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Blog > Kosmopolit, part 2: membership, wishlists and medals!

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!

Images of old postcards

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…

Membership ledger for the Kosmopolit club

… but that said, we later found a Kosmopolit postcard on Ebay sent in 1924, whose member stamp shows the membership number 18535!

Kosmopolit member 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.

Kosmopolit's code of collectors

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.

Kosmopolit medal badge

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!

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35 comments so far

dim14, Romania
This is so interesting, I had no idea about this program! I love the collector's codes and, yes, the similarities are obvious! Maybe in the distant future, someone will be writing reports on the folk and habits of Postcrossing.
Thank you for the great info! ♥
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JustAmi, United States of America
How cool. :) Very interesting. Thank you for sharing! I never knew something like that was around.
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nm_rockhound, United States of America
Wonderful 👍🏼
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misskotovakseniya96, Russia
Как это круто и интересно 👍🏻😊
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Barkley540, United States of America
Very good. I love history and this is unusual and very interesting. Thanks for doing this.
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Ceres1849, United Kingdom
Fascinating , an interesting organisation, Thank you for sharing this !
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JessicaSnailMail, Brazil
Every time I read about the topic my fascination only increases , it would be wonderful to get an interview with a member of this club or someone who has bought these postcards , what do you think of the idea @meiadeleite ? 😌
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MoScuba, United States of America
Love learning the history. thank you for sharing.
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stampraider, Canada
Hahahahah the requests are amazing. I think I’ll add “handsome heads” to mine :p
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Kristi-D, United States of America
Thank you for sharing about this fascinating club. Und, danke schön to Claas und Christine!
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Ineslein5, Germany
Thank you for sharing!!! Bear hugs to everyone!
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NanaPam, United States of America
Thank you for another interesting piece of history! I enjoy the information that is shared on the blog and through the postcards sent and received.
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CindyMc, United States of America
This is so interesting! Thank you!
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Minbas, Romania
The are 2 clubs Kosmopolit and Gobus. On a postcard are a detailed stamp with the 2 member code (R. W. Benno Schulz from Austria with code of Kosmopolit 9944 and Gobus 3563-8). On another are listen more clubs of postcrossing from USA (C.C.C., T. Blue, Le Libre, U.C.C., B.E.V., H. Club, C.C., Weltall, R.W.P.C., J.Joner) and on anothe we see more clubs from Mexic (S.C.M, S.C.E., A.P.N., I.P.P.C.)
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Blue124, United States of America
I love the idea of medals!
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AvaJoy, United States of America
This is so interesting to read. Looking forward to part 3!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing
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nastynew, Russia
The theme is super. I am very interested in reading! I look forward to the continuation ... Thank you!
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ikka, Indonesia
So interesting! Some of the wishlist and requests are so familiar! 😆 Also, after reading about this Kosmopolit thing, it's obvious why German users are so active in Postcrossing: it's been hereditary! 😁
Can't wait for the next article 😊
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Makibo, Japan
So interesting! I'm looking forward to the next one!
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bili, Russia
Excellent, new information for me. Especially philately and faleristics Cosmopolitan. Thanks! We look forward to continuing.
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lapje, Netherlands
Another wonderful blogpost !
And such amazing similarities with postcrossing !
I'm also looking forward to the next article.
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Ekaterinnna, Belarus
Very interesting! It would be great to implement some features from the past in a modern application
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HookedonPostcards, Canada
Thank you for sharing this update on Kosmopolit. Love to read historical details about the beautiful little postcard that we all so love! That's why I started to subscribe to "Postcard History", digital newsletter. Lots of interesting historical and technical info about postcards!
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rousita, Mexico
Fantastic research and information, Speicher3 and Reisegern! Really interesting to see that human beings repeat patterns and we show similar interests, no matter when! I will be waiting for the last part of this interesting research, thank you!!
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mysweetlife63, United States of America
Fun to read about this group. Thank you for another good article!
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Flippie, Canada
Thank you for sharing.
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heatheronthehill, United States of America
Thank you for this fascinating history! I've enjoyed learning more about Kosmospolit.
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OksanaRus, Russia
Thanks for the information, very interesting. I look forward to continuing.
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MrsPaull, United States of America
I love this! I vote for more blogs about postcard history in the future! Thank you for your research.
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letjhanna, Germany
This was so interesting! I'd love for Postcrossing to give out such medals, too 😄
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HarryBrasil, Brazil
Very interesting. DANKE SCHÖN !
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Willemstamps, Netherlands
Very nice to read. Thank you for sharing!
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Waldo, United Kingdom
Well, I feel that a medal is received when the next postcard arrives in my mail, and the medal I hope someone will imagine arrives with the postcard sent. The code word I sometimes put on the card sent is RAVIOLI.
Thank you Claas and Christine, nn.
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NIDUSKA, Finland
nice story
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Mama-Bear, United States of America
Love it! Very interesting! :)
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