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MOABIT, BERLIN: MULTIPLE POSTCARDS from MELBOURNE to HERMANN BURCHARDT

Two ‘POST CARD/ FOR THE UNITED KINGDOM/ By the long sea route’ produced in 1889 in Victoria with the ‘TWO PENCE/ STAMP DUTY’ stamp were sent to Germany in 1891 from, the same individual to the same addressee. The ‘long sea route’ referred to the fact that the card was transmitted totally by the sea route to Britain, and it was less expensive than the ‘THREE PENCE’ green post card issued at the same time for the carriage by the faster, overland route from Brindisi, Italy to Britain.

Geoff Kellow in his ‘Stamps of Victoria’ in 1990 wrote (p. 363) about this 2d card: "Although common in mint condition, postally used examples of the card in the correct period are very scarce, as they were very little used by the public." He then goes on to say that the above-mentioned "3d green card rate was discontinued at the beginning of 1891 when all 2d post cards were carried by the ‘via Brindisi’ route." Although these cards probably would not be considered to have been used in the ‘correct period’ (before early 1891), they are unusual for the reason that additional postage was added to both.

The first postcard was addressed to Hermann Burchardt Esq., C/o Gustav Sachs Esq., Brucken Allee, Moabit Berlin, Germany and the printed 2d stamp has a ‘diamond’ of squared dots cancel with a partial unframed EAST MELBOURNE/ JE 29/ 91/ VIC cancel to the left of the diamond cancel. The additional unframed postmarks on the two added stamps (an orange 1d ‘Reading’ Stamp Duty and an ochre 3d Stamp Duty) confirms the site and date of origin. In addition, there are two German postmarks, a darker Bestellt/ vom/ Postamte 2/ 4.8.91/ (--)-1¼N and a fainter Bestellt/ vom/ Postamte 23/ 4 8 91/ 8¾-10¼N (Figures 1 & 2).

The message on the reverse was short and non-informative: "3 Rowena Parade, Richmond , June 29th 1891, wishing you many happy turns of the day, Yours J.N.O. Mason, with ms. ‘12' at the bottom left. There was a transit framed MELBOURNE/ 17X/ JE 29/ 91 as well as a German K.B. BAHNPOST/ 3/ AUG./ (----)/ (-- ) railway postmark (Figure 3).

The second postcard was similar to the first:  identical postcard, identical addressee and address (but ‘Allee’ was misspelt), and again a total of four pence stamps were added. There was a significant difference in the makeup postage with the identical ochre 3d Stamp Duty, whereas the 1d was a cut-out from the 1886 1d "Astley" Stamp Duty adhesive design post card and there were two examples of the unframed EAST MELBOURNE/ 4 27/ 91/ VIC duplex with the barred numeral MCCCC/ 14 [‘1414'] as well as a German Bestellt/ vom/ Postamte 23/ 2.9.91/ 7¼-8¾N (Figure 4).

The reverse proves that the East Melbourne cancellation date was incorrect and should have read 7/27/91, as shown by the dated manuscript, as well as the MELBOURNE/ (- )X/ JY 27/ (91). Both the address and the name of the sender were identical to the first postcard as follows: 3 Rowena Parade, Richmond, July 27, 1891 We have had great floods here in Melbourne as well as in the country doing great damage. The rain is not all over yet. Yours respectfully, J.N.O. Mason. There was a ms. ‘1’ at the lower left whereas there was a ‘12’ on the earlier postcard, possibly suggesting a sequence of postcards (Figure 5).

I was surprised that I could find only one site on the web that documented this Melbourne flood in the archives of The Age, Victoria: The most significant flood in Melbourne’s recorded history, now referred to as the "great flood of 1891", occurred after 2 days and two nights of rainfall, and caused the Yarra to swell to 305 metres wide. According to The Age report of that time, 3000 people, mainly in the inner-city suburbs of Richmond, Collingwood and Prahran, had to vacate their houses and two large lakes formed on the east and west sides of Chapel Street. "The flood rose so rapidly in the night that one resident reported plunging his arm into water as he stretched, awaking to the real danger of being drowned in his bed," reported The Age.

