History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2018-05-17

Introduction

What was the postal services like in former days? How was mail being sent? What was the delivery times like? Were the postal services only for the authorities or could also the general public use the services? How did remote people communicate with each other formerly? This article will give answerers to these types of questions. The image reads Royal Post Office (Kungligt Postkontor). At the top is the Royal Swedish Crown and at the bottom the symbol of Swedish Mail, a posthorn. Photo Hans Högman 2017, Old Linköping.

Medieval Times

Postal services were established during the Middle Ages. Special postal deliveries was used between cities and between different authorities. The Government and the royalties used special postal couriers. These postal services were not for the use of the public. In these days private mail was delivered by members of the public traveling in the “right” direction, i.e. to the destination of a mail. However, an important prerequisite was that both the sender as well as the receiver could read and write. In Medieval times reading and writing was merely mastered by aristocrats, i.e. the upper class. Every courier traveling on behalf of the Government or a government agency had the right to free ride, lodging and food; a service they acquired from the farmers in the nation. This was a great burden for the farmers along major routes in Sweden. To make it worse, other travelers incorrectly claimed to be traveling for the Government and therefore demanded farmers to give them free food and lodging. To stop the abuse, the Government provided each royal courier with a special badge as a prof of traveling for the Government. These badges were official badges with both a Royal Crown and the national coat of arms. To the right is a royal courier badge from the end of the 1500s.

1600s

In 1649 a Hostelry Act (Gästgiveriförordningen) was passed in Parliament. The Act stated that a number of inns was to be established along the routes in Sweden. These inns along the routes released the farmers’ burden to provide rides, food and lodging. However, farmers still had to provide horses for the rides. The Act of 1649 also contained a statement about having the distances between towns in Sweden measured. A number of milestones (Swe: milstolpe/milsten) was to be placed along the routes informing travelers about the distances to nearest towns. The distances were given in either quarter, half or a full Mil. A Scandinavian “Mil” is 10 km (6 miles). The image shows a Swedish milestone from 1785 and shows the distance ¼ Mil (1.5 mile) . Photo Hans Högman. The demand for regular postal services increased in the 1600s. This was during Sweden’s Great Power Period and it was necessary to be able to send mail across Sweden as well as to the Swedish provinces in the Baltic region and Northern Germany in an secure, fast and easy way. Postal service with government couriers was established between Sweden and its foreign provinces. This postal service wasn’t for the general public. The former royal couriers were predecessor to the postal services now being established. In older days there were a system passing important messages called rallying sticks (Swe: Budkavle) which was used for sending important messages between farms in an area. When the Swedish Royal Mail (Kungliga Postverket) was established in 1636 it was organized in a similar way. Farmers along major routes were selected as Postal Farmers (Postbonde) and each postal farmer were obliged to run a rally with arrived mail to and from the next postal farmer (post house) along his route.

Kungliga Postverket Established in 1636 - Royal Mail

The Swedish Kungliga Postverket - Royal Mail - (The Royal Post Office Department) was established in 1636. The Act was passed on February 20, 1636. This was the first regulation of a regular Swedish postal service. Along major routes a number of farmers were selected as postal farmers (post houses). The distances between two post houses was about 20 - 30 km (12 - 18 miles) and it was the responsibility of each of these farmers to have arrived mail transported to the next post house along his route. A prerequisite was that the postal farmers were able to read and write. The postal farmers had to keep one or two mail carriers (postdräng) on foot who were to ran to and fro between the post houses carrying mail. They were obliged to keep a speed of at least 2 hours per 10 km (6 miles). These mail carriers on foot were equipped with a posthorn and a spear. When they were approaching the next post house the mail carrier was to blow the posthorn to alert the next mail carrier. The postal farmers were being reimbursed for the costs they had for the mail service they provided. They were also exempted from participating in the military Allotment System. Mounted Mail Carriers In 1646 the mail carriers on foot were replaced with mounted mail carriers on important routes for the conveyance of mail. The postal farmers on these routes were obliged to keep replacement horses for the mounted mail carries instead of keeping mail carriers on foot. In cities along the important routes special postal depots were established. These depots were managed by a Postal Steward (Postförvaltare). These stewards were also titled Postmasters (Postmästare). Among the Postmasters’ responsibilities was to supervise the postal farmers. A Postmaster in a county seat was titled Post Inspector (Postinspektör). It was the Post Inspector who paid the postal farmers for their work. The postal depots were organized as offices which locals could visit to see if there were any mail to collect and among other thing read local and national news as well as decrees. The news and decrees were placed on the office walls, accessible for visitors. These postal depots were in a way early modern post offices. 29 post offices were being established in Sweden between 1636 and 1644. In 1688 there were post offices established in every city in Sweden, in total 78 post offices. Post offices were in some extent also established in the countryside during this period. When a mail carrier arrived, the postmaster would remove the letters for the local area before handing the remaining letters and any additions to the next carrier. In early America, post offices were also known as "stations". In the 1670 special mounted carriers were hired by Royal Mail and were used on routes which hadn’t been working properly or had been troubled by highwaymen committing several robberies and other attacks. These mail carriers were mounted and titled Postiljon (Postilion). They wore uniform and carried firearms. The carriers were frequent targets for highwaymen.  In the 19th-century American West, highwaymen were known as road agents. The image to the right shows a mounted Postilion. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Postmuseum, Stockholm. The Stockholm Post Office occupied a unique position being in the capital of Sweden. The Stockholm Postmaster was the Postmaster General (Rikspostmästare), the Director of the postal services in Sweden and thereby the head of the local postmasters and postal farmers. His was also the head of the Swedish intelligence service. He held agents in foreign countries who continuously reported foreign activities directly to him. All postmasters was also responsible to report to the Postmaster General about what happed in respective town, visiting foreigners etc. The Postmaster General was in the center of a mail web controlling all mail conveyed in Sweden as well as to and from Sweden. Newspaper Swedish Royal Mail also founded a newspaper first published in 1645. The name of the newspaper was in the beginning “Ordinarie Post Tijdender” but the name has varied throughout the centuries. The paper still exits today but now with the name Post- och Inrikes Tidningar. This makes the newspaper the oldest paper still being published. Between 1645 and 1791 the Postmaster General was the legally responsible publisher of the newspaper. This responsibility was in 1791 transferred to the Swedish Academy.

