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.

Memminger Chronicle for the year 1490, sheet 125, facsimile, Heinrich Löhlins, 1990, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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."

"500 years of mail" commemorative card, Deutsche Bundespost (DBP), 12.01.1990, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

"500 years of mail" commemorative card, Deutsche Bundespost (DBP), 12.01.1990, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

It went from Innsbruck ...

"500 years of mail" commemorative card, Deutsche Bundespost (DBP), 12.01.1990, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

... to Mechelen, near Brussels.

Weekly Ordinari Friedens= Und Kriegs=Currier. No. XIII. 25., Druckerei mit Verlag Felsecker, Nürnberg, 25.4.1684, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Post rider with mail horn and bag for transporting letters, unknown, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

"Felleisen" (satchel cased in iron), c. 1600, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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).

Representation of a mail carrier at Maximilian's court, Reichsdruckerei Berlin (Nachdruck), Hans Burgkmair der Ältere (Vorlage), 1885, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Postmaster General Franz von Taxis, Bundesdruckerei (Drucker), Karl Oskar Blase (Entwerfer), Hans-Joachim Fuchs (Stecher), 03.06.1967, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Distance-measure for the city of Augsburg, Caspar Augustin, 1629, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Emperor Rudolf II's letter from Prague to Augsburg, Kaiser Rudolf II. (Unterzeichner), 16.6.1595, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Message collection notice for the city of Nuremberg, 1610, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Postmaster General Lamoral von Taxis (1612–24), J. de Best und W. Goffin (Entwerfer), 14.05.1952, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Chest for valuables with large crossbar and key, M1800, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Postal order of the Brunswick-Lüneburg State Post Office, Andreas Holwein, Celle (Drucker), 1682, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication
Postal order of the Prussian State Post Office, Hofdruckerei Ulrich Liebpert, Cölln an der Spree, 1712 (Druckdatum), From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Electoral Prince Friedrich Wilhelm's letter from Cleves to Hannover, Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (Unterzeichner), 05.08.1649, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

"Keyserliche Post" posthouse sign, before 1686, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Map of mail routes in Germany, Johann Peter Nell Johann Baptist Homann (1664 - 1724), 1714, From the collection of: Museum for Communication Nuremberg, Museum Foundation Post and Telecommunication

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.

Credits: Story

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.

www.museumsstiftung.de

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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