Postal System under the Qajar (Kadjar) Dynasty



From the Philatelic Site "Persiphila" dedicated to Persian stamps and the history of philately in Persia and Iran comes the following article:

As recorded by Herodotus and Xenophon, the first regular postal system in history was established in Iran during the reign of the first king of the Achaemenid (Hakhamaneshi) dynasty, Cyrus the Great, in 6th century BCE. This communication service was covering the Persian Empire from Europe, Asia Minor, and Egypt to Babylon, Aden, and Arabia to the Indian Ocean. The messengers were carrying mail by day and night; the relay stations were built only so far apart from each other so that a horse could run without resting or feeding. Thousands of kilometers of roads were built to facilitate the delivery of mail throughout the Persian Empire.

As noted in the Lion Stamps of Persia by Dr. Mohammad Dadkhah, in 1851, during the reign of Nasser-eddin Shah Ghadjar (Qajar), the postal system was re-established under the supervision of his prime minister, Mirza Taghi-Khan Amirkabir. The news of the new postal service was published in an announcement on Friday, 11th of Rabi-ol-Sanni 1267 (12th February 1851), in the second issue of the "Vaghayeh Ettefagheeyeh", an official newspaper. The announcement read as follows:

"With a view to bringing order and harmony to the postal system it was decided that post offices be built in Tehran and other important provinces and any merchants or other people who wish to send a letter by mail should bring it to that post office and leave it with the postmaster on the day the postman is leaving and on the arriving days of the postmen whoever has letters can pick them up to avoid any delays. However, due to cold weather and excessive snow this service is now postponed until the first of August when the weather is better."

According to the 7th issue of the same newspaper, the postal service started on 17th of Djamadi-ol-avval (20th March 1851). On the 29th October 1851, a senior employee by the name of Shafi Khan was appointed by the prime minister as the first postmaster.

The postal rate for letters delivered in Iran was fixed at 5 Shahis for one letter and 1000 Dinars or 20 Shahis for five letters or more in one envelope. In the early 1860's, upon recommendation by Mirza Ali Amin-eddowleh, controller of the Post Office, and after the visit of Nasser-eddin Shah Ghadjar to Europe, a deputation was sent to Paris to make inquiries for establishing a modern postal system and utilizing postage stamps.

In 1865, a French artist by the name of A. M. Riester, having heard of the wish of the Iranian deputation, on his own initiative, based on an old Iranian Coat of Arms, prepared a design showing a seated lion with rising sun on his back set in an oval surrounded by an ornamental frame. Riester's initials are also shown in reverse beneath the frame in the lower right hand corner. Riester's design was rejected by the Iranian government. However, the Riester design was displayed at the Exhibition of Fine Arts in the Champs-Elysees in Paris at that time.

Albert Barre, the famous French engraver of the laureate stamps of circa 1863-1870 of France was approached by the Iranian deputation and commissioned to design a postage stamp for the country. The design of these stamps was based on the new Coat of Arms, representing a standing lion facing left (this is according to some legends representing the Lion of Ekbatana or Hamadan which is the symbol of power), holding a saber in his right hand (the saber is representing the Zolfagha'ar, the saber of Ali -- son-in-law of Mohammad the prophet of Islam and first Shiite Imam -- a symbol of Justice), and the rising sun which is known as "Mitra," "Mehr", or "Khorsheed," which according to Iranian culture and belief is the symbol of light, purity, goodness, good fortune, and perhaps the symbol of God or Ahura'mazda.

It should be noted here that according to some, these essays were engraved by Charles Trotin, a member of the Money and Medallion Commission of France, and not by Albert Barre.



Note: This article and the pictures contained therein are reproduced here, with slight stylistic and grammatical changes, from the Persiphila site for educational purposes only. The original can be viewed at that site by clicking here.



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