Messengers and delivery fees: Botenlohn

Back to main narrative Many examples are here; some are rare!

What is Botenlohn?

The postal term Botenlohn (German plural Botenlöhne) has been well-known for centuries. It means "messenger fee": money paid to the system and/or to the messenger who has hand-delivered an item. As applied to the pneumatic post, it is a fee levied for deliveries to places not included in the free delivery area; it began in 1880 and seems to have been generally superseded in 1887, although we know of examples from 1904 and in principle it could have lasted until the system closed in 1956.

The matter itself seems to be rather complicated; and after the introduction of Telegrams in 1850, "Express" postal delivery in 1859, and Pneumatic Post in Vienna in 1875, was interlocked between the Post and Telegraph sectors, which at that time were still independent. Until now nobody seems to have written anything like "The History of the Austrian Botenlohn"; having made the attempt Dr. Kainz and the authors can understand why.

Botenlohn in the postal service

State-run post-offices, called "ärarische Postämter", must have had some staff for special deliveries. Postmasters in privately-owned post offices ("nichtärarische Postämter") were free contractors and had to hire a messenger for an agreed fee: and pay it themselves. Such fees would dependent on the distance, on the time of day, on good or bad weather, and on local circumstances (mountains, rivers, etc). Therefore a generally prescribed Botenlohn couldn’t exist.

Undoubtedly it wasn’t the business of the post to find out geographical details or circumstances. That belonged to the local government authorities. Their information must have been the basis for the local postal administration to fix a Botenlohn; if necessary for each post-office or postal station separately. Klein** reflects these thoughts ("Der Botenlohn war je nach den Ortsbestimmungen verschieden hoch…"): the Botenlohn was not - could not be - a generally prescribed fee. It "depended on", and changed ad-hoc when the conditions changed. The postal Botenlohn continued long after 1900 - it can be found in the 1957 Postordnung!

** "Die postalischen Abstempelungen und andere Entwertungsarten auf den österreichischen Postwertzeichen-Ausgaben 1867, 1883 und 1890" 1973, volume 2 section 9 "Rohrpost".

Botenlohn in the telegraph service

In the early 1850s the Telegraph sector was established, separate from the Post. Both services had their own offices, personnel, messengers, prescriptions, regulations etc. Of course a minimum of co-operation was necessary, and grudgingly given. The two services were combined in 1883 (and it didn't last!).

For the Telegraph sector a Botenlohn was also important: (1) for the delivery of telegrams from 1850; the Botenlöhne were prescribed ad-hoc; (2) after 1875 for the growing Telegraph-run Pneumatic Post in Vienna. But as the Pneumatic Post was restricted to Vienna (and later Prague; but it remained irrelevant to almost all Telegraph and Postal staff & offices) its regulations - including Botenlöhne - were rarely mentioned in general prescriptions, handbooks etc. The "1887 Verordnung" is a rare exception. Another is a section of Bartl's Handbook for 1890.

In the telegraph sector, forms were used such as D.S. 857 (new edition 1886) entitled "Consignation über ausbezahlte Botenlöhne für ausserhalb des Amtsortes bestellte Telegramme" (accounting-form for messenger fees for telegramme deliveries outside the office’s district). As a general rule, each Messenger, whether in postal or telegraph service, collected the prescribed fees and brought the cash back to his office where it was handed in and accounted for. The period is unknown, and may have depended on the contract with the individual messenger.

The 1875 instruction manual for the State Telegraph Messengers

The Instruction für die Staats-Telegraphenboten in Wien 1875 (ie the instruction manual for the State Telegraph Messengers) is reproduced here as a (large) PDF file. By 1875, delivery of Telegrammes within Vienna had been happening for some 25 years, so there was no need to explain everything in detail. Relevant sections, with their numbers in {curly brackets}, are:

{1} The Telegraph messengers are responsible for the delivery of telegraphic despatches and pneumatic letters.

{2} the messengers are hired by the nieder-österreichischen Telegraphen-Direktion. Each must deposit a security of 10 Gulden, which according to {35} is to be put in the Sparkasse and returned to him with the interest when he leaves.

{3} the messenger gets an "Entlohnung".

