Little Bits of History

October 18

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 18, 2017

1558: King Sigismund II grants the right to establish a postal service. Cracow, Poland was a bustling commercial center in the 14th and 15th centuries. They needed reliable communication networks with their marketing partners in Germany as well as Italy. The Fugger family established a copper trade in the city and began a private service, the Fugger Post. Although initially used only for their own business dealings, eventually the king, queen, and vice-chancellor were also using the service. A second service, the Seweryn Boner’s post, was used for private correspondence between individuals. They partnered with two other private postal services and attempted to create regular postal service in Cracow, but after the death of Seweryn, the service shut down.

Queen Bona Sforza, was the impetus behind the royal decree issued on this day. She was interested because King Sigismund needed regular and reliable correspondence with Italy in order to collect his inheritance. The decree gave the right to establish and manage the post to the Italian Prospero Provana. The services ran from Cracow to Venice and could be used by private people even though the entire cost of the service was borne by the King. There was trouble and in Provana, they had issues with other Thurn and Taxis who carried mail to Austria, Hungary, and throughout Italy. After four years, the King withdrew the benefit granted to Provana.

There is evidence of early royal couriers who were in charge of Egyptian Pharaoh’s correspondence and decrees from as early as 2400 BC. The idea may have been in use for far longer and there is no actual beginning date for moving messages. By the time of the Persian Empire, an early postal system was in use along the Royal Road. The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis began regular mail service from Brussels in the 1500s and directed the Imperial Post of the Holy Roman Empire. The oldest functioning post office is located on High Street in Sanquhar, Scotland (according to the British Postal Museum). When there is an official method of sending messages, there is often also an associated issue with intercepting and censoring the messages and in France, these offices were Cabinets noirs.

At one time, it was necessary to take any correspondence to the local post office, buy the right to have it shipped, and then sending it on. Or you might send it on and the person receiving it would pay the cost (or not). Then the postage stamp was created. These were small pieces of paper issued by the service for a set fee which could be attached to correspondence and then dropping it off via a mailbox or at a centralized collection area. It would then be delivered to the addressee. These came on the scene in the 1840 when England issued the Penny Black. It wasn’t long before collectors began to amass the various versions of stamps and philatelists began to help preserve the history of the mail systems.

Well, the post office is probably not the place you want to go if you want to be infused with patriotism and a renewed sense of vigor. – Adam Carolla

Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas. – Johnny Carson

I don’t buy a lot when I travel, but when I do, I like to send gifts from wherever I am. It’s fun to find the local post office. – Juliana Hatfield

The way I understand it, the Russians are sort of a combination of evil and incompetence… sort of like the Post Office with tanks. – Emo Philips



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