Saturday, December 27, 2008

Luxembourgensia: 1878 Cover from Luxembourg's New York 'Consulat Général'



Coincident with collecting Luxembourg postal history, I've also acquired many other interesting items related to Luxembourg history and culture.  These fall within the rubric referred to as 'Luxembourgensia.'

The cover shown here is one of those interesting items.  Bearing the cachet of the Grand Duché de Luxembourg Consulat Général New York on the front and back, the cover was sent from the Hotel Brunswick in New York in September 1878 to John Hyde, Judge of Probate, in Bay City, Michigan, where it was docketed on
September 13, 1878, by the jurist.  (It has been repaired on the right side, viewed from the front.)



Much more Luxembourgensia can be found on the website of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, Inc. of Belgium, Wisconsin.  And today the Luxembourg Consulate in New York is at 17 Beekman Place and also has a presence on the web.

Valeur (insured) UPU mail from Grevenmacher in 1932



We occasionally see insured ('money'  or 'valeur') letters from Luxembourg-Ville , but we very seldom find them from the smaller towns and villages.  Thus, this example, posted from Grevenmacher, June 17, 1932, to St. Gallen, Switzerland, where it was received the next day, finds it way to this blog.  The gaudy red wax seals of B. Wolf Cahen/Auguste Wolf Succ./Grevenmacher Luxembourg add to the cover's appeal.

Here is the rate explicated:

            • 2.75 F 20-40 g UPU letter [here 25 g]
      • 1.75 F registry fee
      • 1.75 F insurance fee (up to 300 gFr [here 257 gFr])

[Total:  6.25 F exactly paid]







5 F Allégorie
p. 13.25

Grevenmacher cds, June 30, 1884

The marriage of a near-perfect cancel to a near-perfect stamp is philatelic pulchritude plus!   And finding any of the 5-franc high- denomination Allégorie, GD Adolphe, GD Guillaume IV, or  GD Marie-Adélaïde definitives in this condition is especially satisfying.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Philately undeterred by a world war!


During World War II, Luxembourg stamp dealer Karl Bormes, at 22 Philippgasse in Luxembourg-Ville, continued to supply the needs of collectors throughout the Reich.  This is documented by his beautifully franked COD-shipment covers, many of which collectors saved.  Here are a few such covers from my collection:

August 25, 1944, to Berlin

(just 3 weeks before the liberation of Luxembourg)


Within a week of the posting of this shipment, the Nazi administration in Luxembourg collapsed.  Nonetheless, Mr. Bormes sent this 18.20 RM COD shipment to a philatelist in war torn Berlin, where it was received a couple days later on August 27, 1944. 


Perhaps collecting stamps provided a welcome diversion from the bleakness of living in the capital of the Reich, which was subject to frequent aerial bombing by British from November 1943 to March 1944 (the so-called 'Battle of Berlin').  In my mind is the image of a devoted stamp collector huddled in a bomb shelter with a favorite album.

The poor quality of the envelope  is emblematic of the paper shortages at the end of the occupation notwithstanding the lavish franking:  (i) the 54-Rpf + 96-Rpf Hitler's 55th birthday semi-postal; (ii) the 12-Rpf + 8-Rpf Innsbruck marksmanship contest semi-postal; and (iii) an 8-Rpf Hitler head pay the 74-Rpf postage and fees.  Here is the explication of the rate:

                                      24-Rpf  20-250-g letter to the Reich
                                                        30-Rpf  registry fee
                                                        20-Rpf  COD fee

April 26, 1944, to Innsbruck


A similar 74-rpf COD shipment to Innsbruck in annexed Austria, received April 28, 1944.  In addition to the 50-Rpf. Hitler head, the franking includes the 12-Rpf + 38 Rpf. Robert Koch centenary semi-postal and the 12-Rpf + 38 Rpf. 1200th anniversary of Fulda semi-postal.

October 10, 1943, to Nürnberg


A third 74-rpf COD shipment, this time to Nürnberg in the Reich.  The franking is the 50-Rpf + 50-Rpf high value of the 12-stamp Army Day semi-postal set showing a speed boat and a 24-Rpf. Hitler head.

Could anyone provide a photo of Mr. Bormes and more information about what became of him after the war?  I'd be grateful for your help.

