Pneumatic Post stationery

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Special stationery was issued for the Pneumatic Post - letter sheets (1.3.1875), envelopes (1.3.1875), post cards (1.8.1879), and letter cards (2.10.1887). Because of the large number of items of stationery that were issued, the listing has been split into three sub-lists: Official Envelopes (Briefkuverts) and the letter-sheet (Faltbriefbogen); Official Letter Cards (Korrespondenzkarten); and Official Postcards (Kartenbriefe). To jump to one of these click the corresponding picture below the "bar of links".

A typical row of one of the sub-lists is:

YearPic AshFerMi
1908 1910201945HBrJubP--Ornamental border in Brown

If you 'Click the Pic' you will open a new window with a larger version of the picture. Its size is determined by the settings of your browser, not by the author of this work, and you may need to expand the window and/or use the slidy-bars to see all of it; close it when done-with. Note that the items are up to 140 years old, the images are not all scanned on the same machine, and thus the colours may not match either the original or the description given in the various catalogues. This section has a gray background, not the buff of the other sections, since unused envelopes tend to merge with the buff shade! A solid lilac-coloured image means we don't have a specimen to scan.

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Pneumatic Post Stationery: history Items overprinted
The "Ascher"
Validity dates of inflation-period
imprinted stationery
Items for Prague


Official Envelopes (and the sheet)

Official Letter Cards

Official Postcards

Pneumatic Post Stationery - history

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To facilitate the use of the Rohrpost, customers could purchase at each station "pneumatic letter" forms which already bore the impression of a 20Kr Telegraph Stamp, the required fee.

The post also accepted individually prepared letters, provided they were written on thin paper, inserted by the sender in a pre-stamped envelope sold likewise at the pneumatic stations, and did not overstep the weight limit of 10 grams. They were to be fastened only through sealing the gummed edges of the letter or the envelope, or by using a thin adhesive seal, and not by the use of sealing wax.

Special postal stationery was issued for the Vienna Pneumatic Post system and a full list of all the sheets, envelopes, postcards and letter cards is given. A study of this material illustrates the way in which in the early days of the Pneumatic Post a quite complex clerical system was gradually simplified. In 1875, special letter sheets and envelopes were the first items of stationery to appear. These bear the imprint of the then current 20kr telegraph stamp, thus indicating the link between the Pneumatic Post and the Telegraph service. The letter sheet carried the following information:

"Pneumatic letters can be accepted at all Pneumatic Post stations for addresses within the area of the City of Vienna. / The fees for the despatch of such letters will be 20kr. This is achieved by the purchase of stamped blank sheets or stamped envelopes and does not depend upon the number of words in the letter. / Despatch takes place between 8am and 10pm at quarter hourly intervals through the medium of stations which are connected by pneumatic tube. From these stations further despatch then takes place by special messengers. // Letters should not exceed a maximum weight of 10 grams and the format laid down for official printed matter. Such letters should not contain rigid or breakable enclosures and should not be sealed with sealing wax. The closure of the letter should always be by means of a thin seal or the adhesive edges to the flap. / Acknowledgement of the receipt of letters by the Pneumatic Post will be given upon request against payment of a further fee of 5kr."

The "acknowledgement of the receipt" was a confirmation of the acceptance of the letter by the office it was handed in at. For the extra 5Kr, you got a posting receipt with a timed & dated cancel; it is NOT a signature by the addressee confirming his receipt of the letter. See "Posting Receipts for pneumatic items: 1875 - 1916" in the Telegrams section.

As well as these extensive instructions, the face of the letter sheet or envelope had space for manually entering the letter's serial number and the numbers of the despatching and receiving stations, together with the hour and minute time of receipt at each station. These details had also to be recorded in registers at the Pneumatic Post stations and on forms that accompanied each bundle of mail; so that once the system had got into its stride, it is not difficult to picture the harassed Pneumatic Post officials, subject to swingeing fines should they commit an error or fail to record an action in the numerous ledgers, slowly coping with a pile of mail at the counter as an avalanche of containers arrived through the tubes! Their only consolation was the much-sought status of "Beamte" and the guaranteed retirement pension.