1700s

In 1718 an attempt was made to reform the postal services. It was then decided that the local post offices were to provide food and lodging. This was to be done by consolidating the local inn with the local post office. However, the reform was stopped before it was realized. One thing lasted in the reform. For the protection of mounted mail carriers, postal farmers and their mail carriers on foot it was ruled that an attack on these officials while carrying out their duties would result in capital punishment for the perpetrators.

1800s

On July 30, 1643, Swedish Royal Mail established a shipping line for freight, mail and passengers between Sweden and Continental Europe. The shipping line operated between Ystad in southern Sweden and Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania, Northern Germany and made one return journey per week. As early as in 1684 Royal Mail acquired their own sailing ships. In the 19th century Royal Mail was using steamboats. By using steamboats, they could use precise sailing lists. The journeys between Sweden and Germany became faster and was no longer dependent of weather and winds. Postal conveyance with ships under their own management was discontinued in 1869. In 1850 the Wilson Line received the rights to postal traffic from Sweden. From the 1860’s and up to 1915 Swedish immigrants to the USA had first to travel via England. The journey from Gothenburg was undertaken by smaller passenger ships, often by the Wilson Line, across the North Sea to Hull or Grimsby on the English east coast. This journey took 2 days.

Increased Number of Mail Items

In the 1800s there were post offices established in most places in Sweden. The ability to read and write was generally high also among country people and in 1842 a new school reform introduced the Elementary School (Folkskolan). Writing and sending letters now became common among the general public. In 1850 there were 302 post offices and in 1875 1,648 offices. Number of mail items, years: 1850:   7,078,730 1870: 19,690,400 1885: 88,318,022 As we can see there was at great increase in number of mailed items in the second half of the 19th century. However, there was no deliverance of mail directly too the addressees at this time. Therefore, each person expecting mail had to go to the post office to see if there were any mail to be collected. On the exterior wall of the post office the postmaster daily put up a listing of arrived mail. Further, when the mail driver arrived to a post office he blew his posthorn which also was a message to the local people that mail had arrived. Letters was to be handed in to a post office about 2 to 3 hours before the mail were dispatched. Official mail had highest priority. Opening hours was regulated in the 1707 decree and set to 8:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 17:00.

Etymology

The word mail comes from the Medieval English word male, referring to a travelling bag or pack. It was spelled that way until the 17th century, and is distinct from the word male. The French have a similar word, malle for a trunk or large box, and mála is the Irish term for a bag. In the 17th century, the word mail began to appear as a reference for a bag that contained letters: "bag full of letter" (1654). Over the next hundred years the word mail began to be applied strictly to the letters themselves, and the sack as the mailbag. Post is derived from Medieval French poste, which ultimately stems from the past participle of the Latin verb ponere ("to lay down or place"). In the 19th century the British usually referred to mail as being letters that were being sent abroad (i.e. on a ship), and post as letters that were for localized delivery; in the UK the Royal Mail delivers the post, while in the U.S. the U.S. Postal Service delivers the mail.

Postage Stamps

Postage stamps and an uniform postage rate were introduced in 1855 for Swedish domestic mail. Before real postage stamps came into use letters were simply postmarked with an B or an F in Sweden. B was used when mail postage was needed to be paid (B = Betald; Paid for). F was used for mail which was classified as mail free of charge, i.e. official mail sent by authorities (F = Fribrev; Free Mail). The fee for so-called B-mail was based on the weight and the distance to the addressee. Real postage stamps were first used in the UK in 1840. They were introduced in Sweden in 1855. The Swedish stamps had an image of the National Coat of Arms. The values of the first issued Swedish stamps were 3, 4, 6, 8 and 24 Skilling Banco. The Swedish currency was changed in 1873 and the skilling stamps were replaced by new stamps denominated in "öre". In 1885 the first Swedish stamp with a royal portrait was introduced; the portrait of King Oscar II. The Swedish stamp 3 Skilling Banco of 1857 with a misprinted color, yellow instead of green, is the most expensive postage stamp today. Such a stamp, of which only one example is known to exist, was sold at an auction in Switzerland in 1996 for 15.000.000 SEK (about 2.000.000 USD). The image to the right shows the yellow misprinted Swedish 3 Skilling Banco. Free image Wikipedia. When the postage stamps was introduced in 1855 mailboxes were put up at post offices, stagecoaches, steamboats etc. Now people could affix prepaid stamps on envelopes themselves and put them in a mailbox instead of taking the letters to a post office.

