Thursday, April 13, 2006

Zeppelin Mail to Luxembourg

The Century of Progress Exposition was the World’s Fair held in Chicago, Illinois from 1933 to 1934 to celebrate Chicago's centennial.

One of the highlights of the 1933 World's Fair was the arrival of the German airship Graf Zeppelin on the morning of October 27, 1933, from Akron, Ohio. After circling Lake Michigan near the exposition for two hours, Captain Hugo Eckener landed the 776-foot airship at the nearby Curtis-Wright Airport in Glenview. It remained on the ground for twenty-five minutes, during which time Postmaster General James A. Farley boarded, after which the dirigible took off ahead of an approaching weather front for the return trip to Akron, Ohio, from whence it returned to Friedrichshafen.

For some Chicagoans, however, the appearance of the Graf Zeppelin was not a welcome sight as the airship bore the swastika symbol on its tail against the protests of Captain Eckener, who disapproved of the Nazi regime and Adolf Hitler, who had ascended to power in Germany earlier that year.

The United States issued a special 50-cent stamp for the Century of Progress zeppelin flight, which is often referred to as the “Baby Zeppelin” [Scott C18] when contrasted with three higher-denomination zeppelin stamps issued in 1930. It depicts the Graf Zeppelin between the Chicago Federal Building and the zeppelin hangar at Friedrichshafen and paid the rate for letters equal to or less than ½ oz. carried on the flight.

The cover shown here was carried on the flight back to Friedrichshafen from Chicago (via Akron), from whence it was delivered to Mersch, Luxembourg. The corner card is that of the well-known downtown Chicago hotel, The Palmer House. It bears the Chicago, Illinois, October 26, 1933, slogan machine cancel reading “Century of Progress World’s Fair Chicago June-Nov. 1933,” and, on the back, the green receipt cancels of Friedrichshafen (Bodensee), Germany, November 2, 1933, and Mersch, November 3, 1933 [Prifix Z49b].

A rare example of zeppelin mail to Luxembourg, it is also a nostalgic reminder of an age in which quiet, clean, comfortable lighter-than-air ships traveled around the globe. Perhaps they will return in another age when the Earth’s hydrocarbon resources have been depleted.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The 42-Reichpfenning Registered Letter Frankings: 1940-1944

During World War II, Luxembourg was overrun by German forces on May 10, 1940, and the country continued to be occupied until September 10, 1944.

The following dates during the WWII Occupation are of especial significance for postal historians:

  • On October 1, 1940, the Occupiers abolished the use of the Grand Duchy’s stamps and postal stationery, replacing them with the German Hindenburg stamps and postal stationery denominated in Reichpfennigs and marks and overprinted “Luxemburg.” Luxembourg’s postal rates also were converted into the Reich’s currency.
  • On December 5, 1940, certain of the invalidated pre-war Luxembourg stamps and postal stationery were "re-issued" after being surcharged from centimes and francs to pfennings. Their use was permitted used until March 31, 1941 (a 117-day period).
  • As of April 1, 1941, all German stamps also became valid for use in Luxembourg.
  • As of January 1, 1942, use of German stamps was required and use of the Hindenburg overprints was no longer permitted.

As of October 1, 1940, the charge to send a registered letter weighing 20 g or less within Luxembourg, or to Belgium or the Reich was 42 Reichpfenning (rpf.) (12 rpf. postage plus a 30 rpf. registry fee). However, when this registered letter rate took effect, a 42-rpf. definitive stamp was not available to pay this charge. Since sole frankings therefore were not possible, these registered letters provide an excellent opportunity for collectors to acquire a broad range of interesting mixed frankings.

