Posts by Andre

    Dear Edward,

    I regret that I can not give better information, but the Russian postal history is not my field of expertise and in my library were unfortunately no answers to your questions.

    The book "Disinfected Mail" of Dr. Meyer was published in Kansas in 1962 (…nfected-mail-study-circle ) and is still a reference on this subject. Denis has been studying disinfected mail for decades and is publisher of the Pratique, the newsletter of the study circle. He is one of the few experts who are familiar with the disinfection of mail around the world. Regarding the postal routes he told me "I regret my knowledge of Russian rail routes was never more than minimal. Mr. Chu should try googling for this, although there may now be a book on this topic. Certainly the internet will give him dates of rail route openings."

    Yours sincerely

    André Thomas…-und-baikal-18836943.html

    Dear Edward,

    I got a message from Denis Vandervelde in London concerning your letter: "... I am fairly sure the 'label' on his envelope has nothing to do with disinfection of mail, (which was discontinued in the UK in the 1840s.) I think someone has 'mended' the envelope with a strip of sticky paper from a product bought in a shop, possibly cleaning instructions. I have seen edging from sheets of stamps used in this way."

    Kind regards,


    Dear Edward,

    I have to apologize if you got the impression that the article "RUSSIAN DISINFECTION of mail, 1897 - 1914" comes from me. The article was published on the website of the Rossica Society . There is a similar publication in the DMSC newsletter, but this one is not available online. My main interest is the disinfected mail of Spain. I'm not an expert of the postal history of China or Russia. At the end of next week I have some time left and I hope to find answers of your questions in my literature archive.

    Best regards,


    Dear Edward,

    I forgot to mention that Dr. Meyer wrote in the chapter of the British Isles of his book about disinfected mail: "Mail disinfection seems to have ceased more or less spontaneously between 1850 and 1860."

    Denis Vandervelde told me once: "By 1843 Britain was no longer disinfecting mail."

    You are welcome,


    Dear Edward,

    Thank you very much for showing this cover. The item shows no signs of disinfection (discolouration because of vinegar or slitting). Unfortunately I haven't seen a label like this before and so we will not know the complete text of the label and its meaning. Because of the English language it will be probably applied in Britain. Is it possible to send a better picture of the fragment of the label? Than I would forward it to Denis in London.

    Best regards,


    The HMS Bellerophon arrived in Gibraltar on Oct. 9th, 1850 and was cleared for Westward on Oct. 11th. I assume that the letter was sent by the HMS Rattler to Liverpool. The HMS Rattler arrived in Liverpool on Oct. 21st, 1850 and was comming from Gibraltar. The postmark of Liverpool is from the same day which could mean that the the ship had free pratique. This would confirm your guess that the letter was disinfected in Gibraltar.

    Dear Hedy,

    Thank you very much for showing this interesting document! Unfortunately the low resolution makes the pages hard to read.

    I can recommend a book to people who are interested in the Baltic pest: "The Last Plague in the Baltic Region 1709-1713" by Karl-Erik Frandsen. On page 268 it deals with the disinfection of mail at the cordon sanitaire "When the cordon had been established, they had to designate a place where the mail bag could be delivered. The area had to be fenced in and covered, so the post would not affected by the rain and humidity. Firewood and a sharp fumigant of juniper and sulphur had to be provided to smoke the mail bags before these were brought by the walking postman to Copenhagen. The postman coming from Copenhagen had to fumigate the mail bags before he signed for them and left."

    It would be interesting to see disinfected letters from this period but they seem to be rarer than diamonds.

    Kind regards,


    The Peninsular War, a letter from the besieged Cádiz

    Historical background

    We write the year 1807. Napoleon’s pact with Russia at Tilsit left him free to turn his attention toward Britain and to the two powers that remained friendly to Britain: Sweden and Portugal. Napoleon summoned the Portuguese to close their ports to the British to complete the Continental System which was designed to make economic war. When the Portuguese proved dilatory, Napoleon ordered General Junot to march with a force of 30,000 through Spain to Portugal. The Portuguese royal family fled to Brazil. Portugal and parts of northern Spain were conquered by the French army. The Spanish minister Godoy, who was known for his friendly policy toward Napoleon I., persuaded his king Charles IV to escape to South America but Charles was overthrown by the revolt of Aranjuez and abdicated in favour of his son Ferdinand. Under the leadership of General Murat, French troops occupied Madrid. On May 5th, 1808 Napoleon forced Ferdinand to return the crown to his father, who gave it to Napoleon. Napoleon made his brother Joseph Bonaparte king of Spain and held Ferdinand in France for the duration of the war (he returned to Spain and the throne in March 1814). Patriotic Spain risen against the invader, and the war for Spanish independence (Peninsular War) had begun. Cádiz is situated on a narrow slice of land surrounded by the sea, was an important naval base and gave the Spanish and their British allies an ideal base for amphibious operations along the south coast of Spain. Following the occupation of Seville, the town became the Spanish seat of power. The French siege of Cádiz lasted from Feb. 5th, 1810 to Aug. 24th, 1812. The Battle of Salamanca (July 22th, 1812) eventually forced the French troops to retreat from Andalusia.

    The letter

    The letter I would like to introduce below is a business letter. He was written in Cádiz by the merchant Don Gerónimo Martínez García on Feb. 14th, 1810, nine days after the beginning of the siege and has a supplement at the end of the letter which was written on Feb. 20th. At this point of war nearly all of Spain was under the rule of Emperor Napoleon. The letter is addressed to Don Juan Lacoste in London and reached the recipient after 19 days.

    The disinfection

    Because of the sea trade with the Spanish colonies in America, the port of Cadiz was often plagued by yellow fever. At the beginning of the year 1810, however, no such epidemic became known. The letter arrived in England at Plymouth Dock (the name was changed to Devonport in 1824) and shows the typical discoloration that are the result from disinfection by splashing with vinegar. The treatment most likely took place at the Mother Bank quarantine station near Portsmouth. The slitting of letters was not common there until Sept. 11th, 1813. According to the quarantine act of 1805 (clause 45) ships to sail to the Mediterranean from any port of Britain have to „provide and take on board a proper quantity of materials and instruments for fumigation and immersion, and shall keep the same on board, to be used in the manner herein directed, upon return of such ship or vessel to any port or place in Great Britain.“ Therefore, it is theoretically possible that the disinfection took place on board of the ship.

    The letter from a postal point of view

    – The recipient had to pay 2/4d (two shillings and four pence) for this double letter. It was charged: a ship letter fee (carried by an Post Office Agent, rate of 1799) of 2x 4d and and an inland fee (Act of 1805) from Plymouth Dock (port of landing) to London of 2x 10d (distance between 170 and 230 miles).

    – The postmark “CADIZ” exist in different variants and it was used from 1779 to 1836. The variant used on the letter is known for the period from 1806 to 1811.

    – Initially the majority of ships accommodated at Plymouth Dock were naval vessels. Merchantmen sailed to and from the adjacent port of Plymouth. The oval ship letter handstamp of Plymouth Dock is known in black ink from 1800–1809 and in red ink from 1810–1814. Robertson noted in his book A History of the Ship Letters of the British Isles that the red version is usually found on letters comming from the Peninsular, and not infrequently on letters carried by naval vessels engaged in the campaigns of that time. The term SHIP LETTER shall means a letter transmitted by a vessel not under contract to the Post Office.


    Encyclopedia Britannica (historical background); Robertson, A.W. A History of the Ship Letters of the British Isles (quarantine in Britain and the ship letter handstamp of Plymouth Dock); Robinson, D. British Postal Rates (postal rates of Britain); Vandervelde, D. Pratique XXXV (Mother Bank quarantine station); Tizon, M. Prefilatelia Español (postmark of Cádiz)

    The letter was written in Mexiko (May 30th 1846) and sent with the brig "Aguila" from Havana to Spain. There is a manuscript "Por Cadiz" but the applied type of "YNDIAS" mark was not used in Cadiz.

    The "YNDIAS" mark was necessary to calculate the correct postage which was collected by the recipient. The type with the slooped "S" was used from 1839-1856 and is known from Santander, Vigo and Bilbao. This lead to the assumption that the brig had to perform quarantine in San Simon (Vigo) before the ship was allowed to travel to Cadiz. The letter was scratched twice with a sharp blade for fumigation.

    The recipient had to pay 26 Reales for a letter up to 1,5 ounces from Cuba to Spain.


    Dear Bjoern,

    Thank you for showing this interesting letter! In my opinion the slit was done for disinfection but the lack of a cachet from the quarantine station makes it difficult to locate the place of disinfection - That's very pity.

    As far as I could find out there were no important epidemics at this time in Europe. The New York Times mentioned Cholera in Hungary in 1873. The Encyclopedia of Plague and Pestilence listed smallpox in Europe from 1870/75, which raged in Italy 1870/72. This does not really helps. All we can say is that the letter was not disinfected in Germany and that slitting mail was typically for Italy.

    Maybe someone else can contribute more information.

    Yours sincerely,


    The cachet "Geräuchert vom Contumaz-Amte / zu SEMLIN am ... (date)" of the quarantine station of Semlin is found on letters from 1832/33. There was also offered a letter of 1835 with this cachet at an auction but the date of the cachet was not clear visible so I'm not sure if 1835 is correct.

    I noticed that there exist variants of this cachet. These cachets differ, among other things, that no, some or all words are in italics.

    1)"Geräuchert vom Contumaz-Amte / zu SEMLIN am ... (date)" (1832, 1833)

    2)"Geräuchert vom Contumaz-Amte / zu SEMLIN am ... (date)" (1833)

    3)"Geräuchert vom Contumaz-Amte / zu SEMLIN am ... (date)" (1833)

    The attached photograph shows a letter written in Constantinople and sent to Triest with cachet "Geräuchert vom Contumaz-Amte / zu SEMLIN am 23. Nov. 1833".


    I'm interested to see further letters with this cachet.


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    Good news. I found photographs of the same seal in the book "Österreichische und ungarische Posteinrichtungen in den Donaufürstentümern 1782-1880" (Part 1, page 144) by Dr. G. Gmach. The seal was found on letters from Constantinople to Triest and Germany in 1822 and was used by the quarantine station of Schuppanek.

    Instructions what to do if there are pest-like diseases (Austria, first half of 1800)

    § 24 a

    Letters and parcels have to been decontaminated in fumigation boxes using a special powder (–> § 8.3)

    § 8.3

    The fumigation powder is a mixture of 1 part sulfur, 1 part saltpetre, 4 parts wheat bran. The powder will be sprinkled on glowing coals.




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