Friday, December 19, 2008

WWI German Fieldpost from Turkey




Turkey and the German Empire entered into a secret Ottoman-German Alliance  on August 2, 1914 -- one day after Germany had declared war on Russia.  This alliance  ultimately led the Ottoman Empire to enter the First World War on the side of the Central Powers.

An important postal history ramification of the Alliance was the presence of German soldiers in Turkey who maintained their own fieldpost.  The picture postcard shown here is an especially interesting example of that fieldpost because it  was sent to Luxembourg.


The bilingual German fieldpost cancel reads 'FELDPOST MIL. MISS. KONSTANTINOPEL, 19-2-1916.'  The card is endorsed "Feldpost"  in manuscript at the top. 

Upon receipt in Germany, the card was censored at Trier [purple cds] before being delivered to Differdange Usines, where the 5-centime domestic postcard rate was paid as postage due on March 1, 1916.  The card view is shown at the top of this blog entry.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Perlie' & Ike


Perle Skirvin Mesta (1889-1975) was the first fully accredited United States ambassador to Luxembourg.  An early supporter and favorite of President Truman, he rewarded her with the ambassadorial appointment -- at the time, she was only the third women to hold an ambassadorship.  She served from 1949 to 1953.



Perle Mesta to Dwight Eisenhower

United States Legation

February 3, 1951

4 F  UPU letter rate + 6 F (5-10 g) airmail supplement

During Perle Mesta's tenure as ambassador to Luxembourg, then-General Dwight Eisenhower was a frequent visitor to the Grand Duchy.  Ike liked to affectionately refer to Ambassador Mesta as "Perlie."  In her autobiography Perle -- My Story published in 1960, she writes at pp. 170-171:

When I heard in December, 1950, that General Eisenhower was going back on actie duty to lead the organization of NATO military forces, the news was doubly welcome.  Not only was this wonderful for Luxembourg and all of Europe, which had such confidence in its wartime hero, but I personally was glad because it meant I would be seeing more of Ike and Mamie. 

Their first trip to Luxembourg was early in January, 1951, when Ike made a formal call on the Grand Duchess.  I went with him to the palace, as did General Alfred Gruenther ...

Two weeks later, Ike and Mamie returned for a weekend and I gave a small party for them at the legation.  We were honored by the attendance of the Royal Consort, Prince Felix, who made on of his rare appearances at a party outside the palace.  Prime Minister Dupong, Foreign Minister and Madame Bech, Grand Marshal of the Court and Madame Loesch, General Gruenther, Anthony Drexel Biddle, and Douglas MacArthur II were among the other guests at the dinner.


Ike and Mamie came to Luxembourg frequently.  Much as I'd like to think it was just to see me, I'm certain there were two other important considerations -- the kitchen at the legation, where Ike could concoct his culinary specialities, and the Luxembourg golf course, one of the best in Europe.

The cover shown here was posted shortly after the Eisenhower visits Mesta describes in the quoted text from her autobiography.  It was sent to '60 Morningside Drive, New York,' which was President Eisenhower's New York residence while he was president of Columbia University.  The Legation's albino embossed corner card appears at the upper left, with the return address on the envelope flap that of 'Mrs. Perle Mesta/American Minister to Luxembourg/American Legation/Luxembourg.'


Perle Mesta with then-General Eisenhower and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Bech inspecting the World War I war memorial in Luxembourg City

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bêtes Noires of Luxembourg Philately



The first 30 Luxembourg official stamps appeared from 1875 to 1878 as OFFICIEL overprints on the early rouletted and perforated Coat of Arms issues.  The quantities overprinted must have been very small as at the time the country's population was only a couple hundred thousand, and there was no sizeable government bureaucracy.  This inference is supported by the fact that uses on cover are almost non-existent.  The late Robert Danzer's collection contained only two covers using these officials.  He  understood the absence of covers to mean that 99% of the used examples almost certainly are forgeries.  I'd agree. 

These stamps frequently appear in auctions and on the Internet (often at optimistic prices), but absent a certificate from an indubitable authority such as Rene Demuth, I would doubt their authenticity.  I've seen certificates signed by 'experts' of the American Philatelic Society that are, politely said, laughable.  Yes, laughable because many of the forgeries can be readily discerned with the aid of only a strong magnifying glass.  Nonetheless, obvious forgeries are sometimes given certificates, as in most (but not all) countries certificate signers are not held legally liable for their philatelic malpractice.