It should be noted that the Reich finally did issue a 42-rpf. Hitler-head definitive sometime in 1944 [Scott 529], so conceivably sole frankings in 1944 with this stamp paying the 42-rpf. rate exist, although I’ve yet to discover one. Additionally, each year during the Occupation, the Reich issued a 42-rpf. semi-postal stamp with a 108-rpf. surcharge that benefited Hitler’s so-called National Culture Fund. These are known as the “Brown Ribbon” stamps as they were issued during the annual summer Brown Ribbon horse races in Munich [Scott B173, B192, B205, B243 and B283]. Sole frankings with these stamps, if they exist, would likely have been philatelically inspired as these semi-postal stamps (the first two of which were valid only for a short time) were not sold over the postal counters in Luxembourg and the populace generally would have been disinclined during these difficult years to pay a 257% surcharge to benefit the Nazi Culture Fund.

With the foregoing caveats in mind, let’s look at the 42-rpf. frankings that do exist:

The low denomination Hindenburg overprints consist of 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25 and 30 rpf. values. Thus, the only two-stamp franking possible with the Hindenburgs was a combination franking of the 12 and 30 rpf. values, as shown below:

Two-stamp Hindenburg franking—Esch-sur-Alzette, November 20, 1940, to Peine, Germany. This is probably the most common 42-rpf. franking as the Hindenburg overprints could be used from October 1, 1940 to January 1, 1942.

From April 1, 1941 until January 1, 1942 (a 275-day period), a similar franking was possible using either a 12 rpf. Hitler-head and a 30-rpf. Hindenburg or a 30-rpf. Hitler-head and a 12- rpf. Hindenburg (shown below):

Two-stamp mixed Hindenburg-Hitler franking—Luxembourg-Ville, December 24, 1941 to Frankfurt, Germany, Christmas Day 1941.

Another possibility with the Hindenburgs was a three-stamp franking using two 6-rpf. Hindenburgs and a 30-rpf. Hindenburg, as shown below:

Three-stamp, two-denomination Hindenburg franking—Esch-sur-Alzette, November 5, 1940 to Berlin, Germany, November 7, 1940. The Nazis had not yet replaced Esch-sur-Alzette’s pre-war bridge cancel, although a new, Germanized registry label was used.

From December 5, 1940 through March 31, 1941, the pre-war Luxembourg stamps that had been surcharged also could be used exclusively or in combination with the Hindenburgs. The low value surcharges included 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 10, 12, 15, 20, 25 and 30 rpf. values. An example of such a combination is shown below:

Three-stamp mixed Luxembourg-surcharge and Hindenburg franking—Garnich, March 4, 1941 to Hannover, Germany, March 5, 1941. The three red stamps, the red registry label, and the red rubber-stamped Einschreiben all together provide a lot of philatelic pulchritude!

Three-stamp Hindenburg frankings also were possible:

Three-stamp, 10, 12, & 20-rpf. Hindenburg franking—Eschdorf, October 16, 1940 to Peine, Germany, October 18, 1940.

Three-stamp, 5, 12, 25-rpf. Hindenburg franking—Luxembourg-Ville, March 31, 1941 to Wilthen (Oberlausitz), Germany, April 4, 1941.

Last, a seven-stamp franking also was possible using just the 6-rpf. Luxembourg surcharge, just the 6-rpf. Hindenburg, or a combination thereof. Use of seven 6-rpf. Luxembourg surcharge stamps is shown below:

Seven-stamp Luxembourg surcharge franking—Lorentzweiler, February 26, 1941, to Hannover, Germany, forwarded to and received in Ensheim, Germany, March 1, 1941.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Who was writing to Grand Duke Adolphe in 1893?

Here’s a cover franked with a 25-centime French Sage definitive [Sc 91]

that was posted to

Son Altesse Royale [His Royal Highness]
le grand duc de Luxembourg
à Luxembourg

from Gare de Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes, France, on March 9, 1893. The back shows the receiving cancels of Luxembourg-Ville and the post office at the Grand Ducal residence—Walferdange (Chateau)—two days later.

