Here we are, back again for the second instalment of our exploration of Kosmopolit, the 19th century precursor of Postcrossing (which we knew nothing about until a couple of years ago). You can catch our previous posts about this obscure postcard club here.
Our friends Claas (aka Speicher3) and Christine (aka reisegern) managed to get their hands on a great book about Kosmopolit by Claus-Torsten Schmidt, and are here to continue reporting back on their findings!
One year after its foundation in 1897, there were already more than 1000 members in the Kosmopolit. Since collecting postcards was a mass phenomenon in those days, there was a large number of various collectors associations, and also some competition between many of these clubs. Therefore, it was important to show that one had as many members as possible. And here Kosmopolit was very creative… but also not always honest. In the “Internationale Postkarten Zeitung” (the association’s magazine), membership numbers were regularly published. To make the numbers look as high as possible, however, these numbers weren’t necessarily the realistic numbers of the currently active members. They always published the number of registrations that had ever been made since their foundation, and resignations from the club were not deducted.
One also liked to cheat a little bit from time to time. When the 2000. member was welcomed in 1899, the next member received the number 2101… so the 100 in between never existed! 😅
The statistics do not reveal what happened during World War I, but we know that the sending of postcards wasn’t interrupted during the war. Many military mail postcards were sent, even across borders. Some Kosmopolit members got into trouble because they had “contact with the enemy” by writing postcards to their pen pals.
The highest Kosmopolit membership number was #18320 in 1923…
… but that said, we later found a Kosmopolit postcard on Ebay sent in 1924, whose member stamp shows the membership number 18535!
In another chapter of the book, we’ve found the historical archetype of the Postcrossing profile wish list! Although not that many people used English as a foreign language at the beginning of the 20th century, Kosmopolit members still wanted to inform other members about their preferred postcards. This is why Kosmopolit published a key of international exchange codes in up to seven languages. This way, participants were able to use simple code words to communicate their wishes for the reply card.
Here are some examples (see if you can find some similarities to today’s lists of preferences!):
- § = Used postage stamps wanted
- a = City views, squares, streets
- nn = Handsome heads
- zz = Photographs of members
- Adele = Blank postcards
- Berthe = Cards stamped from the place of origin
- Henriette = Your last card did not have sufficient postage. I had to pay a tax.
- Ida = With young ladies
- Ketty = Are the cards which I send you according to your taste?
- Micheline = Kindly excuse my tardy answer. a) I was sick, b) I was travelling, c) I was very busy, d) I was on maneuvres, e) I was flooded with cards, f) I thought I had already answered your card
- Esp. = I am interested in Esperanto
These days, Postcrossing profiles and forum accounts have a few badges, and they existed also in Kosmopolit times, more than 100 years ago! Kosmopolit members could not only acquire melodious titles (consul, representative, consul general, etc) and there was even a medal for special merit.
Doesn’t that look super fancy?
Thank you Claas and Christine, for another fantastic report! What do you think, should we make a special Postcrossing medal? 🎖 In the third and final instalment of this series, we’re going to be talking about meetup postcards, the Kosmopolit museum and the demise of the association — stay tuned!