Highway Mail

Traveling in former days was expensive and time consuming. Not until steamboats and railroads was introduced around 1850 traveling became faster and more comfortable. In the beginning of the 19th century traveling speed was about 10 km/h (6 miles/h). It was the road conditions that set the speed. Road were often in a poor condition. It was generally easier to travel in winter when winter road was in use, either on snow or on ice roads. Stagecoach services were established in Sweden in 1722 when the first stagecoach route opened running between Stockholm and Uppsala. In 1822 a number of private mail coach services were established and soon most of Sweden was covered by stagecoach routes. Swedish Royal Mail opened up their postal stagecoach service in 1831. The first route to be opened was running between Stockholm and Ystad in south of Sweden, a distance of 560 km (348 miles). The mail coaches departed Stockholm at 18:00 on Saturdays and arrived in Ystad on Thursdays afternoon following week. In other words, the journey took 5 days. Horses were changed every 30 km (18 miles) at stage stations. Passengers were accommodated over nights at coaching inns in the cities Nyköping, Linköping, Jönköping, Växjö and Kristianstad. Bad weather could worsen the road conditions which could delay arrival in Ystad with several days. The image to the right shows a Swedish mail coach (Postdiligens) from the 1860s. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum). In general, private stagecoaches were more comfortable than Royal Mail’s coaches so passengers preferred private coaches. The stagecoach services had a peak between 1861 and 1875. On reason was that the use of postal farmer was to be disestablished in 1860 and replaced by mail coaches. The last postal farmer (post house) was disestablished in 1870. Facts: A stagecoach is a four-wheeled public coach drawn by horses used to carry paying passengers and light packages on journeys long enough to need a change of horses. A stagecoach made long scheduled trips on an established route using stage stations or posts where the stagecoach's horses would be replaced by fresh horses. The business of running stagecoaches or the act of journeying in them was known as staging. A stagecoach traveled at an average speed of about 10 km (six miles) per hour with the total daily mileage covered being around 100 km (60 miles). A mail coach was a stagecoach built to a Post Office-approved design to carry long-distance mail for the Post Office. Passengers were taken at a fare. The image to the right shows a Swedish mail coach. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum). Stagecoaches and mail coaches were known in continental Europe as diligences and postcoaches. The Swedish term is diligens. A Stage station or Relay station, also known as a staging post, a posting station, or stage stop is a place where an exhausted horse or horses could be replaced by fresh animals. A long journey was much faster with no delay to rest horses. Stage is the space between the places known as stations or stops — known to Europeans as posts or relays. The coaching inn (also coaching house or staging inn) was a vital part of Europe's inland transport infrastructure until the development of the railway, providing a resting point for people and horses. The inn served the needs of travelers, for food, drink, rest and overnight accommodation. A roadhouse (US) or stopping house (Canada) is a commercial establishment typically built on or near a major road or highway that services passing travelers. A simplified and lightened form of stagecoach known as a stage wagon or mud-coach or mud-wagon was used in the United States under difficult conditions. These were the vehicles that opened up the new stage routes in America's West.

The Railroad

The peak period of the stagecoaches (1861 - 1875) happened in the time frame as the railroad expansion. The railroad increasingly took over the conveyance of mail. A journey by train between Stockholm and Gothenburg took at that time 12 hours while the same journey by stagecoach took 5 days (500 km). Mail coaches were slowly phased out, their role eventually replaced by trains as the railroad network expanded. Railroads were being built both by the government and by private companies. The first line, The Western Trunk Line (Västra stambanan), between Stockholm City on the east coast and Gothenburg City on the west coast, was opened in 1862. Two years later, 1864, The Southern Trunk Line (Södra stambanan) to Malmö City in the south of Sweden was opened. The largest expansion of the railroads took place in the 1870s. By then most towns in the central region around Stockholm and down to south of Sweden were connected through railroads. Thereafter the railroad expanded north to the less populated areas of northern Sweden. The image to the right shows a Swedish steam locomotive, type-E2. Free image Wikipedia. The trunk lines were built by the government while the sidelines were built by private companies. These sidelines used narrow-gauge rails. This division between government and private railroads lasted until the 1930s when the private railroads were nationalized. Swedish Royal Mail began conveying mail by rail in 1860. Soon they also began sorting mail aboard the trains. They first special mailcar was put into use in 1861. In Norrland (Northland; a region covering the northern half of Sweden), where the railroads were being built later than in the rest of Sweden, Royal Mail used mail buses for the conveyance of mail. The mail buses also carried passengers. The image to the left shows a mail coach (mail bus) in Norrland on a route between provinces Ångermanland and Jämtland, 1930s. Free image Wikipedia.

Postal Services Formerly - Sweden

Delivery of Mail to Addressees by Mailmen

City Mailmen

A Royal Decree in 1861 ruled that Royal Mail was to deliver mail directly to the addressees in cities. For this purpose Royal Mail began hiring mailmen (Swe: brevbärare). Before 1861 people had to go to the post office to collect their mail. However, Stockholm was special in this respect. As early as in the 1600s and 1700s Royal Mail used mailmen delivering mail directly to addressees. In other cities local mail, mail that was posted to recipients in the same city, was early delivered by private companies for a fee. However, from 1861 Royal Mail delivered mail to homes in cities. Number of deliveries of mail per day: 1880s: 6 deliveries per day (all days of the week) 1890s: 5 deliveries per day 1917:   5 deliveries per day 1921:   3 deliveries per day 1931:   4 deliveries per day 1940:   3 deliveries per day

Rural Mailmen (Lantbrevbärare)

On September 25, 1876, Royal Mail decided to deliver mail also to homes in rural areas. The rural mailmen (Lantbrevbärare) were in some way mobile post offices since they offered extended services. In order to finance home mail delivery in rural areas Royal Mail closed down a number of sub-post offices (poststation) in small places. Thereof the extended services provided by the rural mailmen. The rural mailmen not only delivered mail but also collected mail to be sent. The first counties to receive rural mail deliveries to homes were the counties of Kalmar, Blekinge and Gotland. This was in January 1878. By the end of 1879 there were 232 rural mail routes. Initially, the rural mailmen were supplied by contractors. Each contractor made a bid stating how much they would charge to do the rural mail service and the lowest bid won the right to do this mail service in a designated area. These rural mailmen had the job to deliver mail to homes as a spare-time work and gave them a fixed regular income. The rural mailmen had to follow a specific route and to strictly a follow the time schedule. The timetable contained both days and hours; when to pick up mail at the post office and which places to deliver mail to and when. Normally they had to cover 1 Mil (6 miles) per three hours. In the beginning the rural mailmen delivered mail on foot. If they would use horse and carriage it was on their own expense. However, in the 1880s official horse carts was in use. The use of bicycles began in 1900. The first motor mail vans came in to use in 1915. Rural mailmen had a posthorn and Royal Mail’s emblem on their hat. They also carried firearms. The image to the right shows a rural mailman with horse and cart (lantbrevbärare). Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum). The image to the left show a mailman’s posthorn, revolver and hat emblem in the 1870s. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum).

