Saturday, December 18, 2010

pneu postmarkings

I think that I love cancellation stamps as much as I love the variety that you lick and stick. My husband and I posted all of our wedding correspondence from a little postoffice on the other side of town because of their beautiful cancellation stamp (it used to be the official postoffice for the Zoo, so had a butterfly wrapping itself around the date). Postal markings such as these tell all kinds of stories, about place and time and other aspects of the mileu.

Postal markings for pneumatic mail are of course no exception, and reveal something about the sociohistorical times during which post was sent via tubes. In an essay The Pneumatic Post of Paris by J.D. Hayhurst O.B.E, he writes about the markings in Paris:
"The 'postal' date stamp of 25 mm diameter incorporating a B was applied at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. Again these were usually struck in blue and sometimes in black, but in the first half of 1894 a number of of fives used a violet ink ... At the turn of the century new types of date stamp were introduced which, for the first time, showed the time of despatch of a pneu, so that it was no longer necessary to record this time in the daily register ... A pneu, during its journey from the sender to the addressee, might have to be transferred from one tube line to another and when this occurred the office of exchange applied its date stamp on the back. Using date stamps incorporating times, the times of each stage of a journey could be ascertained. At the big exchanges of Central and Bourse a stamp was mechanically applied. ... In the early days of the pneumatic post, pneus might be addressed, by accident or otherwise, beyond its boundaries; they were then endorsed in manuscript 'Hors limites' or 'Hors service' and transferred to the post. The sorters tired of writing and made up their own handstamps for these and other annotations. In this category of individual initiative handstamps is 'BOURSE B' (B for banlieue) applied to pneus arriving at Bourse for the suburbs after the last despatch and held there overnight"

Stamps such as these above are markers of the journey of 'the pneu', a tangible trace of the history of the post which says 'I have passed through this place on this date'. I love that the life of the post is recorded, however partially, and also the ways in which mail staff adapted the stamps to suit their own purposes, such as the handstamp to redirect wrongly addressed mail. I can't help but wonder what traces are left on contemporary 'packages' sent via pneumatic tube systems?

See my mother's blog for a post on a similar theme. Hand cancellation stamp images from Wikipedia and the beautiful first day cover from Motor Filatelisten Nederlands.


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