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Proceed to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

Introduction To Collecting Poland

The earliest record of a postal system in Poland dates back to the 14th century (1387), a time when merchants organized a private system and introduced horse riders to replace foot letter carriers. In 1558 King Sigismund II Augustus appointed Prospero Provano, an Italian merchant living in Kraków, to organize a single postal system that consolidated the private systems, thereby founding “Poczta Polska”.

400th Anniversary of Polish Post Issued 12 December 1958
“Stagecoach to Kielce” (painting by A. Kedzierski)

Click on the image for a larger view.

In 1583, King Stefan Batory introduced the first uniform postal rate in the world. This resulted in a uniform postal rate of 4 groszy per letter not exceeding 1 łót (12.66 grams) for any distance in Poland. In 1764 postal markings were first introduced in Poland. This summary of postal highlights covers more than four centuries of history, a time during which Poland was known as the Kingdom of Poland and the collecting interest for this period is (1) Stampless Mail, for which various postmarks and seals were used.

The three Partitions of Poland (1772, 1793 and 1795) perpetrated by Russia, Prussia and Austria progressively reduced Poland’s size until after the final partition, the state of Poland ceased to exist. Postal services were controlled by the respective occupying powers with the exception of the Free City of Kraków who had been granted autonomy and responsibility for the post during the period 1815 - 1846. However despite protests from the Free City of Kraków, Prussia, Austria and Congress Kingdom (Russian occupied area) each established their own post offices for control of the postal services to and from their respective territories. The collecting interest, therefore, for the (2) Free City of Kraków is the variety of postmarks, for example, the Prussian post office used three different date stamps all with KRAKAU; the Austrian post office used a single line date stamp with CRACAU; and the Congress Kingdom used two date stamps with KRAKÓW.

In 1815 the Congress Kingdom of Poland was established in the Russian occupied area as a personal union with the Russian Empire. In 1858 control of the postal services was briefly given to the Congress Kingdom but following an uprising in 1863 it again came under Russian control from 1866 until World War I. From 1815 the postmarks were in Polish; from 1860 the postmarks were in Polish and Russian; from 1871 the postmarks were in Russian only. The collecting interest with (3) Postmarks of the Congress Kingdom is the variety of standard postmarks that were used at the time.

Proceed to Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI