Austria Stamp History 1

The History of the First Austrian Postage Stamps By Edwin Mueller

submitted by Reggie Salmon

Published in The National Philatelic Museum Bulletin -June 1950

The idea of using adhesive labels for the payment of postage, first realized in Great Britain in I840, made comparatively slow progress in the following years. It took three years before other countries adopted the idea and to the end of 1848 altogether only five countries (two in Europe and three overseas) had started to use postage stamps. The first postage stamps were almost entirely used on domestic mail and few, if any reached other countries; in the case of letters to foreign countries no changes in the method of franking were made and payment of postage in cash remained the regular procedure. Travelers from the countries where postage stamps were used occasionally reported about this new method for the payment of postage, which was not considered of major importance and therefore quite neglected by the contemporary press and its writers. It seems that it took years before the news spread and the postal authorities of the various countries realized the importance of the new method of collecting postage and its tremendous influence of the development of the mail service.

In Austria, the first signs that the idea of postage stamps had taken hold can be found in the official files of January 1849, when the director of the Postal Communications Bureau, Vierthaler, suggested in a report concerning the development of the mail service that adhesive postage stamps should be issued in Austria to follow the example of Great Britain and the other countries. In Europe at that time postage stamps were in use only in Great Britain and Switzerland and were just being introduced in France; it is improbable that any of the stamps used at that time in overseas counties (Brazil, United States and Mauritius) were known in Austria at all. Therefore, only the stamps of the three European countries may have influenced Vierthaler to make his suggestion. No proposals about the details of the postage stamps to be issued seem to have been made by Vierthaler. The Austrian Postal Administration, always favoring progressive idea took up the suggestion and decided to study the question. To get first-hand information, Postal Inspector Dr. Johann Herz was sent to Western Europe. He started in May 1849 and visited Belgium, France and Great Britain, studying not only the use of postage stamps, but also their manufacture and distribution. Returned to Vienna Dr, Herz wrote a very extensive report about his observations which he presented to the Minister for Commerce Freiherr von Bruck, on July 10, 1849. He made suggestions for the issuance of the postage stamps in Austria based mainly on his observations abroad as well as on a detailed report he had received from the Bavarian Postal Administration concerning the preparations for the issuance of postage stamps in that country. In a resume, Dr. Herz advocated the issuance of postage stamps in Austria as soon as possible and laid down the main principles which were eventually almost in their entity accepted for the first Austrian stamps. Therefore Dr. Johann Herz is entitled to be called the "Father of the Austrian Postage Stamps". His ideas in some regard based on his observations in other countries but in many details new and quite daring, were fulfilled in the first issue of postage stamps.