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German States Stamps

Thurn and Taxis

A Brief History

The Thurn and Taxis family, then called Tassis, began providing mail courier services for the Italian city-states in the 13th Century. By the 16th Century, they had a monopoly on postal services, operating a network of postal routes in Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy, Hungary, and the Low Countries. At the peak of their operations, they employed some 20,000 messengers to deliver mail and newspapers.

The family was also well known, as owners of breweries and the builders of countless castles. Today, they are still one of the wealthiest families in Europe.

Franz von Taxis
(Shown on a German stamp issued in 1967)

The family’s important postal activities, for which they are most noted, began with Franz von Taxis, who served as postmaster to the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I from 1489 and to Philip I of Spain from 1504. Franz von Taxis secured the right to carry both government and private mail throughout the Holy Roman Empire and in Spain.

In 1615, the family was named the hereditary Imperial Postmasters General for the Holy Roman Empire, and in 1695, they were raised to princely status by the Holy Roman Emperor, Leopold I.

Thurn-und-Taxis-Post Carriage
(Shown on a German stamp issued in 1952)

The Thurn-und-Taxis-Post was operated by the House of Thurn and Taxis between 1806 and 1867. The company was headquartered in Regensburg, from its creation in 1806, until 1810, when it relocated to Frankfurt am Main.

They began issuing their own adhesive postage stamps in 1852. One difficulty they faced with their postage stamp issues, and that the German Confederation and Empire would eventually face, was that the Northern Germanic states and the Southern Germanic states had different currencies. They had to issue two series of postage stamps, one for the Northern District, denominated in "Silbergroschen", and another for the Southern District, denominated in "Kreuzer". The postage stamp issues of both these districts will be presented separately, in the next two sections.

After the Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War, the Prussians occupied the Free City of Frankfurt and the headquarters of the Thurn-und-Taxis-Post. The Thurn-und-Taxis-Post transferred its postal system contracts to the Prussian State, at a price of three million Thalers, after a contract was signed and ratified on January 28, 1867. The handover of control of the postal system took place on July 1, 1867.

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Thurn and Taxis - A Brief History