The letter sheet was about 235x300mm - slightly bigger than A4 - and once written had to be folded three times, then sealed using the integral gummed strip. They were not very popular; hence specimens are rare, and as they were often damaged when opened, good used specimens are rarer!

The folded letter form was greatly disliked and it was soon replaced by an envelope. There were many types; each can be distinguished either by the flap, the legends, or the size. The envelopes with the telegraph imprint were succeeded by a series of envelopes having imprints which corresponded to the then current regular issue postage stamps, the last issue being 1908. Envelopes were 122x75mm, increased in 1881 to 142x86mm. On the front was a list of the Districts served; on the flap was a list of all the Pneumatic Post offices. The original opening hours were soon curtailed, first to 8am - 9:30pm, and then to 8am - 9pm, and despatches were reduced to 20 minute intervals instead of the original 15. All this information appeared on the Pneumatic Post stationery. Subsequent changes to the inscriptions are noted in the tables.

Items overprinted "SPECIMEN"

When the items with the telegraph imprint were withdrawn, a distinctly Kakanian series of letters ensued as the bureaucracy decided what to do with the left-overs! (See Die Postmarke p226, 30.9.1935). Eventually they were overprinted SPECIMEN and sold to dealers. An announcement in the newspapers informed the public about the withdrawal and the arrangements for exchanging old stationery for new (for a fee!)

Neue Frei Presse Fri 24 Oct 1884 p5
Mitthelungen aus dem Publicum.
Einziehung der pneumatischen (Rohrpost-) Werthzeichen älterer Emissionen.
Mit 31. October 1884 sind laut hohen k. k. Handelsministerial-Erlaffes vom 16. October, Z. 34,626, die mit dem Postwerthzeichen der Emission vom Jahre 1867 versehenen einfachen pneumatischen Correspondenz-Karten à 10 kr., dann die derlei doppelten mit Rückantwort à 20 kr., und schließlich die pneumatischen Briefe und Enveloppes mit eingedruckter Telegraphen-Marke à 20 kr. aus dem Jahre 1873 einzuziehen.
Die k. k. Post- und Telegraphen-Aemter wurden beauftragt, den Umtausch der noch im Umkaufe befindlichen derlei Werthzeichen bis 31. October 1884 zu pflegen.
Die vorschriftsmäßige Umtauschgebühr (von 1 kr. per Stück) wird hiebei nur für jene verdorbenen Exemplare erhoben, welche die Spuren einer thatsächlichen versuchsweisen Benützung (Beschreibung) zeigen.
Vom 1. November 1884 an sind für den pneumatischen Verkehr nur mehr die Emissionen vom Jahre 1883 (Adler mit der Umschrift "Kais. kön. österr. Post"), bestehend in einfachen pneumatischen Correspondenz-Karten à 10 kr., doppelten pneumatischen Correspondenz-Karten à 20 kr. und pneumatischen Enveloppes à 20 kr., zulässig.
K. k. Post-und Telegraphen-Direction für Oesterreich unter der Enns. Wien, am 21. October 1884.

Later items overprinted "SPECIMEN" were, according to Ferchenbauer 2008 II 657ff, prepared for distribution via the UPU to foreign postal administrations. See also "ULTRAMAR" below.

Special postcards for the Pneumatic Post were introduced in 1879; they cost 10Kr only, and rapidly overtook the envelopes in popularity, soon rising to 90% of the traffic. Reply-paid cards were brought into use in 1880. These were the normal postcard with a pre-stamped reply section attached and carried the inscription "The messenger is allowed to wait 5 minutes for the answer". The first two Pneumatic Post cards to appear, incidentally, were inscribed "delivery is free" - which has been interpreted by some writers as indicating that the Pneumatic Post messengers were not averse to seeking tips. See separate sections reproducing the Ordinances on the Introduction of Pneumatic Correspondence Cards (1879) and the Introduction of reply-paid Pneumatic Correspondence Cards and Regulations for the Pneumatic traffic in Vienna (1880)

Letter cards first appeared in 1883; they were charged the same rate as envelopes, but were easier to use and had the advantage over postcards that the postman couldn't read your message!

