Zwolle was the first city in our country where a departure handstamp came into use: ZWOL with the city arms. It was used bij the Postmaster of the Hague Pot Office.

By measuring the handstamps on the recorded letters, the author came to the conclusion that the two existing types can be distinguished as follows: In the first type the crown is 5 mm wide (use known between 1705-1736) and at the second 8 mm (use known between 1789-1795).


Registered letter from Zwolle to Utrecht, April 1789. In Zwolle it was marked with the handstamp ZWOL with the city arms between the W and the O. Earliest recorded type 2. Registration is indicated by the crosswise applied stripes. The sender paid the registration fee. Rate to pay by the addressee: 3 stuivers, indicated on front. The letter is not dated, but due to its contents about the death of Professor Tijdeman's wife and the authors archive research in Utrecht, the date could be determined fairly accurately.

Letter from Dalen near Coevorden to Amsterdam, 29 May 1795. On the back a C is written in red chalk for Coevorden. In accordance with the postal contract of 1762, the letter went to Amsterdam via Zwolle and Utrecht. In Zwolle with the handstamp ZWOL with city arms between the W and the O. This letter is with the last known date of use of this handstamp. Postage to be paid by the addressee: 2 stuivers for the Coevorden-Zwolle ride (indicated as I I and crossed out in Amsterdam) and 3 stuivers for Zwolle-Amsterdam, a total of 5 stuivers, indicated on the front.

The eight letters known to the autor with this handstamp, of which two in public collections:

Type 1:
31-10-1705 from Leeuwarden to The Hague (National Archive, collection Museum for Communication)
25-09-1720 from Zwolle to Haarlem (ex collection Adema)
13-06-1722 from Groningen to Amersfoort (Municipality archive Amersfoort)
06-03-1736 from Blokzijl to Amsterdam (Van Dieten 1995, ex collection Eijgenraam)

Type 2:
....-04-1789 from Zwolle to Utrecht (GvW)
23-07-1794 from Coevorden to Amsterdam (van Dieten 1997 and 1999, ex colection Sir John Naborro; Corinphila NL 2019, ex collectie Wiersma)
....-....-1794 from Zwolle to Amsterdam (van Dieten 2001, ex collection Dreikurs and Wolff de Beer)
29-05-1795 from Dalen to Utrecht (ex collection Adema; GvW)

The second handstamp of Zwolle, ZWOLL without E, was in use between 1796 and 1798. The spelling Zwoll can be found in French instructions from that time.


Letter from Emmelekamp (now Emlichheim) in the county of Bentheim to Amsterdam, 16 February 1798. Postage paid to Coevorden by the sender (written "Franco Coevorden" on the front). In Zwolle with handstamp ZWOLL. Postage to be paid by the addressee: 2 stuiver to Zwolle (indicated as I I and crossed out in Amsterdam) and 3 stuivers to Amsterdam, in total 5 stuivers, indicated in red chalk.


The first nationally issued name handstamp

On 1 August 1809, a name handstamp was introduced for the Post Offices in the context of the tract with France, to be used for mail to France. These stamps were made by the French company Masson in Paris. Zwolle got one where the Z was reversed. After the introduction of the departmental stamp on 1 April 1811, this name stamp could no longer be used. After the departure of the French, several places replaced the departmental stamp with this old name handstamp, but Zwolle did not, in connection with the wrong Z they cut the department number of the stamp here (see below).
The Z is not widely used in France. It is thought that the French stamp cutter has therefore reversed the letter. He also did that with the handstamp of Zutphen.
There is only one letter recorded with the handtamp ZWOLLE, a letter from l'Armée du Brabant in Zwolle to Orthez, France of 18 October 1810, which is now in the National Archive in the collection of the Museum for Communication in The Hague (ex collection DW de Haan, NPV 1985, van Dieten 1979, shown in De Postzak 204, February 2008, page 513, photo see below). There would be a second copy, but I never saw it (recorded by Dr. Carroll Chase).

Letter from Zwolle to Orthez, Basses Pyrénees, France, 18 October 1810 with Masson handstamp ZWOLLE with inverse Z. and C.H.2e R. (Correspondance Hollandaise du 2e Rayon). Tariff: Zwolle - Breda, 20 to 35 hrs: 5 penny = 5 décimes + Antwerp - Orthez, 900-1000 km measured in bird's eye view: 11 décimes = 16 décimes, paid by the addressee.
(Only known example, collection Museum voor Communicatie).

