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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History


Edited By Muriel Le Roux and Sébastien Richez

The cursus publicus, established by the Roman Empire to connect all its conquered territories, may be considered to be the ancestor of all modern post offices. Therefore, mail service networks are part of an organization, dating from Antiquity, which is common to the entire European community.
From the 18 th century onwards, the French mail service network may be divided into three successive phases. First, the consolidation of the transportation system that was being set up. Second, the development of the system’s ability to deal with increasing traffic (through broader human resources). Thirdly, the diversification of its operations and the development of its technical modernisation.
What was the situation in other European countries? Are there similarities and differences in how their networks were set up and organized? Finally, how did European Post Offices cooperate with each other in spite of their differences?
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The Wiener Rohrpost. A Case Study: Robert Dalton Harris & Diane DeBlois



The Wiener Rohrpost was not the earliest metropolitan pneumatic delivery system (probably the private lines in London of the 1850s would be granted that distinction). It was not the longest lasting (Paris, with a line open just for internal government communication by 1866, and a public line of 1879 continuing until 1984, was the most persistent). And it certainly wasn’t the largest (Paris with its 260 miles of tubes linking most of its 133 post offices by the 1970s was by far the most extensive.) By opening the Wiener Rohrpost to the public in 1875 (after trials in February, the system was officially opened on March 1) Austria became the first state to manage a metropolitan express in the realm of the entrepreneur.1

As would other European cities, Austria built pneumatic tubes primarily for the benefit of the telegraph system. The new delivery system would accent celerity in the transmission of data, largely from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the rest of the world, and was designed to maintain Vienna as the capitol of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But by opening the lines to public correspondence, the Wiener Rohrpost was ← 241 | 242 → made also to service certain social interests as well. The timing was auspicious – for the Empire was diminishing in power even as Vienna was conciliating its fractious constituency with liberal reforms, and giving a gay finish to its cultural heritage.2

I come to postal history as a collector...

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