King Christian II’s temporal act from 1522 contains the first attempt to establish a postal service in Denmark
The Danish Post Office from 1624
King Christian II’s temporal act from 1522 contains the first attempt to establish a postal service in Denmark, but the project petered out. King Christian IV took up the idea, and on 24 December 1624 he issued a “Royal Ordinance on Postmen”, called the birth certificate of the Danish Post Office. 9 postal routes were established. The most important route was the one between Copenhagen and Hamburg where letters, parcels and goods were transported by carriage whereas postmen who went by foot and only carried letters served the other routes.
In Copenhagen, a postmaster was appointed to stay at Børsen, the Exchange in Copenhagen, two hours each day and personally handle administrative as well as practical affairs, so it was not without reason that it was mentioned in the Ordinance that he had to be a ”sober and diligent man”. In the provincial towns which the postmen passed they took lodgings in an inn, for instance, and the landlord was to accept and distribute letters to addressees who lived in places not on the actual route.
Poul Klingenberg, 1640
On the main route to Hamburg, post riders were introduced in 1640, but apart from this, the Danish postal service remained at a standstill until a merchant from Hamburg, Paul Klingenberg, in 1653 took over the service for a period of 30 years during which he was to carry on business at his own risk and expense. He extended the network of mail routes and brought the number of post offices up to 22. Parallel with the actual Post Office, Klingenberg established a travelling postal service for the transport of parcels and goods and – as far as the routes in Jutland were concerned – passengers as well.
Christian Gyldenløve, 1685
With the years the Post Office had become a good business, so King Christian V wanted to tie it closer to the Crown, and in 1685 he gave it to his eleven-year old son, Christian Gyldenløve. Gyldenløve was the family name given to illegitimate issue of Chr. IV-Fr.II-Chr.V. Descendants of the Gyldenløve family got the name Danneskiold.
In 1694, the King issued an ”Ordinance on Postal Affairs”, and the provisions laid down in this instrument on the handling of mail were to remain valid for almost 150 years. One basic provision was that the mail was to be transported at a speed of 3 quarters of an hour per Danish mile, irrespective of road and weather conditions.
Dorothea Krag, 1703
Christian Gyldenløve died in 1703, and the Post Office passed to his heirs. As these had still not reached the age of majority, the Post Office was managed by their mother, Dorothea Krag, for a period of 8 years.
Take-over by the State in 1711
On 24 September 1711, the eight years of Dorothea Krag’s regime expired, and the Post Office was then taken over by the State. Dorothea Krag handed over all contracts in force, and from these it may be seen that since 1704, at the latest, uniforms have been held in the colours of the House of Oldenburg, i.e. red and yellow which have been the colours of the Post Office ever since.
In 1712 (19 July), it was decided according to the “Foundation concerning the Royal Danish Postal Service’s Income” that any profit made by the Post Office was to be transferred to a fund to be spent on:
- missionary work among heathens in the East Indies, etc.
From 1711 until King Christian VI’s death in 1746, the following amounts were paid out for:
- Dorothea Krag 12,000 rix-dollars
- Pensions 1,010,971 rix-dollars
- The Missionary College 59,938 rix-dollars
- Establishment of the Orphanage 60,000 rix-dollars
- Operation of the Orphanage 54,000 rix-dollars
- The poor 208 rix-dollars
- The Exchequer 131,660 rix-dollars
The Post Office and the newspapers
One of the most important functions of the Post Office was the exchange of information and this was not only limited to the distribution of newspapers. At the post offices, the locals met with the travellers and exchanged news. The newly arrived papers were read and discussions took place. Local delivery of mail in Copenhagen began in 1806.
In 1861, there was local delivery in the 17 Danish towns which had more than 6,000 inhabitants and from 1865, the service was introduced in all towns. The rural routes were introduced in 1860.
Introduction of house numbers
On 26 October 1859, an ordinance was issued to the effect that houses in Copenhagen were to be provided with numbers! From the square Kongens Nytorv houses on the right side of the street were to be provided with even numbers and houses on the left side of the street with odd numbers. Until then, people had managed with saying/writing for example: … in the fourth house after the golden lion when you go east.
Postcodes were introduced in 1967 as an element in the rationalisation of mail sorting.
Around 1800, the Post Office bought its first stagecoach in the USA for the route between Copenhagen and Elsinore. In 1834, stagecoaches were introduced in large numbers and the stagecoach traffic continued until 1912 when the stagecoaches were taken out of service.
Railways in the postal service
In 1847, the first railway connection in Denmark was opened. In accordance with the concession, the Post Office was entitled, free of charge, to use the railway connection for sending letters and newspapers.
Travelling post offices
In 1856, travelling post offices were put into service. The mail was then carried by passenger trains which only ran in the daytime. This meant that mail sent between the different parts of the country arrived very late. In 1927, a night mail service was introduced from Copenhagen and on the Jutland lines, and the inauguration of the bridge across the Little Belt in 1935 and the Storestrøms Bridge in 1937 made the railway services even faster. The shift from rail to road transport caused the number of travelling post offices to fall from 132 in 1970 to 71 in 1975.
The travelling post offices disappeared with the introduction of efficient mass sorting and OCR machinery in the mail centres, and on 2 June 1997, the last train with a travelling post office ran on the railway connection to Fredericia.
The State often subsidised ferry services which were not profitable, but if an important ferry service was neglected, the Post Office had to take it over. Thus, the Post Office was in charge of a number of ferry services, of which Fanø-Esbjerg was handed over as the last one in 1977 to the Danish State Railways.
The first Danish stamp was put into use on 1 April 1851, which meant that it was now possible to introduce letter boxes.
The Christmas Seal 1904
In 1903, Postmaster Einar Holbøll came up with the idea to issue Christmas Seals and the first Christmas Seal was launched in 1904. The funds collected were to be used in helping sick children and over the years Christmas Seal Houses have been established as convalescent homes for children. Currently, there are four Christmas Seal Houses in Denmark. These are located in the towns of Kollund, Hobro, Ølsted and Skælskør. In 1998, the funds collected by the Christmas Seal Fund from the sale of 23,000,000 Christmas Seals amounted to DKK 18,800,000.
Air mail service
The first official air mail service took place between Copenhagen and Stege in 1919, and in the 1930s night air mail services were introduced as well. In 1936, the first regular domestic flights were established and things progressed – with a break during World War II.
From 1927 onwards ...
In 1927, the Telegraph Office and the Post Office merged and became the Post and Telegraph Office (P&T). Between 1927 and 1980, the P&T remained without any major organisational changes, but then things moved quickly. By circular no. 69 of 30 May 1986, the Post and Telegraph Office was separated into a general directorate and six state enterprises. TeleDanmark A/S was established on 1 January 1991 and GiroBank A/S on 1 June of the same year. GiroBank A/S was granted an exclusive right to use the post offices as its branch network.
In 1995, the Post Office became an independent public company fully owned by the Minister of Transport and managed by a board of directors and an executive board.
On 23 May 2002, the Danish parliament adopted by a large majority the Post Danmark A/S Act. Post Danmark A/S was officially formed with retrospective effect from 1 January 2002 at an extraordinary general meeting held on 28 June of the same year.
In 2005, CVC Capital Partners acquired 22 per cent of the shares in Post Danmark from the Danish State. In the autumn of 2005, an additional 3 per cent of the shares were offered to the employees in Post Danmark.
On 12 October 2005, Post Danmark and CVC Capital Partners signed an agreement with the Belgian Government on the acquisition of a 50 per cent stake (minus one share) in the Belgian Post, De Post-La Poste.
You can obtain more information on postal history at The Post & Tele Museum’s website.