The Transitional Issues 1849-1850

When the Federal Postal Administration came into operation in June 1849, a uniform rate was introduced. Article I of the Federal Law relating to postal rates set up four postal zones (Rayons) for letters, as shown in the table below:

Rayon Distance Weight Postage
I up to 10 hours per ½ loth 5 Rp.
II 10-25 hours per ½ loth 10 Rp.
III 25-40 hours per ½ loth 15 Rp.
IV over 40 hours per ½ loth 20 Rp.
Distance was measured in Wegstunden or ‘way hours’ (1 wegstunde = 4.8km.)

As can be seen from the table above, the normal rate for local mail at the time was 5 Rappen. However, Article I of the law also made provision for a reduced rate of 2½ Rappen for local delivery in large metropolitan areas.

1849 Vaud 4

Since 2½ Rappen was equal to 4 centimes, the Geneva Post Office asked the lithographer Charles Alphonse Schmid, to produce a 4 centimes stamp to be used on local letters. The stamp is called the “Vaud 4”, for reasons unknown, other than the fact it was used in Geneva and the district of Nyon in Canton Vaud. It was printed in sheets of 100 but the total printed is also unknown. Earliest use of the stamp is November 1849, but it was made obsolete by the December 1849 currency law, effective on the 22nd January 1850, thus making this stamp a great rarity.

1850 Vaud 5

The currency law of 1849 decreed that 2½ Rappen would be equal to 5 centimes in Geneva, and this caused the “Vaud 4” to be changed to a “Vaud 5”. The new stamp was printed from the same plate except that the value figure was changed.
Estimated printing of the “Vaud 5” is 100,000. It was in use from 22nd January 1850 until 30th September 1854, when all cantonal issues were declared obsolete. Although designed for local use the “Vaud 5” was used on letters for the rest of Switzerland and even on letters to Paris. Hence there exist pairs and blocks of 4, 6 and 8 of this stamp. It is also found on letters in combination with Swiss federal stamps.

1850 Winterthur

In February 1851, the Zürich postal administration issued a 2½ Rappen value stamp, to pay reduced postage for local mail in the important towns of the cantons Zürich, Zug, Schaffhausen and Thurgau.
The design of the stamp depicts the Swiss federal cross and a posthorn, and is known to collectors as the “Winterthur” issue.


1851 Neuchâtel

The last stamp of the Transitional period, a 5 centimes issue called the “Neuchâtel”, is somewhat of a mystery. Most writers agree that it was issued because the people of Geneva were not pleased with the federal stamps, that had been issued in Rappen instead of centimes. Therefore, when the supply of the Vaud 5 ran out, the Geneva Post Office asked Schmid to design a new local stamp that looked like the 2½ Rappen federal stamps (Orts-Post and Post Locale).
Exact printing and date of issue are not known but the number issued is estimated at 25,000. Earliest use is recorded in August 1851.