Moabit is an inner city locality in Berlin. The origin of the name is disputed, but one of the possibilities is rather interesting. The first inhabitants of the area were the Huguenots in the early 18 th century, and the area was known as Old Moab. These French refugees named their new residence by analogy to the Biblical description of the Israelites in the country of Moab, where they stayed before being allowed to enter the land of Canaan. In 1818 New Moabit was founded and grew together with Old Moabit when it became an industrial suburb district, which was incorporated into the City of Berlin in 1861. As luck would have it, I found an undated postcard of Moabit with ‘Gruss aus Berlin’ (Greetings from Berlin) which shows the Brucken Allee, the street in Moabit, Berlin to which both postcards were addressed (Figures 6 & 7).

Hermann Burchardt was born in Berlin in 1857, and he gave up his unwanted profession of businessman after the death of his father, which left him with a large inheritance. He then devoted his new life as a man of independent means to his "diffuse desire to travel elsewhere." Almost 2000 negatives, glass and celluloid plates were bequeathed to the Berlin Museum of Ethnology in 1911 from the estate of Hermann Burchardt, and they lay dormant and forgotten in their boxes, until recently.

As an avid traveler Burchardt had photographed extensively not only in the Arabic Middle East and North Africa, but also in Turkey and Persia, and Australia. His first trip was in 1893, brought him to the oasis Siwa in the Libyan desert, and later he settled in Damascus for a few years, using this as a base for his travels throughout the region until he was tragically murdered in Yemen in 1909, due to a case of mistaken identity. It is my unproven hypothesis that he used the home of Gustav Sachs in Moabit, Berlin as his home base on return from travels, as well as a mailing address. In February 1906, he gave a lecture at the General Assembly of the Berlin Society for Geography, as shown in Figure 8.

A photograph taken by Hermann Burchardt in March 1904 is titled Between Muscat and Matrah (on the Gulf of Oman) and a photograph of Burchardt in San’a, Yemen shortly before his death are seen, respectively, in Figures 9 & 10.

 Addendum: I have been in email contact with 2 Australian experts regarding these 2 postcards. Tony Orchard has set me right about the ‘diamond of dots’ being applied in Sydney, for the ship from Melbourne would not have gone via Sydney to Germany, and it was very likely applied in Melbourne. Ben Palmer agrees with Tony that the ship to Germany would not have gone via Sydney, and Ben believes that the ‘dot obliterator’ is a (distorted) circular shape and not a diamond shape. In addition, Ben says that it is not uncommon that the postcards were up-rated with ‘cut-outs’ or stamps.

Such ‘cut-outs’ were authorised from any form of postal stationery, and Ben has seen such a circular obliterator on individual stamps, but not on ‘covers’. He documents that Purves in his book on Victorian Postage Dues (1960, p. 63) states that this circular obliterator was used on postage dues in the early 1890s. A surprising fact (at least to me), was that the reduced rate for postcards did not apply to UPU membership to say, Germany (but did to the UK), so they had to be paid at the letter-rate of 6d. I have given Ben permission to publish the dot obliterator on the first postcard, but I still consider it to be diamond shape and certainly not like those shown by Purves on 3 postage due stamps (Figure 11).

Addendum (November  2009):  Yet another postcard has just appeared after a lapse of 10 years, from when I bought the first two postcards.  It is so similar to the other 2, there can be no doubt that it was sent by the same person.  This one also includes a postcard 'cut-out' stamp, and uses the same explicit address.  The postmark is MELBOURNE/ 18 A/  JY 21/ 91 (whereas the other 2 were sent from Melbourne suburbs) and 2 similar postmarks of the Berlin area are present (Figure 12).

The reverse is conclusive that the same person, J.N.D. Mason sent this card, from 3 Rowena Parade, Richmond (Figure 13).

