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Claimants to the title of the "Inventor of the Postage Stamp"

Lovrenc Košir

Lovrenc Košir, who was also known as Laurenz Koschier, was born on 29 July 1804 in Spodnja Luša, which today is in Slovenia. He was baptised with the christian name Laurentius. He was the son of Janez Košir and Maria Kallan. His father died in 1824 when Lovrenc was only 20 years old. Lovrenc is known to have had at least two older brothers and three older sisters. Košir studied at a Jesuit College from the age of 15 to become a priest and later he studied argriculuture in Ljubljana.

From 12 November 1829 he was employed by the Austrian state bookkeeping office firstly in Venice and later in Milan. In June 1834 he was appointed as a clerk in the postal service bookkeeping office in Vienna. This job gave him a very good understanding of the very complicated system of accounting for the postal service.

On 10 May 1841 he married Amalija Pluschkmova with whom he had three children (Anna, Theodor and August). His wife and all three children pre-deceased him.

In 1836 Košir was transferred to another position in the state bookkeeping service in Ljubljana. He worked in Ljubljana for some 15 years and was then transferred to Zagreb in 1851. Here he reached the peak of his career when, in 1856, he was appointed an Assistant State Accountant. He remained in Zagreb till he retired in 1872.

After retiring Košir compiled a Croatian-Hungarian dictionary. During his lifetime he also mastered Italian, German, French and Latin.

Lovrenc Košir died at the age of 75 on 7 August 1879 in Vienna.

Lovrenc Košir wrote a letter, which was dated 31 December 1835, to the head of the department where he was working, in the letter he proposed new methods for accounting and collecting money for the postal service. He described his suggestion as “gepresste papieroblate”  which translates to “pressed paper wafers”. Today we would call it stamps. His proposals were rejected by his superiors (in the Austrian Post Office) in a letter dated 11 May 1836 with reference number Z 15 965/671.

Košir sent a letter in 1858 to the Saxony Government in which he claimed the invention of the postage stamp. After reviewing his claim the postal authorities of Leipzig agreed with him.

In 1874 he sent a letter to the Universal Postal Union, for the the first meeting on 20 September 1874, in Berne, of the Congress of the Universal Postal Union. No reply was ever sent to Košir.


Lovrence Kosir Yugoslavia 1948 by Yugoslavia

On 22 August 1948, Yugoslavia issued a set of four stamps with a portrait of Lovrenc Košir. A fifth stamp was issued on 27 August 1948 with a portrait of Lovrenc Košir and an aeroplane flying over the house where Košir was born. This stamp was issued with a tag with text in Serbo-Croat and French. These stamps were issued to commemorate the 80th death anniversary of Košir (a little early seeing as Košir died on 7 August 1879).

The 15 dinar stamp has a tab with Serbo-Croatian and French text. The French text uses the words “crėateur idėologique" which has given rise to the translation “ideological creator”. (What does "ideological creator" mean? To me it makes no sense when used in the context of stamps.) The text in Serbo-Croatian is “idejnog tvorca” which translates to “idea creator” or “concept creator” - in plain English “inventor”.

Yugoslavia 1948 Kosir FDC
Card depicting the house where Košir was born with First Day of Issue postmark

by Austria
Austria 1979 Kosir

On 4 May 1979 Austria issued a stamp depicting Lovrenc Košir to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Košir's death. His name is spelt Laurenz Koschier and the caption reads "Pionier der Briefmarke" - Stamp Pioneer.

by Slovenia

Slovenia 2004 Kosir
On 21 May 2004 Slovenia issued a stamp to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Košir. The stamp shows a portrait of Košir, the house where he was born and a portion of his original 1835 manuscript, which was in German. The letter, shown on the stamp, is signed Laurenz Koschier.

Theodor Haas wrote in his book “Lehrbuch der Briefmarken kunde. Ein Hülfs- und Nachschlagebuch”, published 1905, page16 as follows
"Es war nicht lange nach James Chalmers Tod, im Jahre 1858, als ein anderer Erfinder, ein Österreicher, die Vaterschaft der ersten aufklebbaren Freimarke für sich in Anspruch nahm, nämlich der Vizestaatsbuchhalter L. Koschier in Wien. Die Sache erregte offenbar Aufsehen, sodass die königl. sächsische Oberpostdirektion in Leipzig, auf Befehl des sächsischen Finanzministeriums, eine eingehende Untersuchung über die Angelegenheit vornahm. Aus ihrem Bericht ging hervor, dass durch vorgelegte Papiere und sonstiges Material der volle Beweis erbracht sei, dass Koschier schon 1836 der österreichischen Regierung einen Plan unterbreitet habe, der darin gipfelte, dass das Briefporto nicht mehr mit Geld vorausbezahlt werden solle, sondern durch Verwendung von Frankomarken. Auch soll Koschier schon 1835 in Laibach mit einem Engländer, Mr. Galway, über das einheitliche Briefportosystem eingehend gesprochen und so vielleicht den Anstoss zu Rowland Hills berühmten Reformvorschlägen gegeben haben."