In 1893, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg was Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg (July 24, 1817 to November 17, 1905), who was the last Duke of Nassau, and the fourth Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The only indication of the sender’s identity is on the back flap where there is a raised “N” below a crown. Does the “N” refer to the House of Nassau? Was the Grand Duke, himself, or other royalty, enjoying a holiday at Cannes on the French Riviera? Certainly some astute philatelist will provide the answers.

Grand Duke Adolph was a son of Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau (1792-1839). He became Duke of Nassau on August 30, 1839, after the death of his father. He supported the Austrian Empire in the Austro-prussian War of 1886. After Austria's defeat, Nassau was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1890, when Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands was excluded from succession to the Luxembourg throne by the Salic Law, the Grand Duchy passed to the dispossessed Duke Adolphe. The Grand Dukes of Luxembourg are still descendants of Adolphe, although through female lines. Walferdange Chateau, five kilometers north of Luxembourg-Ville near the entrance of the Grunewald forest (shown at the top), was the grand ducal residence at the turn of the 19th century.
Grand Duke Adolphe

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Cap to Cap Caper

Time frame 1—Probably August 15, 1904, somewhere in Luxembourg

  • Sender buys a picture postcard of Larochette in Luxembourg
  • Sender addresses the postcard to a woman in Cappellen prés [by] Anvers, Belgium [town name is spelled with a double “p”]
  • Sender puts a five-centime green Belgian stamp in the upper right corner of the postcard
  • The 5-centime Belgian stamp would pay the Belgian domestic postcard rate if the postcard were mailed in Belgium

Time frame 2—Morning of August 16, 1904, Steinfort, Luxembourg

  • Sender presents the postcard for mailing at the Steinfort, Luxembourg post office
  • Steinfort postal clerk requires that Luxembourg postage be used to send the postcard to Belgium
  • Sender buys and affixes a ten-centime Luxembourg Adolphe definitive stamp to the postcard below the five-centime Belgian stamp to pay the ten-centime foreign postcard rate to Belgium
  • Steinfort postal clerk accepts the postcard for dispatch to the addressee
  • Steinfort postal clerk marks off the Belgian stamp with blue crayon to show that it is invalid for use in Luxembourg.
  • Steinfort post office cancels the ten-centime Luxembourg stamp Steinfort, August 16, 1904, 10-11 [a.]m.

Time frame 3—Morning of August 17, 1904, Capellen, Luxembourg

  • Postcard is mistakenly delivered the next day to nearby Capellen, Luxembourg [the town name is spelled with only one “p”], near the Luxembourg-Belgian border
  • Postcard receives an incoming postmark Cap, [August] 17, 1904, 7-8 [a.]m. [Although the town's name is “Capellen,” the name has always been shortened to "Cap" on the cancelers used by the town's post office, perhaps because the canton in which the town is located also is called "Cappellen."]
  • Capellen, Luxembourg post office redirects the postcard to Belgium, underlining in blue crayon “prés Anvers,” to draw the dispatcher’s attention to the correct destination of Cappellen near Antwerp [Anvers] in Northwest Belgium.

Time frame 4—Late afternoon of August 17, 1904, Brussels, Belgium

  • En route to Cappellen, Belgium, the postcard transits in Brussels, where the five-centime Belgian stamp that had been improvidently affixed earlier is now cancelled August 17, 1904 at 5-6 p.m. Bruxelles Depart.
  • Seeing the uncancelled five-centime Belgian stamp, the Belgian transit clerk probably presumes that the postcard had been deposited in the Belgian domestic mails and therefore cancels the stamp.

Time frame 5—August 18, 1904, Cappellen, Belgium

  • Postcard arrives at Cappellen, Belgium, where it receives an incoming postmark, Cappellen, 18 Aout, 1904, 6-7 [a.m.?], and presumably goes on to be delivered to the addressee, thus ending the Cap to Cap caper!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

1875-1925: When you could send your two-cents worth for two cents!


