Ephemera

Selection of foreign post offices in the Ottoman Empire

In the 18th century, foreign countries maintained courier services through their official missions in the Empire, to permit transportation of mail between those countries and Constantinople the Empire capital. Nine countries had negotiated Capitulations or treaties with the Ottomans, which granted various extraterritorial rights in exchange for trade opportunities. Such agreements permitted Russia (1720 & 1783), Austria (1739), France (1812), Great Britain (1832) and Greece (1834), as well as Germany, Italy, Poland, and Romania, to maintain post offices in the Ottoman Empire. Some of these developed into public mail services, used to transmit mail to Europe. The Ottoman Empire itself did not maintain a regular public mail service until 1840, when a service was established between Constantinople and other major cities in the country and this was slow to develop and expand. The gap in this capacity was very much filled with the various foreign post offices which continued functioning right till the beginning of WWI in 1914, the Allied ones briefly reopened after the war and then closed for good with the end of the Capitulations in 1923.

Smyrna / Izmir

The interior and the back-room of the Austrian post office in Smyrna in Ottoman times showing the instruction texts were also in French, the international language of the time. The photo on the left shows the executive board-room, with the branch manager Josef Maurig, the photo in the middle shows the cashier Polycarpes Dermond (a Levantine from the city, born 1878) on the middle-left of the postage compartments and, sitting at the counter, Josef Penzo (a Levantine family still living in Izmir), the photo on the right standing in front of the bill boxes is the ‘mapping official’ Jakob Alchanati.

German post office in Smyrna

The former British post office of Smyrna, fire wrecked near the former Consulate, 1922.

The former Italian post office of Smyrna on the quay, pre-1922.

Constantinople / Istanbul

German post office in Constantinople, possibly Pera.

German post office in Galata, Constantinople.

View of the interior of the British army post-office in Galata, Constantinople (from the Illustrated London News, 19 Jan 1856).

The former British post office building in Galata as it stands today - further information:

Jerusalem

The Jerusalem Austrian post office was located inside the Jaffa Gate.

German post office in Jerusalem (Jaffa street).

Removal of the wall post-box outside the French consulate in Jerusalem in 1923 with the end of this service.

Samos

Vathy/Samos Island (TMW) Austrian post office next to the agency of the Austrian Lloyd shipping line

Salonica

Terrorist bombing of the k.k. Post Office in Salonica in August 1912. Miraculously, no one was injured. The K.K. post office opened again the next day.

Dedeagach / Alexandroupoli

Dedeagach / Alexandroupoli (TMW) Austrian post office

Contemporary publication view of a typical Austrian Levant post office.

Mersin

Port Said

Further reading: British Post Offices in the Levant, Ottoman Postal and Telegraph Services in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Examples of the stamps issued by Western Powers in the Ottoman Empire