Air Mail

Air Mail is a mail transport service branded on the basis of at least one leg of its journey being by air. Air Mail items typically arrive more quickly than surface mail, and usually cost more to send. The first regular airmail route in Europe opened between Berlin and Weimar in Germany in 1919. An airmail route between London in Paris opened the same year. In 1920 an airmail route opened between Sweden and Germany and in 1921 between Sweden and Estonia. The Swedish airliner ABA was founded in 1924 and Sweden then got a regular air mail service between Sweden and other countries. In 1928 a night flying airmail service opened between Stockholm and London. The route began in Stockholm via Malmö, Sweden, Hamburg and Bremen in Germany, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and finally to London in the UK. The airport in Stockholm used by the airmail service was Lindarängen Marine Airport (Lindarängens Flyghamn). The image to the right shows a Junker Ju52 at Linderängen airport, Stockholm, early 1930s. Free image Wikipedia. In 1924 Bulltofta Airport opened in Malmö and in 1936 Bromma Airport in Stockholm. During WWII ABA ran a diplomatic courier route between Sweden and Scotland. The airmail services in Sweden expended strongly after WWII and since 1986 Swedish Mail run an airmail airline under their own management, Falcon Air.  In 1948 ABA (Aktiebolaget Aerotransport) and another Swedish airliner SILA (Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik AB) was consolidated and joined SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System). The Swedish government owned 50% of the shares in ABA and the government kept its shares in the new company until 1996. Scandinavian Airlines, SAS, was founded on 1 August 1946, when Swedish Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik AB (SILA), Danish Det Danske Luftfartselskab A/S and Norwegian Det Norske Luftfartselskap AS (the flag carriers of Denmark and Norway) formed a partnership to handle the intercontinental air traffic of these three Scandinavian countries. Operations started on 17 September 1946.

Postnummer - Postcodes

Postcodes (postnummer), ZIP codes in the US, was introduced in Sweden in 1968. This rationalized sorting and handling of mail. Sweden was divided into a number of postcode areas. On May 12, 1969, the system with postcodes was operational. Before 1968, mail in Sweden was sorted only according to geographic location, which meant that postal workers had to learn all mail centers in Sweden, and what particular mail trains served those places. The Swedish postcode system is based on a five-digit number combination, divided into two groups of three and two digits. The principle of numbering is that the lower the postcode, the further south the place is located. Excluded from the principle are postcodes beginning with number 1, which represent the capital city, Stockholm. Mail delivery centers are divided into two-, three-, and five-digit positioning groups depending on the size of the geographical place. The two-position group has larger varieties, whereas the smallest belongs to the five-digit positioning group. According to the system, a space shall be inserted between the third and fourth digit; as well as a double space between the postcode and the geographic location. The geographic location shall be written in capital letters. A typical address would look like this: Anders Andersson (First, and last name) Roslagsgatan 10 (Street, and number) 113 51  STOCKHOLM (Postcode, and geographic location)

Government-owned Company to Public Corporation

Postverket - Public Enterprise

In 1921 Swedish Royal Mail (Kungliga Postverket) was reorganized into a government-owned enterprise by the name Postverket - The Post Office.

Deregulation

Numerous countries, including Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, Argentina and Chile have deregulated their postal services. On 1 January 1993 Sweden opened up the postal services market to new entrants.

Posten - Public Incorporation

In 1994 The Post Office was turned into a public corporation by the name Posten AB -  Swedish Postal Services Inc. AB is an abbreviation of Aktiebolag which means incorporation. Corresponding abbreviations are Inc. in the US and Ltd. in the UK. In order words the former Postverket was made into a business company wholly-owned by the Swedish government. The word "Posten" literally means "The Post" or "The Mail" in Swedish. The vehicle fleet of Posten is yellow. One of the most visible changes to the postal service was the decision in 2000 to replace Posten's numerous post offices with a franchise net of postal service points, run by grocery stores and gas stations. Postal Service Centers, run by Posten, are maintained for business clients only. Image to the right, a typical yellow Posten mail van in Sundsvall 2008. Free image Wikipedia. In addition to regular mail, Posten is also the largest distributor in Sweden of advertising mail.

PostNord - Holding Company

In 2009 Posten merged with its Danish equivalent, Post Danmark A/S, forming PostNord AB, a holding company that is jointly owned by the Swedish (60%) and Danish (40%) governments. A rebranding to PostNord for both the mail as well as logistics divisions was performed in 2015. PostNord means PostNorth in English. The vehicle fleet of PostNord is blue. PostNord is under increasing competition from private companies on the Swedish deregulated postal market.

