returned and re-routed mail

Returned and re-routed mail


An important and interesting part of postal history is the treatment of wrongly addressed mail and mail sent to unknown addressees. The examples below show cases of returned or re-routed mail from and within the Netherlands Indies around the year 1900. They show the lengths to which the postal authorities often went in order to deliver mail to the correct recipient. Respect!

Card from Semarang sent to a captain in the infantry in Telok Semawe in the Atjeh province of North Sumatra. From here it was re-addressed to Malang and to the Kedong Kebo encampment near Poerworedjo in Central Java. The card carries cancels from Semarang (22/2 1900), Weltevreden (25/2), Kotta Radja (?), Weltevreden (17/3), Maos (18/3), Poerworedjo (19/3), Soerabaja (20/3), Maos (24/3), Malang (25/3), Poerworedjo (25/3).

This card has travelled widely in Western Java. Sent from Djokjakarta 18/7 1892, it was re-routed to Krawang, Pandeglang, and Indramajoe. The route can be reconstructed as Banjoemas (18/7), Weltevreden (21/7), Krawang (22/7), Indramajoe (25/7, Cheribon (26/7), Serang (28/7), Weltevreden (29/7), Semarang (31/7), and returned to Djokjakarta (31/7). On the back is the longcancel of Poerwokerto. 1892 was the year that saw the introduction of the ‘vierkantstempel’ and the card shows both the ‘vierkantstempel’ and the ‘kleinrondstempel’ from Weltevreden. A total of 16 cancels! Two handwritten remarks note 'niet an mijn address (unreadable signature) Pandeglang' and 'onbekend, zerug aan afzender' ('unknown, return to sender').

A rare usage of Dutch and Dutch Indies Wilhemina stamps used on a card. It was sent from Salatiga 29/11 1897 (via Maos and Weltevreden) to S’Gravenhage and here franked with 5 cents for an onward journey to the Hotel Splendide in Cannes, France.

Reconstructing the route may require some detective work, as with this envelope with 21 different cancels! Sent from Goenoeng Sitoli on the island of Nias off the western coast of Sumatra, it went via Padang and Singapore to Munich in Germany. From Germany it was returned to the Netherlands Indies and sent to post offices on Sumatra and Java in search of the sender (a person in the military). The circuitous route went as follows: Weltevreden – Batavia – Padang – Singkel – Padang – Siboga – Weltevreden – Padang – Weltevreden – Semarang – Poerworedjo – Padang – Semarang – Poerworedjo – Maos – Weltevreden. The whole journey took over four months and it is unknown if the letter was returned to the sender. On the back is the long cancel in blue from Goenoeng Sitoli from where the journey began.

3 years under way! A note on the front observes ‘Brief van 2 Nov. 1897 verzonden, en door geadresseerde den 17 Augustus 1900 ontvangen’ (‘Letter sent on 2 Nov 1897 and then re-addressed received 17 August 1900’). It was sent from Semarang 2/11 1897. On the back are transit cancels from Sitoebondo 3/11 1897, Banjoewangi 5/11 1897, Sitoebondo 8/11 1897, Soerabaja 9/11 1897, Soerabaja 2/12 1897, Soerabaja 16/8 1900, Djombang 17/8 1900. Also on the back is the note ‘16/8 1900 hit Hotel Embong Malang terug ontvangen, Soerabaja’.

'Terug afz. Semarang' ('return to sender Semarang'): 18 different district cancels of Amsterdam are seen on this card, which was never delivered but returned to the sender in the Netherlands Indies. It was sent from Semarang 16/8 1890 via Brindisi to Amsterdam and arrived back in Semarang 22/1 1891.

A letter to Germany from Bangkalan on the island of Madura off eastern Java 27/6 1895. Being under-franked by 10 cents, this was converted to 20 centimes as postage due. In Rildesheim the letter was forwarded to Freiburg (receiving cancellation on back) but could not be delivered to the recipient. In Freiburg the letter received the label 'Unbekannt/inconnu', as well as a label on the back with the signatures of 29 postmen in the district. The letter bears a return cancellation of Weltevreden 3/9 1896.