We do not know whether or not a messenger received a wage, or regular payment. If there was one, it would have been adjusted from time to time in accordance with prevailing wage rates.  However this manual gives no clue as to how much such a basic wage would have been in 1875 - indeed the wording is consistent with it being zero or non-zero. We do know that in 1875 a messenger received a 4kr fixed fee per successful delivery as described later. Notice that the 4 kreuzer is not mentioned specifically in the text of the instruction manual, any more than a specific wage is; the 4 kreuzer appears only in the two appendices that give samples of what the two filled-out forms should look like.

{4} ...describes their official clothes... "Einem grünen Burnus mit Kapuze, orangegelbem Passepoil und zwei Reihen Adlerknöpfen" (A green hooded cloak, orange-gold piping and two rows of buttons with eagles upon them). The Direktion buys this, but the messenger has to pay back the cost. {31} says specifically that the cost of the uniform is taken out of the delivery fees (Bestellgebühren).

{6} ... whilst on duty they must display a friendly and outgoing disposition, and are forbidden to spend time in wine bars or coffee houses.

{8} ... they may not solicit gifts from those to whom they deliver [but there is no specific prohibition on accepting them!]

{10} they must perform their duties personally: no unofficial substitutes.

{14} The delivery area is limited to those streets in the index appended to the manual.

{17} The messenger is limited to ten items per round (but seems not to have been restricted in rounds per day.) If only one item arrives for delivery, he is nevertheless to set off with it forthwith, and not wait for the arrival of the next train.

{19} a signed Empfangschein (delivery receipt) must be obtained for each item. There are rules about who is allowed to receive something - different for a private house and for a business.

{20} ... if the addressee will not pay any charges that may be written on the envelope it is to be brought back to the Station.

{21} items marked "Eigenhändig" are to be delivered only to the named addressee.

{31} applies to messengers who are regular employees, not temps hired by the day. They are rotated among stations, and when their turn comes, must do night duty at the Centrale {32}. They have three specific duties at the station to which they are currently rotated: (a) to deliver telegrams and pneumatic letters; (b) to take telegrams and pneumatic letters from acceptance offices (Annahme-Ämter) in the station’s district back to the station; (c) to do the cleaning if the boss says so {33}.

The Manual contains a street index, listing which streets (or parts of streets) are served by which office. A specimen page is here and the complete Manual including the full list is here as a PDF file.

The Manual also contains specimen "Verzeichnis" and "Consignation" forms. The first is a list of the items taken out on a delivery round (or brought back after collection from an accepting office), with the 4Kr fee for each, and the second form is a weekly summary of the first. These forms were unique, and are not found or mentioned anywhere else. Inordinately oversized and very heavy ledgers exist, containing collections of forms made at the end of the 19th century (the "Drucksortensammlung": compare this Post Office list). However, the Telegraph one appears not to contain any form on which the word "Rohrpost" appears; this could be because such forms were only used by a few telegraph offices in Vienna. Also in 1884 the k.k. Central Telegraphen Depot was closed and all Telegraph material was supplied by the Post-Oekonomie-Verwaltung.

For delivering and collecting, they earn 4 kreuzer per piece they handle. For cleaning, they specifically get NO extra remuneration. They make a daily record of every delivering and collecting item (the Verzeichnis), and then summarize that into a weekly record (the Consignation). All these forms are appropriately examined and countersigned. They get paid the fees on the weekly record at the Expeditionslocal of the Telegraphen Centralstation (so they seem to go there personally to collect their weekly fees) MINUS, it is explicitly stated, any penalties, charges for uniform, and any other stoppages to which they might be subject.

There is NO place where we see anything to mean that the messengers collected any fees from recipients: indeed, some of the pneumatic stationery explicitly says "delivery is free". The messenger is forbidden {27} from carrying anything to the Station for the customer - but he is allowed to search for the customer within his current district if he has reason to believe the customer is in a specific location. So perhaps the 4Kr is only paid for successful delivery.

Sending an item from a location not on the Pneumatic network

The town of Vienna was much larger than the early Pneumatic network; how could customers in remote areas benefit from the new service? Up to about July 1880, customers had to use their initiative! They would have to use (and thus to have previously bought) the prescribed Pneumatic stationery; and to take it (or more likely have it taken by their employee or servant) to an office not on the pneumatic network. There, they would order and pay for a private messenger to take it to the nearest Pneumatic station. Post Offices would have had messengers available, as they would need them to deliver express post. And the 1891 "Southern Germany & Austria" Baedeker says that private messengers ("Commissionaires" – "Dienstmänner") existed in Vienna (perhaps only in the centre?) who would carry items up to 10kg for 10Kr within a Bezirk; 20Kr to an adjacent Bezirk; and 15Kr for each additional Bezirk. Baedeker adds that these charges were doubled at night (which was defined as 9pm-7am in summer, 8pm-8am in winter).