Source References

Brevet - en resa genom sekler, Postmuseum, 1992 Wikipedia Nationalencyklopedin, NE (Swedish National Encyclopedia) This article in Swedish Top of page
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History Hans Högman
Copyright © Hans Högman 2018-05-17

Introduction

What was the postal services like in former days? How was mail being sent? What was the delivery times like? Were the postal services only for the authorities or could also the general public use the services? How did remote people communicate with each other formerly? This article will give answerers to these types of questions. The image reads Royal Post Office (Kungligt Postkontor). At the top is the Royal Swedish Crown and at the bottom the symbol of Swedish Mail, a posthorn. Photo Hans Högman 2017, Old Linköping.

Medieval Times

Postal services were established during the Middle Ages. Special postal deliveries was used between cities and between different authorities. The Government and the royalties used special postal couriers. These postal services were not for the use of the public. In these days private mail was delivered by members of the public traveling in the “right” direction, i.e. to the destination of a mail. However, an important prerequisite was that both the sender as well as the receiver could read and write. In Medieval times reading and writing was merely mastered by aristocrats, i.e. the upper class. Every courier traveling on behalf of the Government or a government agency had the right to free ride, lodging and food; a service they acquired from the farmers in the nation. This was a great burden for the farmers along major routes in Sweden. To make it worse, other travelers incorrectly claimed to be traveling for the Government and therefore demanded farmers to give them free food and lodging. To stop the abuse, the Government provided each royal courier with a special badge as a prof of traveling for the Government. These badges were official badges with both a Royal Crown and the national coat of arms. To the right is a royal courier badge from the end of the 1500s.

1600s

In 1649 a Hostelry Act (Gästgiveriförordningen) was passed in Parliament. The Act stated that a number of inns was to be established along the routes in Sweden. These inns along the routes released the farmers’ burden to provide rides, food and lodging. However, farmers still had to provide horses for the rides. The Act of 1649 also contained a statement about having the distances between towns in Sweden measured. A number of milestones (Swe: milstolpe/milsten) was to be placed along the routes informing travelers about the distances to nearest towns. The distances were given in either quarter, half or a full Mil. A Scandinavian “Mil” is 10 km (6 miles). The image shows a Swedish milestone from 1785 and shows the distance ¼ Mil (1.5 mile) . Photo Hans Högman. The demand for regular postal services increased in the 1600s. This was during Sweden’s Great Power Period and it was necessary to be able to send mail across Sweden as well as to the Swedish provinces in the Baltic region and Northern Germany in an secure, fast and easy way. Postal service with government couriers was established between Sweden and its foreign provinces. This postal service wasn’t for the general public. The former royal couriers were predecessor to the postal services now being established. In older days there were a system passing important messages called rallying sticks (Swe: Budkavle) which was used for sending important messages between farms in an area. When the Swedish Royal Mail  (Kungliga Postverket) was established in 1636 it was organized in a similar way. Farmers along major routes were selected as Postal Farmers (Postbonde) and each postal farmer were obliged to run a rally with arrived mail to and from the next postal farmer (post house) along his route.

Kungliga Postverket Established in 1636 -

Royal Mail

The Swedish Kungliga Postverket - Royal Mail - (The Royal Post Office Department) was established in 1636. The Act was passed on February 20, 1636. This was the first regulation of a regular Swedish postal service. Along major routes a number of farmers were selected as postal farmers (post houses). The distances between two post houses was about 20 - 30 km (12 - 18 miles) and it was the responsibility of each of these farmers to have arrived mail transported to the next post house along his route. A prerequisite was that the postal farmers were able to read and write. The postal farmers had to keep one or two mail carriers (postdräng) on foot who were to ran to and fro between the post houses carrying mail. They were obliged to keep a speed of at least 2 hours per 10 km (6 miles). These mail carriers on foot were equipped with a posthorn and a spear. When they were approaching the next post house the mail carrier was to blow the posthorn to alert the next mail carrier. The postal farmers were being reimbursed for the costs they had for the mail service they provided. They were also exempted from participating in the military Allotment System. Mounted Mail Carriers In 1646 the mail carriers on foot were replaced with mounted mail carriers on important routes for the conveyance of mail. The postal farmers on these routes were obliged to keep replacement horses for the mounted mail carries instead of keeping mail carriers on foot. In cities along the important routes special postal depots were established. These depots were managed by a Postal Steward (Postförvaltare). These stewards were also titled Postmasters (Postmästare). Among the Postmasters’ responsibilities was to supervise the postal farmers. A Postmaster in a county seat was titled Post Inspector (Postinspektör). It was the Post Inspector who paid the postal farmers for their work. The postal depots were organized as offices which locals could visit to see if there were any mail to collect and among other thing read local and national news as well as decrees. The news and decrees were placed on the office walls, accessible for visitors. These postal depots were in a way early modern post offices. 29 post offices were being established in Sweden between 1636 and 1644. In 1688 there were post offices established in every city in Sweden, in total 78 post offices. Post offices were in some extent also established in the countryside during this period. When a mail carrier arrived, the postmaster would remove the letters for the local area before handing the remaining letters and any additions to the next carrier. In early America, post offices were also known as "stations". In the 1670 special mounted carriers were hired by Royal Mail and were used on routes which hadn’t been working properly or had been troubled by highwaymen committing several robberies and other attacks. These mail carriers were mounted and titled Postiljon (Postilion). They wore uniform and carried firearms. The carriers were frequent targets for highwaymen.  In the 19th-century American West, highwaymen were known as road agents. The image to the right shows a mounted Postilion. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Postmuseum, Stockholm. The Stockholm Post Office occupied a unique position being in the capital of Sweden. The Stockholm Postmaster was the Postmaster General (Rikspostmästare), the Director of the postal services in Sweden and thereby the head of the local postmasters and postal farmers. His was also the head of the Swedish intelligence service. He held agents in foreign countries who continuously reported foreign activities directly to him. All postmasters was also responsible to report to the Postmaster General about what happed in respective town, visiting foreigners etc. The Postmaster General was in the center of a mail web controlling all mail conveyed in Sweden as well as to and from Sweden. Newspaper Swedish Royal Mail also founded a newspaper first published in 1645. The name of the newspaper was in the beginning “Ordinarie Post Tijdender” but the name has varied throughout the centuries. The paper still exits today but now with the name Post- och Inrikes Tidningar. This makes the newspaper the oldest paper still being published. Between 1645 and 1791 the Postmaster General was the legally responsible publisher of the newspaper. This responsibility was in 1791 transferred to the Swedish Academy.