Provision for the sequential numbering of Pneumatic Mail continued for many years although examination of used Pneumatic Post material shows that the numbers were not always entered in the space provided. In 1888 the practice of listing the Pneumatic Post stations (which had increased to more than 30 by this time) on the face of the stationery was discontinued. Over this period the wording on the stationery became more simplified, and no inscription at all appeared on the new material introduced in 1907 following a tariff change.

The colour of the card or paper used for the Pneumatic Post stationery were brought into line in 1908 (when the stamp design of the Jubilee issue showing the Emperor was introduced), and from this date onwards all Pneumatic Post stationery was coloured pink, thus providing a colour linkage with the red letter-boxes used for the Pneumatic Post.

The "Ascher" listings.

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The most useful and extensive listing of Pneumatic Post stationery is that provided by Dr Ascher's "Grosser Ganzsachen-Katalog" (Berlin 1928). All the various types of specially printed envelopes, letter cards and postcards are described in some detail though he does not deal with the flap variations on the envelopes or perforation varieties on the letter cards. So long as it was adequately prepaid, ordinary postal stationery could be sent by the Pneumatic Post, and such items - not included in the Ascher catalogue, and not listed here - are much sought after. [In the Schilling period, there was no Pneumatic Post stationery and ordinary items were used.]

Validity dates of inflation-period imprinted stationery.

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The special stationery of letter-cards and post-cards continued to be issued until 1922, with imprints of 27½Kr and 25Kr. The last envelope was the 45H Jubilee issue in 1908. The Festschrift "120 Jahre Österreischischer Philatelisten Club Vindobona / 150 Jahre Österreichische Briefmarke" contains an article by Peter Kroiss on pp 243-252 which discusses the validity dates of inflation-period imprinted stationery. He gives issue, end-of-sale, and valid-until dates where these have been found; some of the valid-until dates were explicitly decreed but most are when the increasing rates plus the unavailability of supplementary-franking adhesives of suitable values rendered them effectively useless. He reminds readers that items with a high-valued imprint could be used for ‘normal’ postage when the latter’s rates rose to equal or exceed the imprint. On pages 248-9 and 252 he deals with pneumatic stationery, and lists the issue and validity dates. This data is incorporated in our tables.

Private printings

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Official Envelopes, Official Letter Cards, and Official Postcards were all privately printed, mostly by adding an imprint to the 'normal' card. The examples are a 1Kr imprint added to a 1Kr letter-card and a 1Kr imprint added to a 70h postcard; both these would cover the rates in inflation period 3 (15.4.1920 - 31.1.1921). The known examples are listed in the catalogues.

Official Reprints

Official Reprints were made of selected Envelopes in 1892, Letter Cards in 1895, and Postcards in 1894. They appear to have been for collectors, as no used examples are recorded. They are rarely encountered, and are listed in the tables.

"ULTRAMAR" overprints

Rarely, items are found with an overprint "ULTRAMAR" in a "John Bull Printing Outfit" font. James Bendon in chapter 5 of his "UPU SPECIMEN STAMPS 1878–1961" explains that these are specimens sent by Austria to the UPU and onwards to Portugal. The Portuguese Post Office received 5 copies for each Portuguese Overseas Colony and applied this overprint. They then sent one copy to the colony but retained the other four in Lisbon; they were dispersed in the 1970s. "ULTRAMAR" is the Portuguese for Overseas, not for Specimen as sometimes suggested. For more information see "UPU SPECIMEN STAMPS 1878–1961", ISBN 978 1 870696 05 0 - a Complete Revision of the 1988 Edition. The publisher’s web site is

Items for Prague

Several items of postal stationery were for use in both Prague and Vienna, or only in Prague. These are listed in the tables; however no information on the Prague system was available in Vienna and we do not discuss it.

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