While I've seen many fine exhibits of the early Coat of Arms stamps, invariably the exhibitors ignore these bêtes noires.  Postal historians can plead the virtual absence of material; traditional philatelists, however, should be downgraded when the adjudicator takes into account the challenge factor.  Authentic examples of these official stamps do exist, and while they tend to be expensive and require credible expertization, they should be part of any traditional display.

During his lifetime, the venerable Bob Danzer acquired only two covers that use these early officials.  You can understand therefore why I was overjoyed to recently obtain the cover shown below.  Enjoy!




12 1/2c colorless roulette [Prifix 4]
Official mail from the government's historical archieves
official cachet on the back flap
Posted by H. Eltz, a government official,  November 23, 1876, from Luxemburg-BHF [the railway station] to Diedenhofen [today:  Thionville] in the then-German Lorraine at the 15-g letter rate, with Diedenhofen cds backstamp the same day.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lilliputian Registered Mail (96 x 60 mm.)!


I've often wondered if this might be the smallest registered Luxembourg cover.  It measures only 96 mm. x 60 mm.  Yes, I know, some visiting cards that were sent at New Year's are smaller, but I've never seen one that was registered. 

This pygmy registered cover was sent to the Ligue contre la tuberculose Loterie nationale [League for the National Tuberculosis Lottery] in Luxembourg-Ville from Rumelange on May 24, 1934. The 1.25 F postage and 1.25 F registry fee for a domestic letter are paid by two 1.25 F Charlotte (2nd series) definitives on the back. 

The sender must have wanted to be sure that his or her lottery entry didn't get lost!



Saturday, December 13, 2008

Redirected Mail: From Belgium to Grundhof & Switzerland to Liechtenstein & Mondorf

Example 1 



Redirected mail is an inadequately explored area of postal history, particularly insofar as forwarding charges are concerned.  During the early years of the UPU, the calculation was simple.  If the first dispatch had been fully prepaid and the charge for the further dispatch had not been paid prior to the redirecting, then the difference between the amount of postage already paid and that which would have been required if the article had been originally dispatched to the new destination was charged to the addressee.

This cover nicely illustrates that calculation.  It was originally sent on August 20, 1907, as a fully paid (10c) domestic letter from Anvers (Gare Central) to Louvain, Belgium, addressed to Monsieur Wilhem Willems.  It was then redirected to the addressee at the Hotel Vincent Theato (shown in the photo below) in bucolic Grundhof, Luxembourg.  If the letter had initially been sent from Belgium to a destination more than 30 km. within Luxembourg (in this instance, Grundhof), 20 centimes postage would have been required.  Accordingly, the charge for redirection (10 centimes) was the difference between what had been originally paid (10 centimes) and the 20-centime letter rate to Luxembourg.




Although a parcel post agency had already been opened at Grundhof  in 1901, the 10 centimes postage due  for redirection was collected by the full-service Beaufort post office nearby, as the 10-centime postage due stamp canceled at Beaufort August 22nd documents.  (Luxembourg had issued its first postage due stamps just 9 weeks earlier. )

The Beaufort double circle cancel also appears on the cover as a backstamp (shown below).




Example 2



The second example is a commercial cover posted July 5, 1938, from from Zürich, Switzerland, to Linthal, Switzerland, at the 20c Swiss domestic letter rate, where it arrives the next day.  From Linthal, the letter is redirected to a pension in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, where it is received July 7, 1938.  Since the Swiss domestic letter rate also applied to Liechtenstein, no postage due was charged at Vaduz. 

However, the letter was further redirected to a pension in Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg.  There the Mondorf post office charged 60 centimes postage due -- this being the difference between the 20c Swiss domestic letter rate and the UPU rate for a letter from Switzerland to Luxembourg.  The Luxembourg postage due stamps show the Mondorf cancel dated July 8, 1938.


Lesson Learned

Don't confuse redirecting charges with charges for insufficiently paid mail.  The latter often incurs a penalty (frequently, double the deficiency); in contrast,  no penalty is normally imposed for redirection.

An Elusive sole franking: a 5-franc Three Towers Official First Day Cover!