1700s

In 1718 an attempt was made to reform the postal services. It was then decided that the local post offices were to provide food and lodging. This was to be done by consolidating the local inn with the local post office. However, the reform was stopped before it was realized. One thing lasted in the reform. For the protection of mounted mail carriers, postal farmers and their mail carriers on foot it was ruled that an attack on these officials while carrying out their duties would result in capital punishment for the perpetrators.

1800s

On July 30, 1643, Swedish Royal Mail established a shipping line for freight, mail and passengers between Sweden and Continental Europe. The shipping line operated between Ystad in southern Sweden and Stralsund in Swedish Pomerania, Northern Germany and made one return journey per week. As early as in 1684 Royal Mail acquired their own sailing ships. In the 19th century Royal Mail was using steamboats. By using steamboats, they could use precise sailing lists. The journeys between Sweden and Germany became faster and was no longer dependent of weather and winds. Postal conveyance with ships under their own management was discontinued in 1869. In 1850 the Wilson Line received the rights to postal traffic from Sweden. From the 1860’s and up to 1915 Swedish immigrants to the USA had first to travel via England. The journey from Gothenburg was undertaken by smaller passenger ships, often by the Wilson Line, across the North Sea to Hull or Grimsby on the English east coast. This journey took 2 days.

Increased Number of Mail Items

In the 1800s there were post offices established in most places in Sweden. The ability to read and write was generally high also among country people and in 1842 a new school reform introduced the Elementary School (Folkskolan). Writing and sending letters now became common among the general public. In 1850 there were 302 post offices and in 1875 1,648 offices. Number of mail items, years: 1850:   7,078,730 1870: 19,690,400 1885: 88,318,022 As we can see there was at great increase in number of mailed items in the second half of the 19th century. However, there was no deliverance of mail directly too the addressees at this time. Therefore, each person expecting mail had to go to the post office to see if there were any mail to be collected. On the exterior wall of the post office the postmaster daily put up a listing of arrived mail. Further, when the mail driver arrived to a post office he blew his posthorn which also was a message to the local people that mail had arrived. Letters was to be handed in to a post office about 2 to 3 hours before the mail were dispatched. Official mail had highest priority. Opening hours was regulated in the 1707 decree and set to 8:00 to 12:00 and 14:00 to 17:00.

Etymology

The word mail comes from the Medieval English word male, referring to a travelling bag or pack. It was spelled that way until the 17th century, and is distinct from the word male. The French have a similar word, malle for a trunk or large box, and mála is the Irish term for a bag. In the 17th century, the word mail began to appear as a reference for a bag that contained letters: "bag full of letter" (1654). Over the next hundred years the word mail began to be applied strictly to the letters themselves, and the sack as the mailbag. Post is derived from Medieval French poste, which ultimately stems from the past participle of the Latin verb ponere ("to lay down or place"). In the 19th century the British usually referred to mail as being letters that were being sent abroad (i.e. on a ship), and post as letters that were for localized delivery; in the UK the Royal Mail delivers the post, while in the U.S. the U.S. Postal Service delivers the mail.

Postage Stamps

Postage stamps and an uniform postage rate were introduced in 1855 for Swedish domestic mail. Before real postage stamps came into use letters were simply postmarked with an B or an F in Sweden. B was used when mail postage was needed to be paid (B = Betald; Paid for). F was used for mail which was classified as mail free of charge, i.e. official mail sent by authorities (F = Fribrev; Free Mail). The fee for so-called B-mail was based on the weight and the distance to the addressee. Real postage stamps were first used in the UK in 1840. They were introduced in Sweden in 1855. The Swedish stamps had an image of the National Coat of Arms. The values of the first issued Swedish stamps were 3, 4, 6, 8 and 24 Skilling Banco. The Swedish currency was changed in 1873 and the skilling stamps were replaced by new stamps denominated in "öre". In 1885 the first Swedish stamp with a royal portrait was introduced; the portrait of King Oscar II. The Swedish stamp 3 Skilling Banco of 1857 with a misprinted color, yellow instead of green, is the most expensive postage stamp today. Such a stamp, of which only one example is known to exist, was sold at an auction in Switzerland in 1996 for 15.000.000 SEK (about 2.000.000 USD). The image to the right shows the yellow misprinted Swedish 3 Skilling Banco. Free image Wikipedia. When the postage stamps was introduced in 1855 mailboxes were put up at post offices, stagecoaches, steamboats etc. Now people could affix prepaid stamps on envelopes themselves and put them in a mailbox instead of taking the letters to a post office.

