As early as the 17th century, Franz von Taxis (1459–1517) was considered the inventor of the Post Office. At the request of Emperor Maximilian I, the noble Taxis family had been building a completely new communication network in Central Europe since the end of the 15th century. Throughout the Empire, the family had set up stations where riders and horses were changed. A reliable transport system for information, for people, and for monetary transactions, which regularly and quickly covered distances and was also accessible to the public, thereby came about—the Post Office.
The chronicle of the old Swabian Imperial City of Memmingen told of the year 1490: "This year, on the orders of Maximilian I, the mail began to be ordered."
The Taxis family's first postal route was created in 1490 between the old Hapsburg lands in Tyrol and the newly acquired areas in the Netherlands.
It went from Innsbruck ...
... to Mechelen, near Brussels.
The Post Office set new standards in terms of the speed of transport through the regular changing of riders and horses at the relay or courier stations and through running transport day and night.
The mail carriers announced themselves with a horn signal.
At the station, the bag of mail was passed to the next rider with a fresh horse.
The mail signal opened tollgates and city gates.
The post riders carried the letters in a "Felleisen," a satchel cased in iron, which was placed behind them on the horse.
The word "Felleisen" or "Valleis" is derived from the Italian "valiglia" or French "valise" (suitcase).
Until the establishment of the Taxis family's postal system, Maximilian sent all of his correspondence to the recipient by footmen or mounted couriers, without the shipments being passed from hand to hand along the way.
Only the long-distance postal routes between the main political cities of Madrid, Rome, Vienna, and Prague, as well as the economic centers of Antwerp and Venice, were included in the European postal system in the 16th and early 17th centuries.
In 1597, to protect the Taxis family's postal service, which had been reorganized following a serious postal crisis, the emperor issued a postal monopoly right in relation to competition within the messenger systems. This granted him the sole right to operate a postal system.
The Messenger Plan signified a well-developed service in the transportation of messages.
Only in 1615 did the Taxis family open an imperial post office in Nuremberg, which immediately established a connection to Frankfurt am Main.
In 1615, Emperor Matthias granted the Taxis family the postal service as a fiefdom that could be inherited.
Private investment in the expansion of postal structures was now secure.
From the routes, the Network Postal Service was developed.
For the Taxis family (known as the "von Thurn and Taxis" family from 1650) the postal service developed over the 17th century into a communications institute receiving stately profits and great acclaim.
After the Peace of Westphalia, the Protestant imperial princes in the northeast of the Empire created their own State postal systems, independent of the Emperor and the Empire, to strengthen their state administration.
Under Electoral Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, in the mid-17th century, the Brandenburg State Post Office was created.
When the Kingdom of Prussia was founded in 1701, this became the Prussian State Postal Service.
The territorial fragmentation of Germany, as well as the rivalries between the Imperial Postal Service and the State postal systems, affected the postal exchange considerably.
The weakened imperial central authority recognized the controversial legitimacy of the State postal systems.
The Imperial Postal Service finally cooperated with the State postal systems on areas of postal interest.
Franz von Taxis and the invention of the post
A virtual exhibition by the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.
Curator: Dr. Veit Didczuneit
All objects from the collection of the Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation.