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The history of Post Danmark

Read the full story from “Mail Carriers” to PostNord.

The postal service in Denmark from 1624

Today, Post Danmark is a part of PostNord, the leading supplier of communication and logistics solutions to, from and within the Nordic region, but it all started under the reign of King Christian IV

, who issued the “Decree on Mail Carriers” on 24 December 1624. This became known as the birth certificate of the postal service. A total of nine postal routes were initially established, the most important of which connected Copenhagen and Hamburg. On this route, letters, parcels and freight were carried on carriages, while pedestrian mail carriers served the other routes, accepting only letters.

A postmaster was appointed in Copenhagen, tasked with being present at the Stock Exchange for two hours a day, and with dealing personally with both the administrative and the practical business. There is good reason why the regulation stipulated that this person was to be “a sober and industrious man”. When the mail carriers passed through the market towns, they were offered accommodation in hostels, for example, and their hosts were to receive and distribute letters to local people – even those who did not live on the postal route itself.

Poul Klingenberg, 1640

Mounted mail carriers were introduced on the main route to Hamburg in 1640, but no other changes were implemented until the Hamburg-based merchant Poul Klingenberg took over operation of the postal service in 1653, undertaking to run the service for a period of 30 years at his own expense and risk. He quickly expanded the network of postal routes and increased the number of post offices to 22. In parallel with the actual postal service, he established a carriage-based service for the transportation of parcels, freight and – on the routes in Jutland – passengers.

Christian Gyldenløve, 1685

As the years passed and the postal service developed into a profitable business, King Christian V decided to link it more closely to the crown. In 1685, he therefore granted responsibility for its operation to Christian Gyldenløve, his 11-year-old son. “Gyldenløve” is the surname given to the illegitimate children of Kings Christian IV, Frederik V and Christian V, and the descendants of the Gyldenløve line were given the name “Danneskiold”.

In 1694, the king issued a “Post Order”, whose provisions for the handling of mail were to remain in effect for almost 150 years. One of the fundamental provisions was that mail was to be carried at a speed of 10 km per hour, irrespective of weather and road conditions.

Dorothea Krag, 1703

Christian Gyldenløve died in 1703 and control of the postal service passed to his heirs. As they were still minors, however, their mother, Dorothea Krag, became head of the postal service for a period of eight years.

The postal service returns to state control, 1711

On September 24, 1711, the eight-year period accorded to Dorothea Krag as administrator of the postal service expired and control of the service reverted to the Danish state. Dorothea Krag handed over the prevailing contracts. These revealed that no later than 1704, the postal staff wore uniforms in the red & yellow livery of the Oldenborg family, which have remained the colors of the postal service in the years since.

In 1712 (on July 19, to be precise), the “Foundation concerning the income of the Royal Danish Postal Service” decreed that the profits from the postal service were to be placed in a fund, whose resources were to be used for:

  • subsidies
  • pensions
  • conversion of the heathens in East India, etc.

On the death of King Christian VI in 1746, the following sums had been paid out in the period since 1711 (“rdlr” means “rigsdaler”)

  • Dorothea Krag, 12,000 rdlr
  • pensions, 1,010,971 rdlr
  • College of Missions, 59,938 rdlr
  • establishment of Vajsenhuset orphanage, 60,000 rdlr
  • operation of Vajsenhuset orphanage, 54,000 rdlr
  • the poor, 208 rdlr
  • The Treasury, 131,660 rdlr

The postal service and the newspapers

One of the key functions of the postal service was the communication of news, and this was not limited to the transport of newspapers. The local population met travelers at the post offices, exchanging news and gossip with them. The newly arrived papers were avidly read, and discussions raged back and forth. The local distribution of mail in Copenhagen commenced in 1806.

By 1861, local distribution of mail had been extended to 17 towns that had populations of more than 6,000, and the arrangement was expanded to include all towns in Denmark in 1865. Rural postal routes were introduced in 1860.

House numbers introduced

On October 26, 1859 a decree was issued that all houses in Copenhagen were to be numbered! Numbering commenced from Kongens Nytorv square, with even numbers on the right-hand side of the road and odd numbers on the left-hand side. Up until then, houses were identified by writing something like: “... in the fourth house after the Golden Lion when walking east.”

Postal codes

Postal codes were introduced in 1967 as part of the program to rationalize sorting operations.


In around 1800, the Danish postal service purchased its first stagecoach in America for use on the Copenhagen–Helsingør route. Stagecoaches were introduced in large numbers in 1834, remaining in service until 1912.

Inauguration of the railway

The first stretch of railway in Denmark was officially opened in 1847, and under the railway charter, the postal service could have letters and newspapers transported free of charge.

Sorting carriages

Sorting carriages were introduced in 1856. Passenger trains were originally used to carry the mail, but given that they only ran during the day, delivery times between the different parts of the countries could be extremely long.