Highway Mail

Traveling in former days was expensive and time consuming. Not until steamboats and railroads was introduced around 1850 traveling became faster and more comfortable. In the beginning of the 19th century traveling speed was about 10 km/h (6 miles/h). It was the road conditions that set the speed. Road were often in a poor condition. It was generally easier to travel in winter when winter road was in use, either on snow or on ice roads. Stagecoach services were established in Sweden in 1722 when the first stagecoach route opened running between Stockholm and Uppsala. In 1822 a number of private mail coach services were established and soon most of Sweden was covered by stagecoach routes. Swedish Royal Mail opened up their postal stagecoach service in 1831. The first route to be opened was running between Stockholm and Ystad in south of Sweden, a distance of 560 km (348 miles). The mail coaches departed Stockholm at 18:00 on Saturdays and arrived in Ystad on Thursdays afternoon following week. In other words, the journey took 5 days. Horses were changed every 30 km (18 miles) at stage stations. Passengers were accommodated over nights at coaching inns in the cities Nyköping, Linköping, Jönköping, Växjö and Kristianstad. Bad weather could worsen the road conditions which could delay arrival in Ystad with several days. The image to the right shows a Swedish mail coach (Postdiligens) from the 1860s. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum). In general, private stagecoaches were more comfortable than Royal Mail’s coaches so passengers preferred private coaches. The stagecoach services had a peak between 1861 and 1875. On reason was that the use of postal farmer was to be disestablished in 1860 and replaced by mail coaches. The last postal farmer (post house) was disestablished in 1870. Facts: A stagecoach is a four-wheeled public coach drawn by horses used to carry paying passengers and light packages on journeys long enough to need a change of horses. A stagecoach made long scheduled trips on an established route using stage stations or posts where the stagecoach's horses would be replaced by fresh horses. The business of running stagecoaches or the act of journeying in them was known as staging. A stagecoach traveled at an average speed of about 10 km (six miles) per hour with the total daily mileage covered being around 100 km (60 miles). A mail coach was a stagecoach built to a Post Office- approved design to carry long-distance mail for the Post Office. Passengers were taken at a fare. The image to the right shows a Swedish mail coach. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum). Stagecoaches and mail coaches were known in continental Europe as diligences and postcoaches. The Swedish term is diligens. A Stage station or Relay station, also known as a staging post, a posting station, or stage stop is a place where an exhausted horse or horses could be replaced by fresh animals. A long journey was much faster with no delay to rest horses. Stage is the space between the places known as stations or stops — known to Europeans as posts or relays. The coaching inn (also coaching house or staging inn) was a vital part of Europe's inland transport infrastructure until the development of the railway, providing a resting point for people and horses. The inn served the needs of travelers, for food, drink, rest and overnight accommodation. A roadhouse (US) or stopping house (Canada) is a commercial establishment typically built on or near a major road or highway that services passing travelers. A simplified and lightened form of stagecoach known as a stage wagon or mud-coach or mud-wagon  was used in the United States under difficult conditions. These were the vehicles that opened up the new stage routes in America's West.

The Railroad

The peak period of the stagecoaches (1861 - 1875) happened in the time frame as the railroad expansion. The railroad increasingly took over the conveyance of mail. A journey by train between Stockholm and Gothenburg took at that time 12 hours while the same journey by stagecoach took 5 days (500 km). Mail coaches were slowly phased out, their role eventually replaced by trains as the railroad network expanded. Railroads were being built both by the government and by private companies. The first line, The Western Trunk Line (Västra stambanan), between Stockholm City on the east coast and Gothenburg City on the west coast, was opened in 1862. Two years later, 1864, The Southern Trunk Line (Södra stambanan) to Malmö City in the south of Sweden was opened. The largest expansion of the railroads took place in the 1870s. By then most towns in the central region around Stockholm and down to south of Sweden were connected through railroads. Thereafter the railroad expanded north to the less populated areas of northern Sweden. The image to the right shows a Swedish steam locomotive, type-E2. Free image Wikipedia. The trunk lines were built by the government while the sidelines were built by private companies. These sidelines used narrow-gauge rails. This division between government and private railroads lasted until the 1930s when the private railroads were nationalized. Swedish Royal Mail began conveying mail by rail in 1860. Soon they also began sorting mail aboard the trains. They first special mailcar was put into use in 1861. In Norrland (Northland; a region covering the northern half of Sweden), where the railroads were being built later than in the rest of Sweden, Royal Mail used mail buses for the conveyance of mail. The mail buses also carried passengers. The image to the left shows a mail coach (mail bus) in Norrland on a route between provinces Ångermanland and Jämtland, 1930s. Free image Wikipedia.

Postal Services Formerly -

Sweden

Delivery of Mail to Addressees by

Mailmen

City Mailmen

A Royal Decree in 1861 ruled that Royal Mail was to deliver mail directly to the addressees in cities. For this purpose Royal Mail began hiring mailmen (Swe: brevbärare). Before 1861 people had to go to the post office to collect their mail. However, Stockholm was special in this respect. As early as in the 1600s and 1700s Royal Mail used mailmen delivering mail directly to addressees. In other cities local mail, mail that was posted to recipients in the same city, was early delivered by private companies for a fee. However, from 1861 Royal Mail delivered mail to homes in cities. Number of deliveries of mail per day: 1880s: 6 deliveries per day (all days of the week) 1890s: 5 deliveries per day 1917:   5 deliveries per day 1921:   3 deliveries per day 1931:   4 deliveries per day 1940:   3 deliveries per day

Rural Mailmen (Lantbrevbärare)

