Covering "What IS Pneumatic Post?"; Overview of this book; Acknowledgements; and References

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How to use this "book"

This "book" consists of almost 500 interlinked web pages. After this introduction and overview, "Historic and Philatelic aspects" contains mainly the details of the postal and philatelic aspects: office numbering, cancellations, stationery, rates and so on. "The Plumbing Matters" discusses how physically it worked, and expands on details of certain areas such as Pneumatic Railway-Station Correspondence, Messengers and delivery fees etc. "Lengthy Appendices" consists mainly of extensive reproductions of laws, decrees and maps found in dark corners of several archives and libraries in Vienna. A few are provided as "images-of-pages",often in PDF files; while these are tedious to read and cannot be text-searched, the documents themselves are difficult, or sometimes effectively impossible, to access.[As Douglas Adams said, "the plans were on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard."]

Pages which are 'asides' to the main text are linked as 'spawning pages' - that is, they will open in a new window (or a new tab - which, and its size, are set by how your computer is configured not by here), which you close when you are finished with it. A specimen page is here, and the link has a different background colour. Similarly, links to external pages (eg on the Vienna City's web site) have a special background too.

All the main pages (should) have a "Back to main narrative" link taking you back to the top of the contents list; spawned pages don't but should leave the previous page in a window on your screen. You may well find it useful to print out a copy of the Contents list page! If you get completely lost, simply close all the pages and begin again.

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What is "Pneumatic Post"?

(Or in German "Rohrpost") The simplest Pneumatic Post system consists of a single tube linking two ‘stations’. Inside this tube, closely fitting cylinders are either blown along by compressed air or sucked along by a vacuum. Messages are placed inside the containers, and a self-contained communications system is thereby produced.

Pneumatic post stationery had to be small and thin, and foldable to fit in the cans. The folding was on the vertical axis, twice, so that when the item is opened out it has three vertical fold marks. Pneumatic envelopes were sometimes rolled instead. Initially, in Vienna, special stationery was prescribed.

There is often a large crayon number at the top left of a Vienna pneumatic item; normally blue, though black, red, green, and pencil are occasionally found. It is the number of the destination office on the Pneumatic system; and is applied by the operating staff. Special cancellers were normally used, with the date plus the time in hours and minutes.

A word to the person who wouldn't dream of buying any such strange-looking card because it's got too many cancels, coloured crayon-looking markings messing it up, and worst of all it's been folded and creased, which as we all know reduces the value of a cover to practically zero! These may not be classic classics, they only begin in 1875, but boy are they interesting. Two folds are a decided plus, not a major minus; red and blue crayons are welcome, lots of cancels are a plus, material from 1945-1955 is a lot scarcer than from 1900 to 1910, etc.

This is a pneumatic postcard. It was posted on 26 Dec 1890 from Kärntnerring, receiving a non-pneumatic cancel with the time given as 10-11V ie 10-11am. The vertical folds in the middle and the left are visible because they are dirty! The big dark blue '5' at top left is the Office Number for the office at Magdalenenstrasse. However, the card was dealt with at Neumangasse, which is the previous "station" in the circuit. They applied a pneumatic-type cancel with hours and minutes (1040V26XII90 is 10:40am, 26/12/1890) and sent it on it to Magdalenenstrasse.

This is a normal postal stationery card, from 1923, inflation period 11. It has a 200Kr imprint with additional 100Kr and 2 x 1000Kr adhesives to make the 300Kr postcard plus 2000Kr express rates. It was sent from Döbling, Station 117 (the faint T.A. cancel on the stamps) to Fleischmarkt, Station 2, as shown by the blue 2 scrawled over the Express label, where it received an extremely clear pneumatic-type cancel albeit one without the minutes. The central and left-hand folds are visible.