Translated (as best as I can with on-line translators) this is as follows
"It was not long after the death of James Chalmers, in 1858, when another inventor, an Austrian, claimed the paternity of the postage stamp for himself, namely the Assistant State Accountant, L Koschier, in Vienna. The affair created a stir obviously, so the royal Saxon postal service in Leipzig, Saxony, on the orders of the Treasury, undertook a detailed investigation on the matter. Their report showed that documents and other material submitted provided full proof that Koschier as early as 1836 had submitted a plan to the Austrian government that postage should not be prepaid with money but by using franking marks. Koschier is also said to have spoken in detail in Ljubljana, as early as 1835, with an Englishman, Mr. Galway, on the uniform postage system, and thus, perhaps, given the impetus to Rowland Hill’s famous reform proposals."

Theodor Haas reference is Amand freiherr von Schweiger-Lerchenfeld “Das neue Buch von der Weltpost”, published 1901, page 353 and this reads as follows: (I'm not sure that I have transcribed it correctly as the original was printed in an old German "Franktur" typestyle.)
"Die Frage der erfindung der briefmarke wird übrigens noch durch folgenden Sachverhalt complicirt. Im yahre 1858 trat der damalige Vice-Staatsbuchhalter L Koschier in Wien mit der Behauptung auf, der ersinder ser briefmarke zu sein. Daraufhin erhielt die Oberpostdirektion in Leipzig seitens des sächsischen finanzministeriums den austrag, uber diese Ungelegenheit Bericht zu erstatten. Er siel völlig zu Gunsten Koschier’s aus, indem die von ihm vorgelegten Schriftstücte den Beweis erbrachten, dass der genannte bereits im yahre 1836 der österreichischen Regierung den Vorschlag unterbreitet hatte, die Baarfrankierung zu beseitigen und an ihre Stelle die Francomarken treten zu lassen. Ja noch wehr, Koschier will schon im Jahre 1835 – also vor Rowland Hill – in Laibach mit einem Engländer Namens Galway gesprächsweise das System der einheitlichen Briefportotare behandelt und, wie er nachträglich meinte, den Anstoss zu der Hill’schen Postreform gegeben haben."

Theodor Haas (1848-1911) was a major German philatelic writer. From 1890 to 1910 he was editor of the magazine “Illustriertes Briefmarkenjournal”. In 1906 he was awarded the prestigious Lindenberg Medal (Lindenberg-Medaille).

Ernst Bernardini writes in his book that Košir stated that he met Galway “about a year after the rejection of my project” which would make it mid 1837. This clearly means that Lovrenc Košir and Rowland Hill both independently invented the concept fs the stamp, not as many writers have suggested in the past.

Lovrenc Košir's proposal was rejected whereas Rowland Hill had numerous supporters for his proposal and with their help he succeeded to have his proposal accepted.

Some Examples of Research in the Museum of Post and Telecommunication in Zagreb
Majnaric Radosevic presented a paper at the 2004 CECOMM Conference (Conference of the European Communications Museums) entitled “Some Examples of Research in the Museum of Post and Telecommunication in Zagreb”

He mentions work done by Dr Velimir Sokol, a postal historian who worked for the Zagreb postal museum since 1953. He states that Sokol wrote two treaties about Lovrenc Košir.  “Has Lovrenc Košir proved to be the maker of the postage stamp concept” (1962) and “The fortunes and misfortunes of Lovrenc Košir” (1979). He goes on to say that Sokol, “driven by historical facts, wrote few works in which he proves that Lovrenc Košir was not the creator of introduction of stamp into postal traffic and that this honor belongs absolutely to Englishman, Rowland Hill.” This statement is not very good English and it is unclear what Radosevic meant.

Radosevic then states “The fact that from 1979, under the decision of the Philatelists Union of Slovenia, the main Slovenian award for that area no more bears the name of Lovrenc Košir, proves that these arguments were undisputable.” Again, this sentence is unclear and jumps to a conclusion.

Finally he quotes a statement “The Dr Sokol's discussion is known to be ‘an excellent material which is read as some crime novel, and actually represents a cold minded critical analysis of all that has been known so far about Lovrenc Košir; in the discussion, using only palpable and objective evidence supported by the laws of logics, he convincingly proved that L Košir has absolutely nothing to do with the invention of postage stamp’.”. No mention is made as to where this statement comes from.

Laurenz Koschier, Lovrenc Košir, Wegbereiter der Briefmarke (in German)
by Ernst Bernardini, Kärntner Philatelistenclub, Klagenfurt, 2004, 99pp, ISBN 3853912257
Professor Ernst Bernardini spent many years researching the subject. His research included examining many original archive documents in Vienna, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Budapest and Bern. He shows that Košir did in fact make a proposal in a letter dated 31 December 1835. His research also shows that Košir  met an Englishman, Galway, in mid 1837. This was many months after Rowland Hill had published his proposal.

Lovrenc Košir, Laurenz Koschier, pobudnik poštne znamke (in Slovenian)
by Ernst Bernardini, translated by Marko Urbanija, Filatelistična zveza Slovenije, Ljubljana , 2004, 86pp, ISBN: 9619132807
Slovenian translation of the original German edition

Die Geschichte de Stenpelmarken in Österreich
by Stephan Koczynsk, 1924, pp 440-442

© 2007-2015 Jan Kosniowski -

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