However, 1927 saw the introduction of night-time mail trains between Copenhagen and the Jutland railway network, and when the Little Belt Bridge was opened in 1935, followed by the Storstrøm Bridge in 1937, mail transportation became appreciably faster. The transfer of transport from rail to road saw the number of sorting carriages decrease from 132 in 1970 to just 71 in 1975.

The effective mass sorting and the OCR machines at the mail centers sounded the death knell for the sorting carriage service, and the last “sorting journey” was run on the line to Fredericia on June 2, 1997.

Ferry companies

The Danish state often subsidized unprofitable ferry routes, but if an important crossing became neglected, the postal service was obliged to take over. For this reason, the postal service came to own a fair number of ferry routes, which it held until 1977 when the last one (Fanø to Esbjerg) was sold off to the Danish National Railways (DSB).

The stamp

The first Danish stamp appeared on April 1, 1851, and its introduction allowed the establishment of public mailboxes.

The Christmas Seal, 1904

In this context, it is also relevant to mention the Christmas Seal, which stemmed from an idea Postmaster Einar Holbøll had in 1903 and was issued for the first time in 1904. The money raised was to be used to benefit sick children, and over the years the funds became sufficient to establish Christmas Seal Homes and sanatoriums for children. There are four Christmas Seal Homes today, in Kollund, Hobro, Ølsted and Skælskør. A total of 23 million Christmas Seals were sold in 1998, generating an income of DKK 18,800,000 for the Christmas Seal Office.

Mail flights

The first official mail flight took place between Copenhagen and Stege in 1919, and the number of overnight mail flights increased steadily through the 1930s. The first regular domestic flights were introduced in 1936, and the service developed rapidly from there, although with a break for obvious reasons during the Second World War.

From 1927 to the present day ...

In 1927, the Telegraph Service and the Postal Service were amalgamated to form a single organization: Post and Telegraph (P&T). Between 1927 and 1980, P&T grew steadily without major organizational changes, but the subsequent period was marked by rapid and frequent developments. Circular no. 69 of May 30, 1986 divides Post & Telegraph into a general directorate and six state companies. TeleDanmark A/S is founded on January 1, 1991, followed soon after by GiroBank A/S (Circular no. 322 of May 31, 1991). The Danish Postal Service grants GiroBank A/S the exclusive right to use its post offices as a network of branches.

In 1995, the Postal Service becomes an independent public company, wholly owned by the Minister of Transport who appoints a Board of Directors, while Post Denmark is run by an Executive Board.

On May 23, 2002, the Post Danmark A/S Act is passed by the Danish Parliament with a large majority. At an Extraordinary General Meeting on June 28 of the same year, Post Danmark is officially founded as a public limited company, with retroactive effect from January 1, 2002.

In 2005, CVC Capital Partners purchases 22 percent of Post Danmark from the Danish state. In the autumn of 2005, an additional three percent of the shares are offered to Post Danmark employees.

On October 12, 2005, Post Danmark and CVC Capital Partners sign an agreement with the Belgian government for the take-over of 50 percent (less one share) of the Belgian postal service De Post-La Poste as of January 1, 2006.

In early 2007, Post Danmark purchases 51 percent of the shares in the haulage company Transportgruppen A/S, thereby reinforcing its position in the groupage sector.

2008 – The business letter (C-letter) is introduced, and major changes are made to both the sorting and the distribution of letters. At the same time, Post Danmark launches a series of new initiatives designed to contribute to the positive development of online shopping, which is now having an impact on parcel volumes. One of these is “Døgnposten” facilities (now Parcel Lockers), of which there were 475 in 2016.

2009 – Posten Norden is created through a merger between the Swedish Posten AB and Post Danmark A/S. In connection with this, the Danish state and CVC Partners enter into an agreement for the acquisition of CVC Capital Partners’ 22 percent stake in Post Danmark. At the same time, Post Danmark agrees to sell its stake in the Belgian postal company De Post-La Poste to CVC Capital Partners. The Swedish state owns 60 percent of Post Norden, with the Danish state owning the remaining 40 percent. However, the votes in the company are divided 50/50.

2011 – Posten Norden changes its name to PostNord This is accompanied by complete liberalization of the postal market, and Post Danmark loses its exclusive right to distribute letters weighing less than 50 grams.

2014 – Post Danmark commences distribution of new types of shipment, including welfare and grocery items. This is a setup that ensures an unbroken cold chain from the time the item is collected from the manufacturer to the time it reaches the end user, combined with a distribution network that passes 2.7 million Danish households every day. Post Danmark thus becomes an attractive logistics partner for online stores selling grocery goods.

2015 – From autumn 2014 to the end of 2015, Post Danmark opens new post offices at partner outlets creating more than 1,100 post offices spread throughout the country. Never in recent years has Post Danmark had so many distribution points as it does today. In many places, it is possible to send parcels every day of the week from early in the morning to late in the evening at the post offices.