Postal History


THE following amusing description of business at the Post office in Constantinople is from the Cologne Gazette. It may be remembered that the different European States have each their own postal establishment in the Turkish capital. The German office there however performs the postal service not only for subjects of the Emperor William but for the Turks themselves as well. The Turk is well known to be a lover of ceremony and how little this feature contributes to the despatch of business may be gathered from the following account of an incident of frequent occurrence at the German Post office at Pera. In London or any city of Western Europe the transaction would be concluded in half a dozen words: “Two shillings worth of foreign stamps please.”  “Change for half a crown.” “ Thank you!”  In Stamboul this sample transaction assumes the following form: –

A turbaned Ottoman approaching the pigeonhole of the Post-office bows repeatedly to the official and laying his right hand on his breast exclaims: “May the noble morning be fortunate for you sir!”

Official returning the salutation, inquires: “What is your pleasure?”

“ Thy servant desires a few stamps – postage stamps – in order to send letters to Europe. My son, Abdullah Effendi, glass merchant, of Ak Serai, has travelled to London, and his family wishes to write to him. I myself, indeed, do not possess the accomplishment of writing; but a relative, the grandson of my first wife's great uncle, the great pipe-bowl manufacturer of Tophane, is master of that art, and he will pen the epistle for us.”

“ Very good;  and how many stamps do you want, sir?”

“Ah, my jewel, how many do I require? One, I suppose, will not be sufficient, for he will not return yet for four weeks; so give me two.”

“ Very good – here they are; two and a half piastres.”

“ What is that thou sayest, my lamb?  Two piastres was what I used to give some years back, when Abdullah was previously in London. Wait, it was –”

“Quite right Effendim; but since then the fee has been altered, and the price is now greater.”

“ Is it so, apple of my eye? The price is greater, alas! Alas!”

Herewith the Turk pulls out a roll of notes on seeing which the official exclaims, “No my diamond, no! We take no paper money here; you must pay in silver.”

“Eh, what! You take no paper? Why not? Surely, it is good money of the Padishah, in whose realms you are! Well, well, I will give you hard money. I have with me some in copper.”

“No, Effendim,” rejoins the official, “we don’t take copper either; you must pay in silver.”

“Silver! By my head, I have none! Do me the kindness of taking copper; I will pay you the agio.”

“Impossible, Effendim, I am not allowed to take it.”

“Well, what am I to do then, my son.”

“Go to the moneychanger; he is sitting there in the corner.”

“Ah, me, it is very hot; won’t you really take copper?”

“I cannot, under any circumstances.”

“ Very well then, you shall have silver. Here it is.”


This part of the business being concluded, the Turk asks, “When will the letter be sent off?”

“First, tell me father, when do you intend to write?”

“Oh, today; as soon as I get back from the fish market, whither I must first go, I will have the letter written.”

“Then it will be despatched in the morning, if you bring it here before two o’clock this afternoon.”

“ Excellent! And when will the answer come back?”

“Well, Effendim, that will depend on when your son posts his reply.”

“Writes his reply, my lamb? Why, what are you thinking of? He will do it at once, of course! Do you suppose he will keep his father waiting?”

“Very well; in that case the answer will arrive quickly. You may, perhaps, get it in ten days.”

“Bravo! bravo! Then I will come back in ten days’ time. Good bye! May Allah lengthen thy shadow, my heart.”

“Good bye, sir, and may thy beard luxuriantly flourish.”

---The Christian Life, April 2, 1881, London