italian Castles definitive made its first appearance in September 1980; at the time it did not generate much enthusiasm. The format was larger than the earlier Siracusana and Michelangiolesca, but the designs still looked cramped. Never before had a definitive made its debut with a mammoth 27 denominations, including three coil stamps. Despite some hesitations, collectors’ interest grew with time to the point where some illicit activities took place to keep collectors on the look-out for new and not always exciting discoveries. Some figures will give the reader an idea of what a fascinating collecting field this can be: 52 castles were depicted on stamps and postal stationery items; 47 of them on stamps (plus four re-issued using a different printing method); the postal stationery items totalled eleven; better yet, during the life span of this definitive
postal rates changed twelve times; 14 denominations were coil stamps of a smaller format; and no less than fifteen artists were summoned by the Government Printing Works in Rome to provide suitable designs. The printing methods included recess, a combination of recess and litho, and photo gravure. As if this were not enough, the coils have every fifth stamp numbers on the gummed side. To obtain these coils with numbers on the back the collector had to purchase three pairs from vending machines or rely on a particularly friendly clerk at the philatelic sales counter. Needless to say, the machine applying the backprint did not always function well and there exist strips of five coil stamps without the backprint. To complete this Odyssey you may add a flood of eye-catching varieties that eluded the security systems of the Government Printing Works. These became so proliferate that collectors soon lost interest in them. Danilo Bogoni’s book helped the new generations to familiarise with the specialised aspects of this definitive series (my review of his book can be found on academia.edu). Bogoni’s book had been preceded by a useful monograph by Giovanni Riggi di Numana published by the very active
CIFO philatelic society of Collectors of Italian Definitive Stamps; incidentally CIFO has its own website (cifo.eu) which will add to your knowledge of Italian definitive stamps. Most of the articles published in Italy are included in the bibliography of this volume. At six years of age Ketty Borgogno was already on the philatelic bandwagon; her passion grew with time, but it took a major turn for the better when she discovered organised philately. In her adulthood she became president of the prestigious Turin-based Unione Filatelica Subalpina with members in Piedmont and nation-wide. In his introductory remarks, renowned stamp expert Gianni Carraro points out that while colours are a main topic in Borgogno’s monograph, equally interesting facets are examined by the author: “We can only imagine how many new printings became necessary over a time span of 18 years, nevertheless the numerous and diverse tonalities ascertained on the various denominations are here to tell their story”. In similar remarks, stamp expert Nicola Luciano Cipriani praised the innovative approach of the author and the vitality of her research. The book starts with a concise chronicle of the definitive series of Italy from 1945 to 2016 which is aptly followed by a chart showing the life-span of each definitive series. The three pages that follow are utilised to illustrate the 1980 main issue and its offspring of 1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991 and 1992. All of the additional denominations became necessary to satisfy the demand for stamps that would match the ever increasing postal rates. In 1994 four
denominations (200, 250, 300, 450 lire) were printed in rotary gravure. As regards the perforations there are variations in measurement for some denominations as well as different methods such as comb perforation and harrow perforation. A very useful advice given by the author to collectors who are baffled by stamps that look identical is to compare the colour of the castle with that of the castle of the stamp that looks identical, ditto for the colour of the sky and background (frame); it is essential to carry out any examination related to nuances and tonalities using white light which is described by Cambridge Dictionary as “light that appears to be colourless such as ordinary daylight, and which contains all the wavelengths of the visible spectrum at roughly equal intensities.” After these preliminaries the author starts her gallery of the various denominations and their “natural colours”; to help the reader in his/her assessment two or three buttons are placed under the stamp showing the typical colours found on a given stamp. For example: the 5 lire has its colours shown by three buttons in the following order: background (frame), sky and castle. A1, the first type, has a brownish red backround, the sky is blue and the castle is dark pink; A2 type has a light brownish red background, the sky is blue and the castle is violet pink. When you look at the two types side-by-side you notice the unmistakable difference. The codification of the colours and types takes up some 49 pages. Having navigated through the colours, Borgogno is very much aware of booby traps and variables: the accidental colour analogies are ex-
amined as well as the seepage of colour which affects some of the recess printed stamps. Other variables include stamps printed on surface coloured paper, and ghost-like stamp colours showing on the gummed side perhaps due to chemical composition of their colours (not to be confused with “set-off, decalco”. Luminescent, phosphorescent and evanescent colours follow suit. For the doubting Thomases Borgogno has written a special chapter on “dubious colours and discolouration fakes”. Familiarasing with printing methods is a pre-requisite for all stamp collectors and this book provides the readers with the essential information. Forgeries to defraud the post office are discussed in the next fascinating chapter. This book took two months to cross the Atlantic and reach my P.O. Box and about one week to read. You may find the latter a bit slow but the topic is fascinating and if you have a boxful of these definitive stamps then it may take a few months. Keep in mind that this definitive series is slowly but surely gaining momentum, if you do not live in Italy and have reliable correspondents you may be in for amazing finds. Even if you are not interested in Italian stamps, the format, the approach and handling of the subject matter may provide you with a blueprint for a specialised collection and/or monograph. Language barrier: with the internet reaching most households the language barrier is a poor excuse. Highly recommended.
