Franz Thiemer & Co.
Franz Thiemer & Co. of Dresden, Germany, published a series of pioneer postcards under the name of his business, Compagnie Comet, featuring coloured halftone scenes from around the world, including Canada, dating from about 1897 to 1900. Some early cards in the series are black & white. While some cards show the publisher’s name, others, such as the Canadian cards, do not. The series is rife with misspellings and typos, perhaps from the translators used. Errors in card numbers, sometimes fixed by hand with ink, have also been encountered.
Many of the cards show Franz Thiemer’s signature on the front, although each design make also lack a signature. The signature appears to have been applied with some form of stamp. The cards also appear to come in different colours of card stock, also within individual designs, however this seems to be a case of different colours of the top paper layer on the card, rather than a completely different card stock. They generally have text similar to “Printed matter" on the card, to allow for reduced postage rates, as they bore no message, and were most often postally used from locations around the world to European recipients. Sometimes postal authorities marked such cards as short paid, as shown below.
Below is an example of one card, design number 190, having been mailed as part of the subscription service, as described below, at a rate ot 5 øre and another example of the card mailed with a message, paying twice the rate at 10 øre.
The cards appear to be part of a subscription program run by the company, whereby armchair travellers could receive cards featuring views from exotic places with local stamps and postmarks mailed directly to them. Franz Thiemer is thought to be the first company to offer such a subscription service. Die Reise Um Die Welt Maether & Co. Nachf. Berlin and 1. Int’l Ansichtskaarten Gesellchaft Berlin are other companies that Helmfried Luers, a German expert on European postcard publishers, attributes to such a service. Some cards appear to have been postmarked in larger centres where local post offices were not included in the series.
The cards were that were part of the subscription service were mimeographed with the recipients' addresses, and forwarded to post offices under cover to be put into the local mail system. It is sometimes possible to find multiple cards with the same recipient. One particular card back demonstrates how this process may have worked. The card, below, shows a postal rubber stamp, whereby cards had been forwarded under cover from the New York post office to the Philadelphia post office to be added to the local mail.
One of the interesting aspects of this series (particularly for me, as a former stamp collector), is the widespread use of the cards, posted from around the world, mailed to Europe.