During French domination

In the winter of 1794-1795, under the leadership of General Jean-Charles Pichecru, the French army crossed the northern territory of the Republic of the United Netherlands over the frozen great rivers. 25.000 French troops had to be stationed in the Netherlands by the peace treaty of 16 May 1795. Eventually, there were 200.000. The headquarters of the Armée du Nord and the staff quarters of the three divisions came in Gorinchem, The Hague, Middelburg and Zwolle.
In 1798, the Batavian Republic was proclaimed.
In 1806 became the brother of the French Emperor, Louis Napoleon, King of the Kingdom of Holland.
In 1810 he was deposed and our country was incorporated into the French Empire. Zwolle became the capital of the 120th "Bouches de l'Issel" department (estuary of the river IJssel).
In November 1813 the French domination came to an end.

Departmental handstamps

From 1 April 1811, during the incorporation of the Netherlands at the French Empire, handstamps with a departmental number were introduced. The handstamp 120 / ZWOLLE, with the department number of the 120th department "Bouches de l 'Issel" (estuary of the river IJssel), measures 35.5 x 12 mm. and is in use between 1811 and 1813.
Letters of which the postage had already been paid by the sender, which was not usual at that time, received a stamp P.120 P. / ZWOLLE. P.P. meant Port Payé, postage paid.
Letters that had been sent to the wrong office of destination, were over-valued, prepaid but incorrectly addressed or addressed to a person unknown to the postal service were provided with a déboursé stamp DËB. 120 / ZWOLLE. Déboursé means written off. This stamp was also used until 1836 after the departure of the French, until 1828 in black, then printed in red until 1835.

Letter from Zwolle to Laer near Osnabrück, Germany, 28 April 1812 with handstamp 120 / ZWOLLE. Followed route: Zwolle - Deventer - Arnhem - Emmerich - Osnabrück. Postage payable by the addressee, for a distance of 200 to 300 km, weight 6-8 grams: 6 décimes.


Letter from Zwolle to Paris, France, 25 March 1812. The sender has paid the postage. Handstamp P.120 P. / ZWOLLE. Two diagonal lines to indicate prepaid postage. In Paris, the framed PS PS handstamp was applied: Port payé jusqu'à Paris & pour Paris (postage paid to and for Paris). Rate: 500 to 600 km, up to 6 grams: 8 décimes = 8 stuivers, indicated on reverse.


Letter from Hardenberg to Zwolle, 18 September 1813 with handstamp P.120.P / ZWOLLE. P.P. means port payé, postage paid. Also written "Franco" and two diagonal lines on the front, indicating that the postage had already been paid by the sender.


Letters that were sent to the wrong office of destination, rated too high, paid in advance but incorrectly addressed or addressed to a person unknown to the postal ADMINISTRATION were stamped with DÉB. (déboursé = depreciated) for the department number.

Letter from Abbeville, northern France to Staphorst, 16 November 1812. On the front the handstamp 76 / ABBEVILLE and top left the weight indication "8". Postage for a distance of 400 to 500 km, third weight class 8 to 10 grams: 11 décimes or 11 stuivers. However, the postage was lowered to 7 stuivers, apparently the letter weighed less, just under 6 grams. On reverse, "8" was written first, but after that it was deleted and changed to "7" (the postage fot a letter weighing 6 to 8 grams was 8 stuivers and to 6 grams 7 stuivers). Due to the depreciated amount of postage, the déboursé stamp DÉB.120 / ZWOLLE was applied.


After the restoration of independence

On Friday, November 12, 1813, a Russian Cossack corps arrived in Zwolle to drive the French away. The gates are opened in the evening. The Russians camp is in the meadow opposite De Hanekamp inn. On 23 November, the Cossacks, with the assistance of 18 Zwolle gunmen, crossed the IJssel and the French fled there. Prince Nerotschin, colonel of the Guard of the Emperor of Russia, resides in the Hof van Holland inn. There, a parade is given for him by the Korps Cossacks with choirs (Zwolse Courant 1813).

After the restoration of independence, the department number 120 was removed from the postmark, leaving a name handstamp ZWOLLE.