La Posta di Milano 1849-1859:
Catalogo annullamenti e bolli dell’Ufficio Postale di Milano (The Milan Post Office 1849-1859: Cancellations and
by Luca De Battisti and Luca Savini, Vignola 2018, in Italian, hardbound, 480 color pages (8.5” x 11.5”), maps, 900 color illustrations, history and postal history overview, each section has its own bibliography, indexes. €50 (+ postage) Vaccari, email@example.com
The co-authors of this remarkable volume are the late Luca De Battisti and Luca Savini who availed themselves of the collaboration of first class scholars. This opus has five solid pillars: 1. An historical overview; 2. A comprehensive outline of Milanese postal history; 3. Adhesive postage stamps; 4. Tariffs and postal services; and 5. A generously annotated Cancellations and Postmarks Catalogue (1849-1859) which takes up half of the pages of this volume. Gabriele Cafulli provides an exhaustive overview of Milanese history from the days of the Austrian Habsburgs to the enlighted progress made under the reign of Maria Theresa followed by the French occupation and finally the years from the Vienna Congress and the ensuing Restauration to the Wars of Italian Independence. In this section great attention is paid to socio-economic and administrative aspects, as well as local and international developments. An example is this well thought through analysis of the Restauration: “The pragmatism of the Austrian Habsburgs, as regards the Italian dominions bestowed on them, did not result in a sinister revival of the political and institutional reality of the absolutist era, instead it gave rise to 92
unprecedented solutions that suited their desire of control, security and efficiency that Vienna harboured for Lombardy”. It must be noted that only on February 1st, 1816 the Napoleonic Departments of Lombardy and Venetia were officially abolished. The compendium of the postal history of Milan brilliantly written by Francesco Luraschi consists of eleven chapters that deal with six centuries of postal developments including the late 1300s coining of the term “posta” connoting a major step forward in postal communications as well as the “postal service” as we know today; this section also includes a useful appendix listing archival sources and documents. Luraschi’s contribution is actually a book in the book, something that has been long awaited as it provides a bird’s-eye view of a capital that Charles V nicknamed “the key of Italy”; we may add that Italy was also the key of postal communications of the peninsula and beyond. The story starts with the well organized postal networks of the merchants complemented by fortuitous carriers such as travellers, pilgrims and messengers. At the twilight of the 1300s the Visconti Dukes introduced a new postal technology that resulted in “real time” conveyance and delivery of mail which was made possible by well placed stops where the courier could change his horse; in due course the pioneering stops became postal stations where a new
and important figure, the postmaster, played a crucial role. Even before the Habsburg annexation of the Duchy of Milan we notice the presence of Simon Tassis — a prominent scion of the family of postal operators — who in 1518 became the postmaster general of the Imperial Post Office in Rome and in 1523 was elevated to the same rank in Milan making him the most powerful postal operator in Italy. In 1535, Charles V annexed the “Milanesado” giving full postal powers to his faithful Simon: so faithful that at times Simon carried out exceedingly delicate secret service missions for the exclusive benefit of the emperor. His son Roger took over the reins of the Milanese posts even before Simon’s death; at Roger’s death, his widow had to face endless problems, but luckily enough she had a most competent deputy postmaster general in the person of Ottavio Codogno. The shady and corrupt postmaster general of the Spanish Empire, Don Juan II de TassisPeralta-Villamediana did not listen to Codogno and de facto sold the Milanese posts to the rich, influential and noble Genoese family of the Serras. This transaction generated endless controversy, litigations and trials that took the whole 1600s to be brought to an end.After turbulent years marred by strong political and economic degradation, as well as wars, Lombardy was taken over by Austria. In 1730 the new regime issued
regulations aimed at expanding the postal network, followed in 1731 by the introduction of the first Milanese postmark featuring the number of the week instead of a date. Milan was rather successful in expanding its rapports with other states and countries; as a result a number of agreements and conventions were signed with postal administrations on both sides of the Alps. Luraschi examines the Napoleonic era and the progress made after the Restauration; his scholarship becomes even more evident in these chapters: obviously his regular visits to the “Archivio Postale Lombardo” have paid off. The chapters discussing postage stamps have been assigned to Massimiliano Ferroni who guides us through the postal reform and the various stamps issues, including the newspaper stamps and related tax stamps. It