At some date shortly before July 1880, the postal authorities enacted that a pneumatic item found in the normal yellow post-boxes was to be taken by a postal messenger ("Eilboten") to the nearest Pneumatic station.

In July 1880, as stated in Telegraph Ordinance Nr 9 of 10 July 1880 (**), the Pneumatic Post had enlarged its service by establishing red post boxes in the City (and soon in other districts too), emptied every 20 minutes between 8am and 8:30pm by special "Rohrpostsammelboten" (ie pneumatic mail collectors). According to Hajek this new facility for customers was very important for the development of the Pneumatic Post in the whole town. By 1895 the number of red pneumatic boxes had increased to 427.

** We have discovered the same information in Decree H.M.Z. 18.979 dated 16 June 1880, "Einführung pneumatischer Correspondenz­karten mit bezahlter Antwort und Regelung des pneumatischen Local­verkehres in Wien." which is transcribed in Kropf pp 262-3.

Botenlohn in operation in the pneumatic post

Initially, the delivery of pneumatic mail was restricted to "Wien within the Linienwälle" [more or less the line of today's Gürtel; see the "Founding Ordinance for Vienna's Pneumatic Post "]; the costs of the delivery were included in the fee of 20Kr. On the 1st of August 1879, the delivery district was extended to Districts I to IX excluding the Brigittenau but including limited parts (...up to the third coffee house...) of the Prater area. The first pneumatic postcard was also issued on that date; it cost 10Kr and bore the legend "Delivery is free". See "Introduction of Correspondence-cards for pneumatic forwarding in Vienna" dated 8 August 1879

That changed from 1880, as the success of the pneumatic system led to expansion of the network and extension to additional postal districts. Telegraph Ordinance Nr 9 lists the 16 pneumatic stations then open (Neubau and Fünfhaus were brand-new) and adds Fünfhaus, Sechshaus & Rudolfsheim to the free-delivery area. It continues (in translation): Also, such letters and Correspondence-cards can be handed in for addressees in Gaudenzdorf and Meidling; these are delivered from the station in Fünfhaus by express messengers against the payment of a Botenlohn of 10 Kr for delivery to Gaudenzdorf and of 15 Kr for delivery to Meidling. This is the first documented arrangement for Botenlöhne in the pneumatic post. A "Post-Büchel" of 1888 (these were small booklets produced by the Post Office employees Trades Unions, probably to give to customers in exchange for Christmas tips) confirms this, adding Neu-Margarethen to the fee-paying delivery district.

The same Telegraph Ordinance Nr 9 introduced the reply-paid correspondence card; the delivery messenger would wait up to 5 minutes for the reply. Red letter-boxes were installed for pneumatic mail, with half-hourly collection between 08:00 and 8:30; however items franked with adhesives (as opposed to the correct imprinted stationery) would not receive pneumatic service.

Klein vol II page 716 remarks that Botenlöhne must in general have been determined locally by the authorities of the delivery district, as the conditions, distances etc varied from place to place and time to time. The actual amounts marked on items of mail suggest that the Botenlohn varied according to the location, and was higher than otherwise in the colder season and in the later evening. Botenlöhne of 10, 15, 20 and a solitary example of 30 Kr are recorded in the literature - but the first examples below are 5 Kr and we show two of 30 Kr! Dr Kainz suggested in a letter to A Taylor that, on the fragmentary documentary evidence available and by analogy with the similar discussions when Express Delivery was introduced, the pragmatic rule was "if the standard fee is deemed inadequate, double it". Compare the Baedeker extract above. Considering that some of the offices were "nicht-ärarisch" (ie privately-owned) whose owner had to hire a messenger whenever one was needed (or pay for a permanent one out of his own pocket), the scope for individually-negotiated fees seems large! Note that the provisions of Telegraph Ordinance 9/1880 applied only to delivery from Fünfhaus to Gaudenzdorf and Meidling and at the period when it was carried out by the Telegraph service. There must have been other Regulations; but they haven’t been found. [But see the recently-discovered final section which is the unambiguous pneumatic-item fee-rules for 1901.]

