Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Danish letter card for North Schleswig, probably unique. Why?

I want to show you the front and back of a letter-card sent from Kolding, a town close to the Danish border with Germany, as defined as a result of the war with Prussia in 1864 (changed again in 1920), to my town of birth, Haderslev, a few kilometers south of the same border.

The card looks a bit worn, but never mind. I consider it very rare if not unique, and if this holds true, a stain here or there and a bit of rust do not matter. Very probably it is the only card of this kind in existence.

Since the card does in itself not provide too much information I have had to dig it out from various sources, and only thanks to good friends in the philatelic world, I succeeded.

Its destination, Haderslev, is clear from the front. Equally so is the fact that it was transported by railway all the way to Haderslev. I know this is so from the postmark which says "FYEN.JB.P.B. 27.3. 3. TOG". This particular postmark was, according to "The Railway Post Offices of Denmark 1847-1972" from 1979 written by Anthony M. Goodbody, used by the railway post bureau created in 1865 in the island of Funen. The bureau covered the line between Nyborg and Middelfart.

In 1866 this line, however, was extended to Vamdrup in Jutland, which is important for the postal history behind our letter-card. Vamdrup, between 1864 and 1920 the very busy railway borderstation between Denmark and Germany, lies a few kilometers south of Kolding on the railway that would take the card to Haderslev. By the way, it was not until 1872 that the actual train wagons themselves were transferred from Funen to Jutland across the Sound of Lillebaelt since ferries made for the carrying of train wagons simply were not in use in Denmark prior to that year.

The reason why the route is important is the fact that the card bears no mention of the town of departure. However the knowledge we have on the name of the sender in combination with the message carried by the letter-card and the special rate used reveals that the town of departure is most certainly Kolding.

The senders name is Roose and the message concerns the deliveries of carriages with bran, a byproduct of grain processing. Roose was an important dealer in grain and feeding stuff in Kolding during the period 1870 – 1880.

The stamp used (2nd print of 4 øre bicolored) in combination with the 2 sk. stationery letter-card narrows the year of the sending of the card to 1875 more precisely 27th March 1875 according to the postmark. January 1st Denmark due to a monetary reform changed from Rigsdaler/Skilling to Kroner/Øre. 2 sk was converted to 4 øre. It follows that altogether the postage used was 8 øre.

But the rate at the time for letter cards to Germany was 10 øre? No postage due markings are found on the card. 8 øre, however, corresponds with the special border rate for Schleswig. This rate though was only valid for letters not for letter-cards except for the fact that until 30th June 1875, the day before Denmark joins the uniform rates of the UPU, lettercards were de facto treated like letters and among the very few Post Offices covered by the special border rate at the time were Kolding and Haderslev.

To sum up: This lettercard is characterized by 1) its mixed postage of sk. and øre, 2) its special border rate and 3) the fact that letter-cards were accepted de facto for this rate only between January, 1st and July, 1st 1875. Together these three characteristics make the letter-card rare, if not unique.

I want to thank Lars Engelbrecht and Jørgen Kluge, the latter being the author of an e-book on
Danish Border Mail, for their invaluable help in confirming my belief that the letter-card was and is a border-letter.

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