Letter from Blokzijl to Zwolle, 27 November 1813 with handstamp ZWOLLE. With this imprint, a week after the departure of the French from Zwolle, traces of the removed department number can still be seen (so-called cut handstamp). Port to be paid by the addressee for a letter up to 6 grams over a distance of up to 50 km: 2 stuivers, quoted on the front. The French postal rates were not replaced until 1 February 1815.

Franco sent letters (of which the postage was paid by the sender) were also stamped with a handstamp P.P. (Port Payé = postage paid). This handstamp was made by Masson in Paris and was already provided in 1809.

Letter to Zwolle, 26 December 1814. Handstamps ZWOLLE and P.P. (Port Payé = postage paid) in black. "Franco" is indicated on lower left. Two diagonal intersecting lines have also been applied as a sign of prepaid postage.

In 1815 this stamp was replaced by a two-line ZWOLLE / FRANCO. This handstamp was printed in black until 1829, then in red until 1835.

Letter from Zwolle to to the secretary of the Company of Benevolence in Frederiksoord near Steenwijk, who had a colony for impoverished families, sent 21 Septenber 1828. Handstamp ZWOLLE / FRANCO in black. Postage paid by the sender, indicated on reverse: 10 cents.

From 1829 round circular datestamps without the year were used with the month in letters. These were applied in red. An abbreviated name of the month had a period after it.

Letter from Zwolle to Elburg, 24 July 1837 met circular datestamp ZWOLLE 24 / JULIJ / *, Ø 27 mm in red. Rate up to 6 hour's walk, up to 16 wigtjes: 10 cent.

For postal items prepaid by the sender, the two-line handstamp FRANCO / ZWOLLE was applied in red from 1829 onwards.

Letter from Zwolle to The Hague, 20 September 1834 with circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 20 / SEPT. / * in red and two-line handstamp ZWOLLE / FRANCO in red. Rate between 20 and 35 hour's walk, up to 16 wigtjes: 25 cents, indicated on reverse.

Between 1835 and 1838 a handstamp FRANCO applied in red was used.

Letter from Zwolle to Dalfsen, 29 August 1837 with circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 29 / AUG. / *, Ø 27 mm in red and handstamp FRANCO in red. The sender paid 10 cents postage, indicated on reverse.

From 1841 the datestamp is still without the year, but the month indication is now in numbers.

Letter from Zwolle to Schiedam, 20 May 1842 with circular datestamp ZWOLLE 21/5 / *, Ø 23 mm in red. Rate for a distance between 20 and 35 hour's walk, up to 16 wigtjes: 25 cent.

This datestamp type exists also with smaller letters, recorded from about 1847.

Letter from Zwolle to Amsterdam, 14 May 1849 with circular datestamp ZWOLLE 14/5 / *, Ø 23 mm in red. Rate for a distance between 20 and 35 hour's walk, up to 16 wigtjes: 25 cent.

Between 1844 and 1850, a franco semi-circular datestamp came into use for franked letters. Now the official only had to apply one handstamp. First a small type, usually applied in blue.

Letter from Zwolle via Post Office Enschede (datestamp on reverse) to distribution office Haaksbergen, 27 October 1847 with franco semi-circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 27/10/ FRANCO in blue. Postage paid by the sender, rate for a distance between 6 and 12 hour's walk, up to 16 wigtjes: 15 cents, indicated on reverse.

This datestamp is sometimes applied in black ink.

Letter from Zwolle to Staphorst, 16 January 1843 with semi-circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 16/1 / FRANCO in black. Postage paid by the sender, rate within the ressort: 5 cents, indicated on reverse. Staphorst, however, was not part of the Post Office Zwolle but Meppel's jurisdiction. Not corrected, probably because the letter has never been to Meppel because Staphorst was on the postal route Zwolle - Meppel.

In 1852 a franco semi-circular datestamp, for Zwolle with a year included, was used for the cancellation of the first postage stamps introduced in 1852. The first type has a classic Roman font style with serifs called in Dutch Egyptisch. This handstamp also exists without a year, that type was used in the first years, but not in Zwolle.

Letter from Zwolle to Kampen, 3 August 1852. The 5 cent postage stamp cancelled with franco semi-circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 2/8/1852 / FRANCO in a classic font style with serifs. Letter rate up to 30 km, up to 15 wigtjes: 5 cent.

From 1854 the franco semi-circular datestamp has a sans-serif font style called in Dutch Grotesk.