From 1880, the item received a cancel in which a place was usually left for the amount of Botenlohn to be inserted. If payment of the Botenlohn was refused by the addressee, then the item was put in the ordinary post, with a label explaining that the addressee had refused to pay the fee. Four types of cancel are known: "BOTENLOHN…………Xr"  in a box; "BOTENLOHN…………Kr" in a box, "BOTENLOHN" in a box with the amount next to it; and "BOTENLOHN…………Kr" unboxed. Occasionally the amount was simply written on the envelope.

A decree of 8 June 1887 entitled "Express Delivery of pneumatic correspondence outside the pneumatic area in the Viennese Postal Area" says: "From 1st June 1887, pneumatic correspondence which is handed in to the pneumatic system for an address outside the area of the pneumatic network, but within the Vienna Local Postal Area, shall be placed in a cover (PO Ref 776) and entrusted to a Post Office for conveyance as an express letter and delivery as such by a delivery office within the Vienna Local Postal Area, provided the delivery address lies within that office's delivery area. For addresses outside the office's delivery area the item is to be delivered as for ordinary letters." It describes the then-existing system (which it is extending) whereby state-run Post Offices are already delivering telegrams for a standard fee of 4kr each (private Offices, who pay their own messengers, receive 6kr). This fee is paid by the k.k. Telegraph (not by the sender or by the receiver) to the Post Office (and not to the messenger). It goes on to explain the fee that the delivering office shall receive, and the inter-departmental transfer arrangements, but gives no mechanism for recovering this from either the sender (who could have dropped the item into a red post-box) nor the recipient.

In this context, the postal term "Express", well known since 1859 in "Express letters", may be misleading. It refers here to pneumatic items with the imprint "zur pneumatischen Expressbeförderung" which means "by pneumatic express transport". The "delivery as for ordinary letters" worked only if there was a post-office (state-run or not) between the last pneumatic station and the addressee. In that case no special Bote was needed for an express (ie quick) pneumatic service to some more remote areas of Vienna, and no Botenlohn arose. The new regulation was less expensive and needed less personnel.

Mail to Meidling

As said above, the delivery of pneumatic mail was restricted to "Wien within the Linienwälle"; the costs of the delivery were included in the fee of 20Kr. That was changed from 1880, as the success of the pneumatic system led to expansion of the network and extension to additional postal districts. Hajek tells us that in 1880 a line was laid from the pneumatic station at Gumpendorf (later Wien 57) via Zieglergasse (W60) to Fünfhaus (station 13, later W100). Fünfhaus was located "at the junction of Schönbrunnerstrasse 42 & Österleingasse" in Bezirk XV. According to the Vienna City's Street Map these do not meet! However in 1880 what is now Mariahilferstrasse and previously Aussere Mariahilferstrasse was named Schönbrunnerstrasse. Indeed, every future Bezirk seems to have had its own Schönbrunnerstrasse! And at some stage all the house numbers were changed so as to run consecutively with those of (inner) Mariahilferstrasse.

A third circular line was constructed towards the end of the 1880s by laying a tube from the pneumatic station Gumpendorf via Hundsturm (W55), Gaudenzdorf (W85), and Meidling (W82) to Fünfhaus and back to Gumpendorf via Westbahnhof (W101). In 1893 the pneumatic service was moved from Fünfhaus to Rudolfsheim (W127) which was then at Mariahilferstrasse 194 in Bezirk XV. Botenlohns to Meidling should then have ceased – did they? We know that "absence of evidence" is not the same as "evidence of absence", but our Botenlohned items to Meidling are all dated between 1885 and 1888.

1899 & 1901 lists of Offices and description of the service

Circularverordnungsblatt 14 of 17 June 1899 and Circularverordnungsblatt 14 of 11 June 1901 list all the offices having pneumatic apparatus, and their Instradirungschiffre. They give a comprehensive description of the service; this includes the delivery charges "which follow the same rules as for telegrammes". Within the built-up area (die geschlossenen Häusercomplexes des Bestellortes) delivery is free; for a distance of up to 1200 metres it is 5 kr then 10 heller; for up to 2400 metres 10 Kr / 20 heller; for up to 3600 metres 15 kr / 30 heller; and for even greater distances "the Tarif is to be followed". Bartle's 1890 book, mentioned above, gives the standard Telegraph rate as 50 kr per 7.5km (ie 1 German mile) or part thereof; on the same basis as postal rates 50 kr would convert into 100 heller so the numbers are comparable.

Back to main narrative Many examples are here; some are rare!