Today in Postal History


Denmark to Spain
August 11, 1852

This folded letter was sent from Copenhagen.
The destination was Madrid.

In Copenhagen the rate was determined, collected, and the letter was marked
with two bold PD marks indicating the full fee had been collected.
A fine strike of Copenhagen CDS was applied.

The following is surmise and I'd appreciate any further input.

The routing then went to Hamburg.
En route a transit mark was applied on August 12 (purple at lower right rear).
This was K.D.O.P.A. HAMBURG, Königliche Dänische Oberpostamt
(Royal Danish head post office) Hamburg.
The Danish post office in Hamburg operated ca 1837-1864.
This post office was the exchange point for Danish mails with the Thurn and Taxis postal system.

Thurn and Taxis began operating mail systems in Europe in 1460 in the Tyrol in northern Italy.
By the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Thurn and Taxis
provided mail service throughout much of Europe.
Although there were incursions after Napoleon's defeat in  Russia,
Thurn and Taxis continued to provide service in the northern German states.
They would have received Danish mail bound for western Europe at this time in Hamburg.

Transfer into the Thurn and Taxis postal system occurred on August 12,
and a black HAMBURG CDS above the transit mark noted above was applied.
The most likely westward route would have been to Aachen
on the Belgium-Netherlands border and then west to
Valenciennes, the exchange point with the French mails.
Valenciennes is near the Belgian border, about 40 km
southeast of Lille, France, and 60 km west of Charleroi. Belgium.
The red French CDS on the front indicated the letter arrived in Valenciennes on August 13.

The most likely route into Spain would have been through the
exchange point between St. Jean de Luz in France and Irun in Spain.
These towns are on the coast in the southeast corner of the Bay of Biscay.
Most mail (80% or so) between Spain and the rest of Europe went through these offices.

There are three alternate routes into Spain:  Oloron-Jaca in the central
Pyrenees was only used for local mail; Le Perthus-La Junquera on
the eastern border was used for mail going to the Barcelona and Valencia areas;
and a maritime route between
Marseille and Barcelona.
Experience suggest that the letters using the maritime route were going to Barcelona or Valencia.

The map below is from the Atlas Postal y Geographico; Angel Moreno Redondo (1913).
It shows the main postal routes to Spain from most of Europe during the latter XIX century.


Mail coming from Denmark would go through Hamburg, Koln, Aachen,
then into Belgium through Verviers and then into France, to Paris.
From Paris, two different routes are possible.
The western route would go south through Bordeaux,
enter Spain at Irun and then down to Madrid.
The eastern route would go southeast through Lyon and enter Spain
at La Junquera, then to Barcelona and finally travel west to Madrid.
The western route is most likely for mail bound for Madrid.

It is likely that the bold red 9.R mark was applied in Irun during the exchange process.
It is also where the script Fr in the lower left front was applied.
This was an abbreviation for Franco indicating the letter was paid in advance.

The letter proceeded from the exchange point to Madrid where
a red CDS on the back of the letter noted its arrival on, I believe, August 20.
The bold red 9.R mark would have been applied in Madrid.*

There was no specific Spanish rate for mail from Denmark until June 29 1853.
However this letter came via a German state, and the Spanish policy
was to charge the same rate as if it had come from the German state.
The rate from German states had been set in 1807, and 9 reales was
the lowest rate for a letter weighing less than 4 adarmes (¼ ounce).*

In addition to reviewing the routes, we also need to review the rate markings.
The marking in the upper left appears to be a 28 and
probably relates to a Danish total fee of 28 skilling.
The marking appears to be in a similar hand to the Fr in
the lower left and would have been applied at the same time.

The marking in the upper right appears to be France's claim to 15 centimes.
It was probably applied when the red French Valenciennes transit mark was applied.

And that leaves the question of how did Thurn and Taxis get their share?

Hmmm, where was the UPU when you needed it?

As you can see, I can use all the help I can get to escape this quandary.
I'm sure that there are several of you who know the answers to this one.

*As I expected, I have received a number of helpful inputs for explaining this letter.
Thanks to Bjorn Munch, Knud-Erik Andersen,
Jim Whitford-Stark, Richard Frajola, and Jaume Balsells.
It never ceases to amaze me how much information comes up when one asks for help.
A special thanks to Jaume Balsells for the routing map.
Thanks, too, to Geoffrey Lewis for his helpful discussion of the
Spanish rate which I have incorporated nearly verbatim.

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