For over 50 years—from July 1, 1875 to October 1, 1925—the United States maintained a two-cent UPU post and postal card rate. The rate spanned the Golden Age of postcards in the early 1900s. According to United States government records for the fiscal year ending
June 30, 1908, 677,777,798 postcards were sent that year when the country’s population was only 88,700,000.

The first United States postal card (i.e., a card with a stamp imprint)—a one-cent card for domestic use—was issued in May 1873 [Scott UX1]. It was not until an Act of Congress took effect on May 19, 1898, that private printers were permitted to print and sell postcards. However, they had to be called "Private Mailing Cards" rather than postcards. This law changed on December 4, 1901, when private printers were finally permitted to use the word postcard (or post card) instead of Private Mailing Card on their cards.

Prior to World War I, most postcards were printed in Germany where lithography was more advanced than in the United States. After World War I, the quality of cards dramatically declined as the German lithography industry was not reconstructed. Consequently, during the post-war period from 1915 to 1930, many postcards were printed in the United States. They often show a white border around the view. This was done to save on ink during a period of costly labor and intense competition in which many postcard manufacturers went out of business.

Shown below chronologically are some examples posted to Luxembourg.

Example 1—1884 [Sc UX6]: The first United States postal card for international use—a two-cent blue Liberty head, which was issued on December 1, 1879—used from New York City, New York, May 13, 1884 to Wiltz, Luxembourg (erroneously addressed to non-existent Wiltz, Germany!) but properly received at Luxembourg-Gare, May 25, 1884. A lengthy privately printed advertisement by the Liebman & Butler Company appears on the back.

Example 2—1884 [Sc UX7]: Domestic postal card issued in 1881, uprated with a one-cent Franklin definitive [Sc 206], and sent from New York City, August 27, 1884, transiting at London [on the back], September 6th, and received at Luxembourg-Ville, September 8, 1884. The rubber stamped message reads:

Dear Sir,

Please take notice that our Circular Notes No. 716 and 717 for £ 10 each have been lost or stolen.

Yours respectfully,

C.B. Richard & Co.
[Bankers and General Passenger Agents, Hamburg Steamship Line]

Example 3—1886 [Sc UX6]: New Orleans, Louisiana, September 10, 1886, properly addressed to Wiltz, Luxembourg, received there September 24, 1886.  The message side features a printed heading for the Office of St. Cyr Fourcade, Wholesale and Retail Druggist.

Example 4—1888 [Sc UX6]: Lacking a departure postmark but written at Dubuque, Iowa, August 20, 1888, and showing a Luxembourg-Gare transit and Larochette [Fels] receiver, September 3, 1888.




Example 5—1894 [Sc UX12]:  Cold Spring, Minnesota, March 30, 1894, received at Remich, April 12, 1894, uprated with a one-cent Columbian Exposition commemorative [Sc 230] to pay the UPU postal card rate.



Example 6 - 1895 [Sc UX12]:  Sayreville, New Jersey, June 10, 1895, transit New York City, June 10th, received Luxembourg-Ville, June 21, 1895, uprated with a one-cent blue Franklin definitive [Sc 264].


Example 7—1896 [Sc UX6]: Personal correspondence from a writer in Dubuque, Iowa, August 22, 1896, to the priest at Harlange [Harlingen] near Wiltz.

Example 8—1898 [Sc UX12]: Domestic postal card issued in 1894 uprated with a one-cent blue Franklin definitive [Sc 264] and sent from Mebane, North Carolina, January 23, 1898, to a well-known stamp dealer in Luxembourg-Ville, received February 4, 1898.




Example 9—1901: Private mailing card with a two-cent Washington definitive positioned within a stamp collar, posted from Asbury Park, New Jersey, August 17, 1901, to Brussels, Belgium, received August 29th, forwarded to Hotel Ensch, Vianden, Luxembourg, received August 30th.  The view side shows Sunset Lake, Asbury Park, New Jersey.