The 5-franc 'Three Towers' pictorial was overprinted Officiel and issued on 30 August 1934.  It proved to be the second to the last of the many officiel overprints, which first appeared in 1875.  Used examples are scarce; covers even more so.  Thus, I was quite pleased to obtain the cover shown above used on the stamp's First Day of Issue.
The elusive 5-franc Three Towers overprinted officiel exactly pays the postage, registry and COD fees on a letter from the Grand Ducal Postes & Télégraphes office to Anvers [Antwerp], Belgium.

Here is the explication of the 5.00-franc rate:
  • 0.75 F postage (20 g letter to Belgium)
  • 1.75 F registry fee
  • 2.00 F basic COD [remboursement] fee
  • 0.50 F 25c/50 F COD [here 95 francs]

57-F Insured Money Letter to Switzerland in 1931!


In 1931, the 20-franc 'Ville Basse à Luxembourg' pictorial was the highest denomination stamp Luxembourg had ever issued (and remained as such until the 1970s).  Uses on non-philatelic covers are extremely scarce.  Thus, I was delighted to recently obtain a money letter franked with two (!) 20-franc Ville Basses plus the equally scarce on cover 10-franc View of Luxembourg (p. 12 1/2 1934 printing), the 5-franc Adolphe bridge (p. 12 1/2), and the 2-franc Clervaux (also p. 12 1/2).

The 57-franc letter was posted from Luxembourg-Ville, March 1, 1934, with a declared value of 62,600 Belgian francs (converted to 8943 gold francs), received the next day at St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Here is the explication of the 57-franc rate:

  • 02.75 F postage (24-g UPU letter)
  • 01.75 F registration fee
  • 52.50 F Insurance fee (8943 gold francs at 1.75 F/300 gfr)




Incoming mail from Callao, PERU in 1887


During the latter quarter of the 19th century, commercial correspondents often saved postal cards because the sender's message was written on the card, whereas they tended to discard envelopes saving only the contents of the envelope.  Thus, we are fortunate as postal stationery collectors to be able to acquire postal cards from diverse, unusual origins. 

Here's an old Peruvian 4-quatro postal card sent from Callao, Peru's premier Atlantic ocean port,  January 15, 1887, received on February 22, 1887, in Luxembourg ,with Luxembourg-Gare and Luxembourg-Ville receiving cancels. 

It's quite a treasure as pre-1900 mail from Peru to Luxembourg is very scarce.  Happily, this commercially used postal card was saved!



Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Stampless letter from Andorra in 1952

Collecting incoming mail is a pleasureable if endless pursuit. And finding correspondence between the mini-states of Europe is especially satisfying.
Here a letter was sent unfranked from Andorre la Vieille, Andorra, November 18, 1952, to Alfred Krier, a well known Luxembourg-Ville stamp dealer. As the UPU 20-g letter rate was 4 francs, Mr. Krier probably should have been charged postage due of double that amount -- 8 francs. Instead, the postal clerk has indicated '4,00' in blue crayon, presumably meaning 4 francs due. But when postage due was collected on November 22, 1952, the cashier apparently read the manuscript mark as '4,80,' which amount Mr. Krier presumably paid as evidenced by postage due stamps totalling 4.80 francs!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

2-franc (brown) 1924 Esch Foundry Pictorial

Most collectors love certain stamps and some covers more than others. One of my favorite stamps is the two-franc brown Esch Foundry pictorial issued in 1924, used until the WWII German occupation.  It is seen below:
  • on a lovely registered advertising cover,
  • paying part of the samples rate on a samples tag, and
  • on a money letter to Berlin,

And overprinted 'Officiel’ on

  • covers to the Philippines, France,  Germany, and Belgium that were sent either by a government agency or on behalf of the royal family.
Curiously, official covers seem to be more common (and are given a substantially lower valuation in Prifix) than their non-official counterparts.  Well, maybe!

