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The Polish Post

450 years ago - on 18 October 1558 - king Sigismundus II Augustus [Zygmunt August] issued an official legal act concerning Polish postal service. This day is acknowledged as the beginning of the post in Poland. The King issued the so-called 'A Privilege for Prosper Prowana in the Matter of the Postal Services', where he ordained: ' that we in pursuance of our own and my subjects' convenience, in order that both us, the King, and royal subjects can conveniently to Italy forward letters and manage their affairs there - we initiate a permanent postal route, known under the name of the post office, id est, relay post rider system covering the distance between Cracow and Venice, operating on an ongoing basis in all times and seasons of the year and on particular days'.

This first regular postal service ran from Cracow via Vienna and Graz to Venice; a letter took 9 days to reach the addressee. A few years later postal services were established between Cracow and Vilnius.

The organization of the royal post office in Poland was supervised by Prosper Prowana, of Italian descent, succeeded in his duties by Sebastian Montelupi. A special credit for the development of the Polish postal system goes to two Polish kings. In 1583 Stephen Báthory [Stefan Batory] was the first ever to introduce a flat postal fee which was set at the level of 4 Groschen [grossus] per one lot [i.e. 1?32 of a pound], irrespective of the distance covered. The second king was Stanislaus II of Poland [Stanisław August Poniatowski] who, in the final years of the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, officially guaranteed the secrecy of correspondence and introduced the socalled initializing cancellation-seals - early forms of post stamps. A number of new routes was then launched, postal workers were issued identical uniforms and post offices received consistent visual identification. The 18th century was the age of travel. Hence, under the reign of Stanislaus II the post office expanded into new services: i.a. express mail, rent-a-coach services, shipments to order and so-called relays. During the partition of Poland the postal services were operated within the territories of respective partitioning empires. The restricted autonomy of the Duchy of Warsaw established in 1807 and the Kingdom of Poland created in 1815 made it possible to develop postal services - the service range was then extended to cover delivery of press and cashless money transfers. At that time the number of passenger transport grew considerably. In 1860 the first Polish post stamp was put into circulation. Although patterned on Russian post stamps, it bore a Polish inscription indicating its price - 10 copecks per lot.

In the second half of the 19th century the first electromagnetic Morse telegraph went into operation in the Polish territory, and in 1881 the Bell Society established the first telephone network in Warsaw. However, it was not until Poland regained independence in 1918 that the reconstruction of the Polish postal system began. Following the re-integration of the three post-partition zones and the unification of post-office items, such as mail boxes, labels, post marks, the period of the Second Polish Republic saw a rapid development of the Polish postal system. In 1919 Poland joined the Universal Postal Union and International Telegraph Union. On 22 March 1928 the state-run enterprise -Polish Post, Telegraph and Telephone' [-Polska Poczta, Telegraf i Telefon'] came into life. In the 1930s the range of postal services was further widened, postal transport was modernized, and a rapid development of telegraph and telephone communication followed. With the end of World War II, the reconstruction of the postal system commenced, the state operator -Polish Post, Telegraph and Telephone', was re-established to continue its activities until the corporate restructuring in 1992 into two separate companies: public utility company Polish Post ['Poczta Polska'] and Polish Telecommunication [-Telekomunikacja Polska']- joint-stock company of the State Treasury. Jadwiga Bartkow-Domagała Museum of Post Office and Telecommunication in Wroclaw