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Overview of this book

The "Ordinances for the Austrian Telegraph Offices" No. 3 of 19 March 1875 announced the "starting of the pneumatic pipe system and introduction of pneumatic letters in Vienna with effect from 1st March of this year". The 'book' you are reading describes, first in outline then in great detail, this pneumatic postal system, which operated in Vienna between 1875 and 1956. Many of the relevant official documents are included in appendices, as they are extremely difficult to locate and consult.

A historical introduction leads to a description of the initial system and its steady expansion. A list of the offices is followed by lists of their cancellations. Special postal stationery was issued; this is illustrated and listed. The rates charged and the operational and political difficulties encountered are explained; the final rundown & closure are outlined.

Supporting technical details include details of technology and organization; the containers that carried the mail; the interaction with telegrams; the various and incompatible Pneumatic Office numbering systems; and specific service details such as Pneumatic Railway-Station Correspondence, "Botenlohn", triple cancellations and many more.

Appendixes explain the enlargement of Vienna from 1850; reproduce (and translate) the founding Ordinance for Vienna's Pneumatic Post, the renumbering of Vienna's Post Offices in 1892, and some of the "Instradirungs-Behelf" Street Indexes of Vienna. Discoveries about (and indeed of) various pneumatic stations are followed by reproductions of all available maps of the Vienna Pneumatic Post.

For valuations of items, consult "Ferchenbauer 2008" or the "Michel Ganzsachen-Katalog Europa West "

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The authors (C Tobitt & A Taylor) thank all those who provided assistance, examples, articles, and information; or contributed to discussions on topics both central and peripheral to the subject: including but not restricted to (in alphabetical order!) J Anthony, A Berrisford, J Boyer, K Brandon, M Brumby, W.A.M. Craig, L Cremona, A and C Colomb, J Duggan, J Fluck, Mrs Fluck, M Fukarek, F Hochleutner, Dr C Kainz, B Lucas, Prof H Margreiter, C & J Moldave, Dr H Moser, Dr J Pitts, H Pollak, Mag K Schöpfer, Mag. E Sinnmayer & Herr Sinnmayer, H Smith, O Teufel, H G White, J Whiteside, Prof R Zimmerl. The patience of Österreichische Post AG, the Austrian State Archive, and the Library of the Technical Museum in Vienna are gratefully acknowledged. The APS Auction, one of the finest sources of pneumatic and other Imperial Austrian mail, has provided many of the examples illustrated. However, the mistakes, misprints, ill-founded rationalisations and groundless speculations are All Our Own Work.

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References and further reading

This survey of the Austrian Pneumatic Post services is based on original research; earlier work, especially that of Arthur Godden in 'Austria' 14 (1969) pp6-31 [see also some letters in 'Austria' 58, 104 & 105]; and on various publications of the various incarnations of the Austrian Post Office. Members of the APS & friends of the authors (predominantly the late Dr Christine Kainz) have provided copies of the material used in the illustrations and the more obscure of the reference material. Further reading (some is here, most is in German, and some is in Fraktur):

"Die Briefmarke" references

1956/18 p235Brief news item
1966/92 p2402-5French pneumatic post
1969/122 p207Prague pneumatic post
1975/188 p19 Das Schicksal einer österreichischen Erfindung - 100 Jahre Rohrpost100 Years of the pneumatic post (A brief anniversary paragraph)
1986/5 p39 Rohrpost-TelegrammePneumatic telegrams
1989/10 p36-9 Stempel und Vermerke der Wiener RohrpostPneumatic post cancels, by W G Genzler
1989/12 p52-3 & 1990/8 p34 & 1990/10 p22 Instradierungsvermerke der Wiener Rohrpostpneumatic post coding numbers
1991/1 p22 "Wiener Rohrpost: Zustellgebühren und Botenlohn"Additional charges & messenger fees
1993/9 p33-4 "Die Taxstempel der pneumatischen Wiener Post"Additional charges & messenger fees

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And finally

The authors will be grateful for any corrections, additions, technical complaints and so on! Email