Example 10—1902 [Sc UX16]: Liberty head postal card issued in 1897 and sent from New York City, New York, May 5, 1902 [machine cancel], to Cap [Capellen], received May 13, 1902.


Example 11—1902: Private Mailing Card (a PMC) published by Edward H. Mitchell, showing a view of Celilo Falls on the Columbia River in Oregon, and posted from Central, Oregon, May 19, 1902, to Luxembourg-Gare, June 1, 1902, franked with a pair of the one-cent green Franklin definitive [Sc 279].  Central's post office only operated from 1900 to 1903.




Example 12—1904:  Beginning in December 1901, privately printed cards were permitted with the caption "Post Card" instead of "Private Mailing Card."  Here two one-cent Livingston Louisiana Purchase commemoratives [Sc 323] frank a postcard posted from New Orleans, Louisiana, September 7, 1904, to Luxembourg-Gare.  The viewside shows "#6832 - Train loads of cotton for export."

Example 13—1905 [Sc UX18]: Domestic postal card issued in 1902, uprated with a one-cent Livingston Louisiana Purchase commemorative [Sc 323], sent from Denver, Colorado, July 21, 1905, received at Luxembourg-Ville, August 5, 1905.


Example 14—1906: Undivided back postcard posted on May 13, 1906, from St. Louis, Missouri, shortly before the undivided back era ended,  addressed to a Monsieur Bellwald (perhaps the prominent Luxembourg photographer and editor of postcards, J-M Bellwald, (1871-1945)) posted from Larochette, May 23, 1906, showing a view of the Eads Bridge across the Mississippi River at St. Louis (built from 1867-1874) and a steamship on the river


Example 15—1906 [Sc UX18]: Domestic postal card issued in 1902, uprated with a one-cent Franklin definitive [Sc 300], sent from
St. Paul, Minnesota, July 13, 1906, to the Luxembourg Prison chaplain, received at Luxembourg-Ville, July 24, 1906.

Example 16—1908: Divided back postcard printed in Germany showing a view of Dawson in the Canadian Yukon Territory, posted from Everett, Washington [flag cancel], June 3, 1908, to Dudelange, franked with a two-cent Washington definitive [Sc 319].




Example 17 - 1909:  Divided back postcard showing the oldest house in Patchogue, Long Island, New York, posted from Patchogue, August 19, 1909, to Vianden, received August 30, 1909 cds, franked with a two-cent red Washington definitive.


Example 18—1910: Divided back postcard showing a view of the California state Capitol, Sacramento, California, posted from Chicago, Illinois, February 19, 1910, to Eschweiler, received at Wiltz, March 5, 1910, franked with a two-cent Seward Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Issue commemorative [Sc 370].




Example 19—1910 [Sc UX19]:  One-cent McKinley postal card uprated with a one-cent Franklin definitive, posted from Times Square Station, New York City, March 31, 1910, to 'Luxemberg' with a mimeographed back acknowledging receipt of the proof of an article for the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Example 20—1937: Real photo postcard of riders descending on horses down into the Grand Canyon posted from Grand Canyon, Arizona, June 2, 1937, to Poste Restante, Luxembourg-Ville, June 14, 1937, forwarded to Stockholm, Sweden, franked with a three-cent Gilbert Stuart Washington definitive [Sc 720].
 Ah … the two-cent postcard era had ended on October 1, 25!

But ... you could still send a postcard without a message at the
one-cent UPU printed matter rate until April 1, 1932, as shown in the example below.



Example 20—1930: Picture postcard showing the bridge between Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island, Illinois, properly franked with a one-cent Franklin definitive (on the view side) tied by the Davenport handcancel, July 18, 1930, addressed to Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg.  On the address side is the Davenport machine cancel of the same date and the auxiliary mark "Held for Postage," which has been crossed out, presumably after the mail clerk noticed that postage had been affixed to the view side.   In manuscript is the endorsement "Printed Matter Europe" (and "over," signaling the clerk to search for the postage on the view side)!