Luxembourg-Ville IV, April 20, 1927
to Berlin, Germany, April 22, 1927

75c postage + 1.50 F registry




Luxembourg-Ville, April 20, 1928,
to Zürich, Switzerland
m/s:  Echantillon [sample]
300-350-g = 2.10 F
(30c per 50-g)



Luxembourg-Ville, September 12, 1928
to Berlin, Germany

4.00 F letter rate to Germany [100-120 g letter]
1.50 F registry fee
1.00 F insurance fee [1 F/300 gfr]


Embossed seal
of GD Charlotte's Aide-de-Camp
Luxembourg-Ville III to Manila, US Philippine Islands
December 24, Christmas Eve, 1935
Rare destination!
'Service de la Grande Duchesse'
Overfranked 25c (UPU rate: 1.75 F)

Wax seal of GD Charlotte's
Administration des Biens [property]

Luxembourg-Ville, April 5, 1928, to Paris, France
'Service de la Grande Duchesse'
'Administration des Biens'
1 F postage + 1.50 F registry

Luxembourg-Ville, November 14, 1926, to Strausberg, Germany
Direction des Postes
75c postage - 1.50 F registry
Underfranked 25c
[The registry rate to Germany was increased by 25c on November 1, 1926]



Luxembourg-Ville IV, November 20, 1926
to Anvers [Antwerp], Belgium
Direction des Postes

50c (first 20 g of 174 g)
30c each add'l 20 g (30c x 8 = 2.40 F)
Registry fee = 1.50 F

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Airmail to the Élysée Palace for Exotic Dancer Erna Carise!

Erna Carise was a Viennese dancer who performed in the late 1920s and 1930s across Europe with Josephine Baker and Marga Berndt. This account in German at provides pertinent background information:

Die Wiener Tänzerin Erna Carise die das Carise-Ballett gründete, tourte mit Marga zwischen 1934-36 durch ganz Europa. Die Showeinlagen waren dem jeweiligen Spielort (Land) angepasst. In Deutschland nannten sich ihre Revue-Bilder dann z.B. Nordseekrabben oder Spiel am Meer. Die Tänze wurden oft mit Gesang begleitet durch Walter Jankuhn oder Mil Konstantinov Erna Carise machte sich einen Namen in dem Film Die Königin der Revue an der Seite von Josephine Baker.

This letter was sent to her from Luxembourg-Gare in the early afternoon (1:00 - 2:00 p.m.) of Friday, June 23, 1933, by airmail, addressed to the Elysees Palace (actually to the Palace guest residence at 12 rue de Marignan) in Paris.

Curiously, the sender (whose Brussels return address appears on the back flap) chose airmail service when direct airmail service from Luxembourg was not yet available. Until May 1, 1939, airmail letters were sent by surface transport to the closest French, Belgian or German airport best serving the letter's destination. In addition to surface rate Luxembourg franking, these letters also required foreign franking of the country of airmail dispatch sufficient to pay an airmail surcharge. For this purpose, French, Belgian and German stamps were available at Luxembourg post offices. The relevant currency conversions appear in the Basien-Hoffkamp rate book.

Here the 1.25 F Luxembourg airmail stamp ironically pays the surface rate, and the 75c French Allegory definitive pays the 75c French airmail surcharge. The letter appears to have gone by surface transport directly from Luxembourg to the Paris airport, as evidenced by the June 24, 1933 Paris R.P. Avion hand cancel on the 75c stamp and the 6:00 a.m. June 24 Paris R.P. Avion machine cancel on the back. Even quicker delivery might have been achieved if the sender had chosen special delivery instead of airmail service. And unfortunately we don't have the contents of the letter to the then very popular exotic dancer, which might explain the sender's urgency!

Shown below is the more typical routing through Strasbourg for airmail from Luxembourg to Paris during the 1930s:

Luxembourg - Strasbourg - Paris:

Again the Luxembourg franking pays the 1.25 F surface rate (and the 1.75 F registry fee) with the 25c and 50c French Sower definitives paying the airmail supplement. The letter was posted from Luxembourg-Gare on the morning (8:00-9:00 a.m.) of September 26, 1933, and was received at the Strasbourg airport at 15:00 (3:00 p.m.) later that day. It departed the Strasbourg airport an hour later (Strasbourg-Gare Avion backstamp, 16:00 (4:00 p.m.)) and shows a Paris distribution backstamp the next morning.

Perhaps because the Carise letter was posted in the afternoon, the Luxembourg routing clerk might have thought or knew it would miss what must have been a late afternoon flight from Strasbourg to Paris and that therefore it would travel more (or just as) quickly by train to Paris.