Notes from the Past

Meter Postage
A Brief History - Part I

As early as 1884, a Frenchman, Carle Bushe, obtained a British patent for a device that would print a "stamp" on an envelope and record the amount of postage by means of a counting device, or meter.  No working model of the Bushe device is known to have existed, and the idea was not pursued.

In 1896 an unknown Munich inventor developed a franking machine device that was described as ". . . a so-called 'postage meter' which is going to be recommended for introduction by the German Postal Administration. . ."  Nothing, it seems came of this.

On January 24, 1899, a US patent for a postal franking device was obtained by Elmer E. Wolf of Springfield, Ohio.  Accounts differ as to whether such a device was ever built, and nothing came of this either.

The first franking machine known to have been placed into use was a coin-operated device invented by a Norwegian, Charles A. Kahrs.  One of his devices was placed in the lobby of the General Post Office in Christiana, Norway, on August 24, 1900.  It was withdrawn on December 19, 1900.

The closest approach to the meter as we know it today -- that is, franking devices for use by private firms -- was made by another Norwegian, Karl Uchermann.  His machines were first used in Christiana, Norway, on June 15, 1903, with the last date of known use being January 2, 1905.  During that period, seven Uchermann machines were used, three by private firms and four by the Post Office itself.

To be Continued

 

- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume Two G-P
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted October 14, 2000

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