Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Postmarks (1)

Some time ago I told you about the treasure chest my Mother gave me. It was full of letters and picture postcards of my Mother's pre war movie star collection. All letters etc. have been mailed during the 30s and 40s of last century. Making an inventory list is now well underway and, as far as the number of  documents is concerned, I am now close to the 400 mark! The total will probably be somewhere near the 450 pieces. And then starts the task of reading them all. And remember, people did not yet use typewriters for their private correspondence. So there is a lot of deciphering to do!
While making this inventory I noticed a variety of postmarks. I don't mean the ordinary ones but those with a message. Usually these messages served a government or post office sponsored purpose. In Dutch these postmarks are called flag marks (vlagstempels). Many of these marks are indicative for the era they have been used in. For that reason I think it may be interesting to show a number of them.
July 28, 1933: Gebruikt bij voorkeur Nederlandsch fabrikaat
 "Preferably use Dutch manufacture" was the phrase to stimulate people to buy Dutch made materials. In the thirties economic growth was minimal. There was a high rate of unemployment and obviously the government was interested to keep as many people employed as possible. So rather than spending money on imported goods, the government promoted "domestic consumption". Today the EC would call this protectionism...
July 29, 1933: zij Nederland Uw Vacantieland
"Let The Netherlands be your holiday country" is another government effort to convince people to spend their money domestically rather than abroad.
April 3, 1934: Tuberculosebestrijding Emmabloemcollecte in April
"Combat tuberculosis Emma flower collection in April" was one of the slogans used to stimulate the population to donate money to the Emma foundation, a charity organization. Emma (1858-1934) was the Queen Mother of Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands. To give you an impression of the amount collected, in 1939 the proceeds amounted to 131.670 Dutch guilders.  That's over  € 1,1 million today. Considering this amount you have to take into account that economic circumstances were poor and the number of inhabitants  was some 8,000,000 people less than today (= 16,700,000). An average laborer earned approx 20 guilders/week.
July 26, 1935: Cultureele en sociale zorg Koopt zomerzegels
 "Cultural and social care Buy summer stamps" is a motto to remind people to buy these stamps. Traditionally the the proceeds benefited the less fortunate.
August 30, 1939: Postzegels rechts-boven in den hoek! Vlugger verzending
"Stamps in the upper right hand corner! Faster shipping", a slogan meant to benefit the Post Office, I think. I am assuming they already used some kind of a stamping machine to cancel stamps. With the stamp elsewhere on the envelope, the stamp would remain valid...
This very envelope was used by my Dad on the first day of mobilization in The Netherlands. And since soldiers did not need to use stamps, he wrote the word "military" instead. But the Post Office people obviously did not know about this facility and charged my mother with  10 cents additional surcharge... 
September 4, 1939: Verzend per luchtpost
"Send by airmail" was used to promote the more expensive mail services offered by airlines, in particular KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.  Especially flights to the former Dutch Indies and to the Dutch Antilles depended very much on mail revenues. And, compared to surface transportation taking weeks, it was a much better service.
To be continued


  1. Those post office messages are a history lesson in themselves.

  2. Thank you Peter for such an interesting post. I too, received a few small treasure boxes from my grandmother, such a joy to have them, I only wish my mother had done the same! A very nice post!

  3. @Little Nell
    Yes, and the more interesting ones (WW2) are yet to come...
    Indeed, that is a pity, But maybe you can do better for your kids :)

    Thank you for your comments!

  4. A box full of documents is a treasure. Enjoy! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I cant help wondering what messages the Greeks might want to put on their letters to Germany today...?!!!

  6. @Prenter
    And what is even better, it provides numerous subjects to write about :)
    Thanks for coming in!

  7. How interesting! I just received a large lot of stamps - I should go through and post what I discover! I'm thinking of using the "Alien" one I mentioned on Mels' blog for a collage I am doing on Classic Science Fiction - some how seems appropriate LOL.

  8. @tony
    Historically the Greek are an intelligent people. So I think they will abstain from "funny" remarks...
    Thanks for following my blog. I'll keep an eye on your forthcoming collage to see how you blend the "Alien" cancellation into your Classic Science Fiction subject :)


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