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Blog > Kosmopolit: an introduction (part 1)

Remember some years ago, when we randomly stumbled on a 19th century postcard exchange club called Kosmopolit, that sounded suspiciously similar to Postcrossing? 🤔 One author described it as a “fraternity of enthusiastic picture postcard exchangers” and there were also reports of “cryptic numbers and initials at the top of a message”, which sounds really familiar…

We were super curious to find out more about this Postcrossing predecessor, but at the time we wrote that blog post, we couldn’t find much more information online about the club… until later, when we heard of a book by Claus-Torsten Schmidt, which seemed to be the definitive guide to the association! Once again, our friends Claas (aka Speicher3) and Christine (aka reisegern) came to the rescue and managed to track down the book in Germany!

Kosmopolit book

They’ve kindly translated some parts of it for us, and now we know much more about Kosmopolit than we did before. So get ready for a few posts about this amazing Postcrossing precursor! Here’s Claas to report on their findings:

The book by Mr. Schmidt is a chronicle that is based on documents and newspaper advertisements, which the author interprets and classifies. At the end of the 19th century there was an incredibly confusing plurality of small picture postcard collector associations, even in small towns. There were also associations that represented the interests of the many postcard dealers.

Years before Kosmopolit was founded, Fritz Schardt owned a trade for paper and stationery supplies and he also sold postcards. Already in 1896 he placed advertisements for the sale of postcards in publications like the “Zeitschrift für Ansichtskartensammler” (Magazine for postcard collectors) and “Der Postkarten-Sammler” (The postcard collector). Such magazines were very important for the huge collector scene at that time.

In 1897, the magazine “Der Ansichtskarten-Sammler” had called for a motto for the salutation between collectors of picture postcards. In March 1897, the proposal by Paul Zetsche from Hanover won: “Gut Ferngruß!” (meaning, Greetings from afar!) was since then the “official” salutation between postcard collectors.

In June 1897, Schardt finally founded Kosmopolit in Nuremberg, using that motto on their logo.

Kosmopolit logo Kosmopolit articles of incorporation (in German)
Kosmopolit logo and articles of incorporation

From then on, the activities of the association were documented in the “Internationale Postkarten Zeitung” (International postcard magazine), their club magazine.

Kosmopolit club magazine header
Kosmopolit club magazine

The association published member address lists to enable the exchange of cards, organised postcard exhibitions, issued their own postcards on festive occasions and sold the emblem rubber stamps. Here’s a special postcard, issued for New Year’s celebrations:

Kosmopolit New Year's celebration postcard
New Year’s celebration postcard

Kosmopolit representations were quickly established in many regions of Germany, but also in other countries, the so-called “Consulates”. For example in Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Hungary, France, Russia, USA, Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Brazil, … Interestingly, some of these consulates were headed by Germans (we must not forget that this was the time of colonialism).

Early on, there were thousands of members, and many small associations joined Kosmopolit. But there was also much quarrelling and intrigue… Within the first years, Schardt founded further collector associations, members were expelled, there were complaints and insults. Back then, there were already members who did not send back postcards after an agreed exchange, and so discussions ensued about other members who were not keeping up their part of the deal when exchanging postcards. In the association’s magazine, Kosmopolit is compelled to point to their members that the exchange rules must be observed.

 Kosmopolit  rules detail

The text reads: “Exchange among members. The daily increasing number of complaints for not returning the cards leads us to point out §4 of the statutes to the members of Weltverband Kosmopolit. We will be uncompromising in our use of the above paragraph.”

Unfortunately, we don’t know what statute §4 was, but here’s an excerpt from other statutes, providing information about the aims of the club:

Kosmopolit Charter 1 and 2
Charter 1 and 2.

About the purpose of the association, it is said:

§2
Purpose. The purpose of the association is:

  1. "The members receive postcards, scrapbooks, technical literature etc. cheaper by contracts concluded between the association and the publishers.
  2. The international character of the association gives the opportunity for exchange and correspondence with collectors from all over the world."
Kosmopolit Charter 8
Charter 8

§8
International exchange

“Members who wish to exchange postcards must indicate this at the time of registration and have to reply all postcards with equivalent cards from their town. Not answering may result in exclusion. Rubbish cards and advertising cards are excluded from exchange. Members are expected to complete all received cards within 8 days at least.”

As we already know, there had been repeated complaints that members had not returned cards as agreed. In their magazine, Kosmopolit published an advertisement in which reminder postcards (“Mahnkarten”) were offered, which could be sent to defaulting members.

Reminder postcards Reminder postcards
Reminder postcards

The reminder postcard states: “If I do not receive compensation by … I feel compelled to arrange your removal from the association.”

Thank you so much to Claas and Christine for this excellent investigative work! It’s so cool to learn more about this 19th century version of Postcrossing, and even notice that it already had a few of the same challenges we see on the site today… 😅 On the second part of this series, we’ll focus on Kosmopolit’s wishlists, statistics and badges — so do check back in a few weeks for more!

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76 comments so far

beesknees, United States of America
very cool!
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lapje, Netherlands
This is totally awesome ! Can't wait to read more !!!
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durangirl, United States of America
I love reading about postal history, this is wonderful!
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sutan, Indonesia
This information has expanded my insight about postal history! Thank you. This is wonderful.
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amullari, Estonia
Very interesting story! :)
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Nixxie, United Kingdom
That is really interesting! Also... humanity doesn't seem to have changed much in people being too busy to exchange back or just not sending & others rightfully being miffed by this happenstance.
I think the 8 days limit is intriguing... there were many more posts per day in those times within cities I believe, but I'm sure international post must have taken longer than today?
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AureliaGould, Greece
I laughed with “Rubbish cards and advertising cards are excluded from exchange.” Even back then…
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Tsadida, United States of America
And history repeats itself.... Thanks for sharing this lovely view of the past and a reminder of the present.
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mysweetlife63, United States of America
Loved this article, looking forward to the other 2. Thank you Claas & Christine for finding this information!
d
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pynart2, United States of America
Found the article to be very interesting and it doesn't look like the exchange of greetings have not changed that much.
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Kristi-D, United States of America
I don't think I've ever seen "Greetings from afar" on many, if any, of my postcards. I'm going to start using it! Interesting article--thank you to all involved!
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ALFAVIT, Russia
After a certain cycle, history repeats itself. Very interesting, I'm looking forward to the next part.
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Trinch, United States of America
@AureliaGould … my thoughts exactly. Looks like people have been hating on advertisement cards for well over a century. Lol.
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Susaninutah, United States of America
Greetings from afar will become code for people who read the blog!
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keithandjoan, Australia
Very interesting, many thanks for providing it. I look forward to the next installments.
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Abil, Brazil
Wonderful story. I look forward to the next articles.
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Makibo, Japan
The commonality between the two is interesting. I look forward to the 2nd part.
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Flippie, Canada
Thank you so much!
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MariaTarynina, Russia
Thank you very much, I learned so many new things! 🙂
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Mag1979, Canada
I love it! Very interesting finding! 🤩👌🏼
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Kavaara, Germany
Very interesting, thank you for sharing. The fact that they call collecting postcards a sport made me smile.
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MagiaHobbs, Germany
I also had to smile. The second more than 3 Germans come together, an association is formed. ;-)
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Melody1, Italy
it's just great! Is it possible to buy the book? Is there an English version?
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TwiggyBlueNose, Germany
Wow, thanks so much for this great article. A pleasure to read and I'm looking forward to the next articles.
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packrat, Germany
Thanks for this interesting and impressive post. Special thanks to Speicher3 and reisegern, great job!
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andrea-in-the-garden, Germany
I wonder whether any of those cards that were sent back then can still be around - in people's attics, in old collections, maybe even in dusty regional museums???
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Speicher3, Germany
The book was probably a student project of the author and is not so easy to get. We looked for it for a very long time and found it by chance. Unfortunately, it has only been published in German.
Yes, there are still some postcards from former Kosmopolit members. From time to time you can find them on Ebay. During the research, we were able to acquire a few original Kosmopolit postcards ourselves.
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Sweetsazzle, United Kingdom
This is a great read on my lunch break! Looking forward to the next installment
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hella, Ireland
Brilliant read!! Cant wait for the next part.
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HookedonPostcards, Canada
Great to learn about some historical parallels!
While reading this post, I am reminded of the maxim, “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr) ... "The more things change, the more they remain the same". ;-)
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PHILATELY07, United States of America
Fascinating blog. "Nothing New Under The Sun" perhaps, but it is possible to "Build Back Better", and we have our beloved Postcrossing as proof!
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PHILATELY07, United States of America
Many thanks to Claas and Christine for researching this antique treasure.
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christelvonderpost, United States of America
a new catch phrase “Greetings from afar”. I really love our “little” group and looking forward to reading more.
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Weisserose, Germany
This is very interesting. Thanks for bring it to us and thanks to the lovely ladies that did the research.

Two things caught my eye - and made me laugh a bit::

- “Rubbish cards and advertising cards are excluded from exchange" - yep, already then and still now...

- "Members are expected to complete all received cards within 8 days at least." - why only 8 days?... Were they living fast back then?... Or had more leisurely hours?...

I feel very healthy right now knowing that Postcrossing is actually a sport... ;-)

Looking forward to the next "episode"!

"Gur Ferngruß", everyone! ;-)
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konradhh, Germany
Great and fascinating story! I really like to read about it. Thank you for the research and translation!
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Sterngesang, Germany
Sooo cool. I love it!
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Willemstamps, Netherlands
Thank you for sharing. Really nice!
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Talal90Ahmed, Iraq
COOOOOOOOOOOOOOL<<<<<<>>>>>
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Ninocas, Portugal
So cool... I would love to know more...
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rousita, Mexico
I love this post, especially since I also was intrigued by this Kosmopolit club and how it sounds so much like Postcrossing! Congratulations to Claas and Christine for this in depth research and for summarizing it for us. I look forward the next posts. Thank you!
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postmistress2645, Australia
Thank you so much for this wonderful article. I look forward to the next one, and I wonder if some of the “non returned” postcards were actually lost in the mail, or if there was some process to defend oneself if they had sent a postcard that was subsequently lost?
Fascinating
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diana_pastoriza, Spain
How very interesting! Thanks for sharing this 🙏 Looking forward to Part 2 🙂👌
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gharbeia, Germany
Lovely!
I'm adopting the greeting "Gut Ferngruß" on my postcards from now on. Sounds so futuristic to my ears.
Also, I intend to write an article on the English Wikipedia on Kosmopolit. My German isn't yet good enough to write a on German Wikipedia, but I hope someone will. I could also then benefit from the references and quotations from the book to include them in the English article too.
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boskop, Germany
German Wikipedia - "Weltverband Kosmopolit" - short article, not translated
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Lianozovo, Russia
How many interesting and new things can you learn by chance on our website. I sincerely thank you and will tell my loved ones about it.
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Mariubjalla, Russia
Wow! Amazing) Great story! Thanks a lot!
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Trenker, Germany
Great stuff!
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Meowpurr, Germany
“Rubbish cards and advertising cards are excluded from exchange" -

You know this feeling when you feel so at one with the world, with humanity past, present and future 😂

Loved this read about steampunk postcrossing, thanks so much 🥰
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Lejo, France
I love the article and can't wait to read the continuation.Thank you, Claas and Christine for your efforts to make it possible to share this piece of history with all Postcrossing members.
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NIDUSKA, Finland
nice
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fiftypink, United States of America
Thank you Claas and Christine indeed! What a wonderful and interesting find.
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Hypocras74, France
So interesting.
Thank you for sharing this amazing Old postcrossing system.
It looked more political that the one we use today. Thankfully
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nastynew, Russia
Very interesting article!
Not so long ago I thought about the greeting, but here is your article and "Hello from afar!" Thanks! I look forward to continuing ...
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pjsubway, United States of America
That’s amazing! Thanks for sharing.
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JessicaSnailMail, Brazil
How wonderful to wake up on Sunday morning and read this article, I am delighted with so much information, both letter and book clubs have always been linked to the history of humanity.
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normajean, United States of America
Gut Ferngru{ss} reminds me of the Australian based, worldwide Sudoku site term Good Maen (Morning, afternoon, evening, night), as morning for one member may be evening for another. I, too, am looking forward to future installments!
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mobi, United States of America
What a fantastic read! I love the "greetings from afar" slogan. I'll try to work that into my own cards :) Thanks for sharing all this info and especially to Claas and Christine!
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mairigold, United Kingdom
“Rubbish cards and advertising cards are excluded from exchange.” really made me laugh ! of course rubbish is in the eye of the beholder .....greetings from afar !
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Owlagdad, United States of America
Friendliness amongst the nations’ peoples never goes out of style!
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AugustoAssis, Brazil
Amazing research work! History repeats itself !
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deflepfan2019, United States of America
This was so interesting! I do believe that "Greetings from Afar" will be my new salutation from now on!
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Pizza_Party, United States of America
Nice article. It makes me feel like a part of a great lineage.
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Olga-May, Ukraine
Thanks a lot to all who participated in this investigation. Interesting. Just thinking why people didn't and don't like ad cards.. They could be so cool.)
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AvaJoy, United States of America
THANK YOU.. So interesting! Ready to read Part 2!
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mkrish, India
Nice to hear and interesting.
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LauraLynne, United States of America
this was very interesting. I am looking forward to the next parts of the series. Postcard history is fascinating!
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bili, Russia
Hello from afar!
Very interesting and useful information! Thanks to the authors and Postcrossing for posting! I look forward to continuing! Best regards, Alexander / Bili /
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alterego, Canada
Greetings from afar from me too!
I love learning about past history of hobbies and trends. This was great, thanks!
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MrsPaull, United States of America
Now I'm always going to sign: "greetings from afar"
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BrokkoliKatze, Germany
In the article of incorporation, they wrote something about "Rundsendungen" - round mail. Sounds like an early version of Round Robins.
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Waldo, United Kingdom
Might echo 'Greetings from afar' with 'Your neighbour in London.'
Thank you for this article and, in advance, the next.
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Pipster, Spain
Fascinating article . Thank you ! Looking forward to reading the next instalment
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varn, Japan
What an intriguing story about a Postcrossing’s predecessor unbeknownst to us! Or should I say Postcrossing is Kosmopolit’s reincarnation…
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heatheronthehill, United States of America
Thank you for this! I didn't know postcard exchanges existed back then. I shared this with our German teacher at the high school where I work for her students to look at. She's also a member of Postcrossing.
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Kewl, Philippines
Oh, wow... so the Germans did lead this then... and the culture of writing (letters and postcard) continues on in their country! Hep hep hurray for them!
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ipuenktchen, Iran
Woooooow, how interesting and amazing!!!! Never heard about!!!!?! Thank you so much and @reisegern and @speicher3 too - great Job!!!!!!!!!
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