quickly becomes apparent that this scholar writes with his readers in mind to ensure that they learn without getting bored: therefore the subject matter is tackled in a practical and innovative manner. In simple words: here you will find all you need to know about LombardyVenetia stamps, up to 1859. Ferroni visits all the technicalities that the collector must become familiar with; a clear example is the effects of the Austrian supervision which “showed a high degree of originality and innovation when dealing with the method used to cancel stamps” stating in no uncertain terms that “the design of the postmark was not responsible for an indelible cancellation: the ink used certainly was”. The section regarding the tariffs and postal services is entrusted to the learned and wise Giuseppe Antonio Natoli and Luca Savini who provide a set of useful reference points regarding the postal rapports with the other Italian States and a number of European nations. It is a very alluring and beneficial chapter
because the authors have succeeded in elaborating on little known details, thus solving many headaches that sometime torment knowledgeable collectors and experts. Here we also learn often overlooked but important facts, for example: during the seven years prior to the introduction of adhesive postage stamps the “basic letter” tariff referred to a letter that did not exceed 8.75 grammes, hower, after the introduction of postage stamps on 1st June 1850 the “basic letter” weight was increased to 17.5 grammes. Domestic postal rates were based on weight measured in Viennese lots (1 lot = 17.5 grammes) as well as the distance between the point of departure and the final destination; therefore, a basic letter paid the following tariffs: 10c. if sent to an addressee within the postal district; 15c. to an addressee within 10 leagues distance (about 75 kilometres); 30c. to an addressee within 20 leagues distance; and 45c. to an addressee residing in a place exceeding 20 leagues distance. With the exception of the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in 1851 and 1852, the Italian States — notwithstanding their hesitations and perplexities — after “benevolent” pressures from Vienna became members of the Austro-Italian Postal League. The authoritarian tone of the Austrian bureaucrats during the negotiations was far from pleasant; on the other hand, the member postal administrations benefitted from uniform tariffs and the elimination of transit tariffs; also, last but not least, to qualify for membership the applicants had to issue and use adhesive postage stamps. This monograph comes to a grand finale with a catalogue of cancellations and postmarks used in Milan during the 1849-1859 “Risorgimento” decade. The characteristics of the various handstamps and the gradual wear and tear alterations are carefully
recorded. Their listing is chronological and De Battisti has provided an analytical rarity evaluation expressed in points for each cancellation and postmark. He also dwells on the intrinsic interest of cash pre-paid letters sent to foreign destinations. On other aspects he points out “the pronounced premium placed on earliest and last recorded dates of use of cancellations, as well as the extra value connected to dates of great historical and postal significance”. On a different aspect, it is a great pleasure for this writer to notice that the exceedingly rare dumb cancellation erroneously attributed to Monza for many generations is now accurately listed as a Milanese cancellation. My questioning the listing accuracy and attribution to Monza some fifty years ago caused consternation among some members of the philatelic elite: better late than never, I would say now. The last chapter of the opus focuses on the use of postmarks inscribed with the city’s name for purposes other than cancelling postage stamps and other handstamps sporadically used to cancel postage stamps. Most assuredly this is one of the best philatelic and postal history monographs published this century; the production is excellent and the publisher has been very wise to use a solid binding because collectors and scholars will browse through it hundreds of times. This book is simply indispensable!
The Tassis Postal History Museum Discover Europe’s fascinating story of postal communications from the 14th to the 19th century... A story that deserves a trip to one of Italy’s Most Beautiful Medieval Villages “Cornello dei Tasso” (near Bergamo, Lombardy) You will be seduced by the beauty of the panorama and the charm of the historical sites Come to Cornello, the cradle of a great European dynasty that changed the history of an entire continent...and beyond Discover the history of the family that organized the modern European postal service.
Museo dei Tasso e della Storia Postale
Comune di Camerata Cornello
Museo Museo dei dei Tasso Tasso ee della della Storia Storia Postale Postale
Comune Comune didi Camerata Camerata Cornello Cornello
The Tassis Postal History Museum
via Cornello, 22 - Camerata Cornello Bergamo- ITALY Opening days: from Wednesday to Sunday All year round www.museodeitasso.com firstname.lastname@example.org +39 0345 43479