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.

The motif on this wooden hunting plate is dedicated to the integration of the Thuringian city of Ohrdruf into the express mail stagecoach system from Berlin to Munich on October 2, 1834.

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.

The entire organization of procedures at postal stations, including horse changes, rest, and meals, was optimized in an unprecedented way.

In this oil painting, the post bugle call signaling departure surprises an educated traveler, forcing him to abandon his meal: the stagecoach operated strictly on schedule!

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.

 Mail robbery became downright fashionable in the 18th century. In order to protect travelers and valuable goods from gangs of robbers, postal employees were armed.

 
The express post route map between Berlin and Leipzig is divided into stages for better legibility on the way. It indicates that long waits were to be expected at the marked state borders and time spent at the station was most strictly limited.

Simply by streamlining the organizational procedures at the post stations, travel times in the stagecoach era were shortened considerably. The passengers perceived this streamlining as speeding up the travel speed.


This stagecoach to Stuttgart departed from Frankfurt on February 13, 1823 punctually at noon. The traveler had to arrive at the post station one hour before departure, their carry-on luggage was limited, and the staff were prohibited from accepting tips.

The timetable diagram of postal arrivals and departures in Berlin is impressive due to the abundance of connections. In 1830, 93 express stagecoaches and 137 ordinary stagecoaches ran each week in the Prussian capital—in addition to an undetermined number of special mail routes.

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.

This multi-piece cutlery set consists of a cup, folding cutlery with a spoon, fork, and knife, a coffee spoon, spice shaker, toothpick, and a corkscrew. This essential travel utensil was probably made in Paris.

Notably, travelers with the special mail coaches who used their own carriage had to regularly make payments along the way—in contrast to the one-off fare payment for express mail journeys.

In 1835 a trip with the special mail coach from Berlin to Potsdam cost (for 3 horses, bribes, and fees for using highways and bridges) a total of 4 thaler, 28 silver groschen, and 3 pfennig.

Fees to cross bridges, use country roads, and access paved roads in cities were common.

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.

Credits: Story

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.

www.museumsstiftung.de

Sources:
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.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions (listed below) who have supplied the content.
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