Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: the pneumatic post
From: (Mark Hayhurst)

Dear Bruce,

While playing with the Autonomy search agent software and testing it out using some page references that I had done, I happened on some references to my father's book "The Pigeon Post into Paris 1870-71" which you have requoted.

About a year ago, I put the whole of his book (and another that you may find interesting) online, having scanned and OCRd the old printed booklet that I had. These items can be found at:

As these contain the text, the tables, and other photos and illustrations, perhaps you would like to put a link in to them. In turn I would be happy to put references to items of interest to philatelists such as other pigeon post or pneumatic post items.

Best regards,
Mark Hayhurst

(((bruces remarks: PIGEON POST INTO PARIS is without doubt one of the true classics of dead media studies, and is now available online in its entirety! I recommend the booklet, and the website, without reservation. The Hayhurst site also features a companion work by J.D. Hayhurst on the pneumatic post. Its splendid illustrations of eldritch French "pneumatique" postcards have, to my eye, a very high Cahill Rating. I was surprised to discover that the Paris pneumatic post is still a living-fossil medium, well over 100 years old.)))

The Pneumatic Post of Paris
by J.D. Hayhurst O.B.E.
Edited by C.S. Holder

Prepared in digital format by Mark Hayhurst

Copyright 1974. The France & Colonies Philatelic Society of Great Britain.


"The first half of the 19th century saw an unprecedented acceleration of communication through the introduction of the electric telegraph. Its principal application was to commercial intelligence for the merchants on the stock exchanges for whom fortunes could be won by the receipt of advance information, but the gain in speed from the telegraph could be lost if a message took a long time to get from the telegraph office to the stock exchange.

"It was to avoid this delay that in 1853 J. Latimer Clark installed a 220 yard long pneumatic tube connecting the London Stock Exchange in Threadneedle Street with the Central Station in Lothbury of the Electric Telegraph Company which had been incorporated in 1846. There were similar installations in Berlin in 1865 between the Central Telegraph Office and the Stock Exchange, and in 1866 in Paris out of the place de la Bourse.

"Other cities followed and tube systems were opened not only for the transport of telegrams but also for individual letters and for letters in bulk. The transport of letters in bulk required large diameter tubes such as exist today in Hamburg and as once existed in a number of American cities. Provision for the transport of individual letters was made in Vienna and Prague, Berlin, Munich, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Naples, Milan, Paris and Marseilles. There were ephemeral installations for private letters at the South Kensington Exhibition of 1890, at the Karlsbad Philatelic Exhibition of 1910, and at the Turin International Exhibition of 1911."

Mark Hayhurst (