The crucial innovation in postal transport of the 19th century was the express mail system, introduced in 1821. While travelers between Berlin and Frankfurt in 1800 could expect their journey to take around 6 days, express mail in the 1820s needed only 2 and a half days.
The crucial innovation in postal transport in the 19th century was the introduction of express post by the Prussian postal advisor Gottlieb Heinrich Schmückert (1790-1862) in 1821.
He came up with the idea of bringing passenger transport up to the standard of courier delivery, to transport people "at the speed of horseback mail." The new postal services were also to be an "excellent means of transport" for travelers.
The French model
As forerunners of the express post, the fast French mail coaches are also called "Geschwind-Postkutschen" (speed coaches) in German. The centrally administered Kingdom of France had – in contrast to the network of small German states – a modern road network and a highly efficient postal system.
The first Prussian express postal route was opened in 1821 on the Koblenz-Cologne-Dusseldorf route. Express post soon followed in all of Prussia and in other European countries.
A mile-comparison chart based on 16 different European miles in the left-hand corner of the map gives an idea of the complicated distance calculations needed for longer journeys.
Speeding up travel
The technically improved express stagecoaches sat on English pressure springs. Newly created highways, called Chaussees, further increased comfort for travelers. At the time, these wagons were said to "hover along softly."
The express stagecoaches carried about 6 to 9 people and the trailer car, called the sidecar, offered the necessary space for mail and luggage.
On a strict schedule
In order to stick to their schedules, postilions and conductors were equipped with sealed fob watches. The time could then be determined precisely along the way, without relying on local church clocks.
This piece, made of leather, is lockable, preventing unauthorized access and tampering. This was important because the postilion would receive a penalty for late arrivals.
Travel: A privilege for the wealthy
While manuals warned travelers against an excess of suitcases and bags, which could easily be misinterpreted as an indication of wealth, there was still a significant need for luggage. The elaborate cross-stitching of this travel bag and the French lettering "Bon Voyage" suggests a wealthy owner.
The end of the stagecoach era
With the advent of rail and steam power, by about 1840, stagecoach traffic was mostly limited to train station shuttle services.
However, until their replacement by the railroad, stagecoaches and express stagecoaches were the fastest means of mass transportation. In a very real way, they represented the beginning of modern transportation.
You're almost flying! Traveling by express mail
A virtual exhibition by Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Curator: Katja Galinski
All objects are part of the collection of Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Berliner Postgeschichte. Postgeschichtliche Hefte der Bezirksgruppe Berlin der Gesellschaft für deutsche Postgeschichte e.V. Nr. 1 1982.
Wolfgang Lotz (Hg.): Deutsche Postgeschichte. Essays und Bilder, Berlin 1989.