Letter from Den Ham via Post Office Zwolle to Amsterdam, 11 January 1859. The 10 cent postage stamp cancelled with franco semi-circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 11.1.1859 / FRANCO with sans-serif font style. On reverse the straight line handstamp of sub post office DEN HAM. Letter rate above 30 km, up to 15 wigtjes: 10 cent.

From 1854 there is also a year in the circular datestamp. The handstamp and the letters and numbers are larger. There are two types: with 24 and with 26 mm diameter.

Letter from Zwolle to Den Haag, 10 October 1856 with circular datestamp ZWOLLE 10/10/1856, Ø 26 mm in red. Rate above 30 km up, up to 15 wigtjes: 10 cent.

In 1860 datestamp with the hour characters 4-12, 12-5 or 5-9 was issued as a trial to a number of Post Offices. The datestamp Zwolle had a diameter of 25 mm.

Registered letter from Zwolle to Groningen, 10 June 1862 with circular trial datestamp ZWOLLE / 10/6 / 12-5 / 62, Ø 25 mm in red and framed regisistration handstamp AANGETEEKEND in red. Letter rate to be paid by the addressee: 10 cent, indicated on front. Registration fee from 1-1-1846: 10 cent, paid by the sender, indicated on reverse.

From 1861 postage stamps were cancelled with a framed FRANCO handstamp. A datestamp also had to be applied on the letter, but not to cancel the adhesives.

On 22 October 1864 a small type of datestamp, diameter 20 mm, was provided to the Post Office Zwolle as a trial. Used hour characters: 4-12, 12-5 and 5-9.

Letter from Zwolle to Antwerp, Belgium, 22 October 1866. Trial circular datestamp ZWOLLE / 22/10 / 4-12 / 66, Ø 20 mm in red. Rate to Belgium, 0 - 15 wigtjes: 10 cents. The stamps are cancelled with a framed FRANCO handstamp.

On the same date, a small type semi-circular datestamp was also issued to Zwolle, width 18 mm, for prepaid mail items. This trial datestamp is exclusively provided to Zwolle.

Printed matter sent from Zwolle to Woerden, 14 October 1865 with small type semi-circular datestamp ZWOLLE, 18 mm wide. The sender paid the postage for 1/8th sheet. The price for printed matter was from 1-9-1850 to 1-1-1871: ½ cent for each quarter sheet (a sheet of no more than 8 dm²).

1 November 1867 a two-letter datestamp was issued to the Post Office Zwolle. In the lower part are the hour characters 12M - 8M, 8M - 12M, 12M - 4A, 4A - 8A or 8A - 12M. A = afternoon or evening, M = from midnight to 12 AM.

Letter from Zwolle to Amsterdam, 29 September 1869. Two-letter datestamp ZWOLLE / SEP 29 .. / 8A - 12M, printed in red. Postage payable by the addressee 10 cents, noted on the obverse. Special feature of this copy: the annual figures are missing.

For the cancellation of stamps on prepaid printed matter, a franco twig handstamp (with a twig at the bottom) was issued to Post Office Zwolle on 3 March 1867. The handstamp did not meet the requirements and a new copy was sent on 1 November 1867, 'To replace one sent as unusable'. A new franco twig handstamp was send on 21 December 1868.

Circular sent from Zwolle to Genemuiden, 28 April 1875. The 1 cent printing stamp issue 1869 is cancelled with franco twig datestamp ZWOLLE / 28 APR 75 / FRANCO. Rate for printed matter from 1-1-1871 to 1-8-1876, 20 to 400 grams: 1 cent.

From 1 April 1869, the postage stamps had to be cancelled with a dot or number handstamp (official name at the time: nommerstempel). Zwolle received number 135. These handstamps were send to Post Office Zwolle on 24 March 1869 and 15 December 1871.

Letter from Zwolle to Antwerp, Belgium, 6 September 1869. The 10 cent stamp 1867 issue is cancelled with dot cancel 135. Two-letter cancel ZWOLLE / 6 SEP 69 / 8M - 12M. Rate to Belgium, 0 - 15 wigtjes: 10 cents.


For the later handstamps see the publication by Cees Janssen on the website of the Nederlandse Academie voor Filatelie: Inventarisatie poststempels.


Last update 27.09.2023 8:57 PM->

Copyright © 2019 - G.L. van Welie FRPSL
Secretary of the Nederlandse Academie voor Filatelie
Representative of the Royal Philatelic Society London for the Netherlands

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