Addendum (May 2010):  Yet another postcard has come available and Hermann Burchardt is traveliing again.  The UPU Postcard is again used and 2 stamps are added to the printed stamp.  The reason for this is the postcard was sent registered as shown by the red crayon markings and 3 copies of the large 'R' in the circle.  The vendor states that registered postcards are rare.  The address this time must also be uncommon:  Postes Austrichiennes, Austrian post office, Beirut Syria, in Turquie Turkey in Europe.  The postmark from whence the card was sent is  RICHMOND SOUTH/ OC 14/ 95/ VIC (Figure 14).

The reverse is from the same writer, J.N.D. Mason, 3 Rowena Parade, Richmond, and there is a transit REGISTERED/ Y/ OC 14/ 95/ MELBOURNE( Figure 15).

Burchardt, born in Berlin in 1857, gave up his unwanted profession of businessman after the death of his father, which left him with a large inheritance. He then devoted his new life as a man of independent means to his "diffuse desire to travel elsewhere."

From the Libyan desert to Dubai and Oman

His first trip in 1893 brought him to the oasis Siwa in the Libyan desert. Later he settled in Damascus for a few years, using this as a base for his travels throughout the region until he was tragically murdered in Yemen due to a case of mistaken identity.

Most of Burchardt's photographs have now been dated and their geographical location determined. A small but exquisite part of the collection has now been masterfully edited and commented in a volume with texts in both English and German.

It covers Burchardt's journey over the period of December, 1903 to March, 1904, when he traveled from Basra to Kuwait and on to Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and finally Oman.

The Following is one of the photos that Burchardt took in Abu Dhabi on 7.2.1904 (Figure 16).

Addendum (Sept. 2010):  Another Victorian postcard (the 1½d + 1½d reply card) outer half was addressed to H. Burchardt Esq, care oF Baron von Wedel, Kirmanschah, Persia, Asia, via Colombo, Bombay & Baghdad and it was postmarked MELBOURNE/ AM/ 4 30/ 6-9-13/ 21.  In addition it had transit postmarks of Tuticorin, Bombay and Bagdad (Figure 17).

The reverse was addressed Richmond (as in the other postcards) Sep 7 1903, which agreed with the Bagdad/ 20 OC/ 03 datestamp, and it was signed by the same J.N.O. Mason.  Note the deterioration in the sender's writing (Figure 18).

Addendum (October 2010):  Two additional postcards were addressed to Hermann Burchardt by the same sender, and he has reverted to using the originally described postcards, (only Figure 17 is the exception).  Both are registered, and the first of them is addressed to Burchardt's Moabit, Berlin address, care of Gustav Sachs, and it was sent per the Valette.  He has added 3 orange 1d 'Reading' stamps of Victoria, and one of the three is a cutout.  It was postmarked REGISTERED/ X/ MY 8/ 03/ MELBOURNE, VIC. and there is a reception postmark in Germany (Figure 19).

The second postcard is sent to Burchardt, but now he is 'on the road again', his destination being Cairo, Egypt, and it was sent per the Ballarat.  It had 2 stamps added, the orange 1d 'Reading' stamp being a cutout and the second was a lilac 2d stamp of Victoria.  It was postmarked REGISTERED/ X/ JA 16/ 93/ MELBOURNE VIC. and there was a trsnsit SUEZ/ 14 FE 93. The reverse of both postcards were not seen, but the sender was probably the same J.N.O Mason for both postcards (Figure 20).

Addendum (November 2010:  Another postcard to the travelling photographer in the Middle East.  The pink THREE HALFPENCE postcard is addressed to Hermann Burchardt Esq, is cancelled with the duplex EAST MELBOURNE/ AU/ 02/04 with the BN 'MCCC/14', at Isfahan (Persia) via Bombay -Bushire.  It was routed via Tuticorin, 19 AU 04/ 4  PM, and there is an arival at Boushire, 4/9.  The reverse was not seen (Figure 21).

 Addendum (April 2011):  What more can I say, yet another postcard from J.N.O, Mason of Richmond Victoria to Hermann Burchardt of Berlin  on a different postcard (Figures 22-23).

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