On September 25, 1876, Royal Mail decided to deliver mail also to homes in rural areas. The rural mailmen (Lantbrevbärare) were in some way mobile post offices since they offered extended services. In order to finance home mail delivery in rural areas Royal Mail closed down a number of sub-post offices (poststation) in small places. Thereof the extended services provided by the rural mailmen. The rural mailmen not only delivered mail but also collected mail to be sent. The first counties to receive rural mail deliveries to homes were the counties of Kalmar, Blekinge and Gotland. This was in January 1878. By the end of 1879 there were 232 rural mail routes. Initially, the rural mailmen were supplied by contractors. Each contractor made a bid stating how much they would charge to do the rural mail service and the lowest bid won the right to do this mail service in a designated area. These rural mailmen had the job to deliver mail to homes as a spare-time work and gave them a fixed regular income. The rural mailmen had to follow a specific route and to strictly a follow the time schedule. The timetable contained both days and hours; when to pick up mail at the post office and which places to deliver mail to and when. Normally they had to cover 1 Mil (6 miles) per three hours. In the beginning the rural mailmen delivered mail on foot. If they would use horse and carriage it was on their own expense. However, in the 1880s official horse carts was in use. The use of bicycles began in 1900. The first motor mail vans came in to use in 1915. Rural mailmen had a posthorn and Royal Mail’s emblem on their hat. They also carried firearms. The image to the right shows a rural mailman with horse and cart (lantbrevbärare). Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum). The image to the left show a mailman’s posthorn, revolver and hat emblem in the 1870s. Photo Hans Högman 2003, Swedish Postal Museum (Postmuseum).

Air Mail

Air Mail is a mail transport service branded on the basis of at least one leg of its journey being by air. Air Mail items typically arrive more quickly than surface mail, and usually cost more to send. The first regular airmail route in Europe opened between Berlin and Weimar in Germany in 1919. An airmail route between London in Paris opened the same year. In 1920 an airmail route opened between Sweden and Germany and in 1921 between Sweden and Estonia. The Swedish airliner ABA was founded in 1924 and Sweden then got a regular air mail service between Sweden and other countries. In 1928 a night flying airmail service opened between Stockholm and London. The route began in Stockholm via Malmö, Sweden, Hamburg and Bremen in Germany, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and finally to London in the UK. The airport in Stockholm used by the airmail service was Lindarängen Marine Airport (Lindarängens Flyghamn). The image to the right shows a Junker Ju52 at Linderängen airport, Stockholm, early 1930s. Free image Wikipedia. In 1924 Bulltofta Airport opened in Malmö and in 1936 Bromma Airport in Stockholm. During WWII ABA ran a diplomatic courier route between Sweden and Scotland. The airmail services in Sweden expended strongly after WWII and since 1986 Swedish Mail run an airmail airline under their own management, Falcon Air.  In 1948 ABA (Aktiebolaget Aerotransport) and another Swedish airliner SILA (Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik AB) was consolidated and joined SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System). The Swedish government owned 50% of the shares in ABA and the government kept its shares in the new company until 1996. Scandinavian Airlines, SAS, was founded on 1 August 1946, when Swedish Svensk Interkontinental Lufttrafik AB (SILA), Danish Det Danske Luftfartselskab A/S and Norwegian Det Norske Luftfartselskap AS (the flag carriers of Denmark and Norway) formed a partnership to handle the intercontinental air traffic of these three Scandinavian countries. Operations started on 17 September 1946.

Postnummer - Postcodes

Postcodes (postnummer), ZIP codes in the US, was introduced in Sweden in 1968. This rationalized sorting and handling of mail. Sweden was divided into a number of postcode areas. On May 12, 1969, the system with postcodes was operational. Before 1968, mail in Sweden was sorted only according to geographic location, which meant that postal workers had to learn all mail centers in Sweden, and what particular mail trains served those places. The Swedish postcode system is based on a five- digit number combination, divided into two groups of three and two digits. The principle of numbering is that the lower the postcode, the further south the place is located. Excluded from the principle are postcodes beginning with number 1, which represent the capital city, Stockholm. Mail delivery centers are divided into two-, three-, and five-digit positioning groups depending on the size of the geographical place. The two-position group has larger varieties, whereas the smallest belongs to the five-digit positioning group. According to the system, a space shall be inserted between the third and fourth digit; as well as a double space between the postcode and the geographic location. The geographic location shall be written in capital letters. A typical address would look like this: Anders Andersson (First, and last name) Roslagsgatan 10 (Street, and number) 113 51  STOCKHOLM (Postcode, and geographic location)

Government-owned Company to

Public Corporation

Postverket - Public Enterprise

In 1921 Swedish Royal Mail (Kungliga Postverket) was reorganized into a government-owned enterprise by the name Postverket - The Post Office.

Deregulation

Numerous countries, including Sweden, New Zealand, Germany, Argentina and Chile have deregulated their postal services. On 1 January 1993 Sweden opened up the postal services market to new entrants.

Posten - Public Incorporation

In 1994 The Post Office was turned into a public corporation by the name Posten AB -  Swedish Postal Services Inc. AB is an abbreviation of Aktiebolag which means incorporation. Corresponding abbreviations are Inc. in the US and Ltd. in the UK. In order words the former Postverket was made into a business company wholly-owned by the Swedish government. The word "Posten" literally means "The Post" or "The Mail" in Swedish. The vehicle fleet of Posten is yellow. One of the most visible changes to the postal service was the decision in 2000 to replace Posten's numerous post offices with a franchise net of postal service points, run by grocery stores and gas stations. Postal Service Centers, run by Posten, are maintained for business clients only. Image to the right, a typical yellow Posten mail van in Sundsvall 2008. Free image Wikipedia. In addition to regular mail, Posten is also the largest distributor in Sweden of advertising mail.

PostNord - Holding Company

In 2009 Posten merged with its Danish equivalent, Post Danmark A/S, forming PostNord AB, a holding company that is jointly owned by the Swedish (60%) and Danish (40%) governments. A rebranding to PostNord for both the mail as well as logistics divisions was performed in 2015. PostNord means PostNorth in English. The vehicle fleet of PostNord is blue. PostNord is under increasing competition from private companies on the Swedish deregulated postal market.

Source References

Brevet - en resa genom sekler, Postmuseum, 1992 Wikipedia Nationalencyklopedin, NE (Swedish National Encyclopedia) This article in Swedish Top of page