Switzerland is one of the few countries in Europe that has no royal family. It is a confederation of 26 cantons and is administratively a federal republic. The symbol for Swiss Helvetia is the female figure who is shown in many series of stamps. In addition, the Swiss flag with a white cross in it, the so-called "Croix Blanche" frequently appeared on the first Swiss stamps.
The starting point for displaying the cards shown below is therefore in most cases the female figure Helvetia and the Swiss flag. Both can be found at various locations in Switzerland. Furthermore there are some cards of the Swiss Alps and from the legend of folk hero William Tell and his son Walter. To view a list of all classified early Swiss maximum cards then click on the left card. To get more information and an enlargement of the cards, then click on the image.
La Croix Blanche
The first postcards were sent late nineteenth century from countries around the Mediterranean. Also the Swiss Alps with their luxury hotels and beautiful surroundings were one of the most famous destinations to travel to. The image on the right is a lithograph card from 1892 showing the Grand Hotel National in Lucerne. At the hotel is proudly waving the Swiss flag, red with a white cross in it. The predominantly red postage stamp that is on the picture side of the card shows the same white cross of the Swiss flag. No matter how small the image similarity between card and stamp is, this type of card is considered the forerunner of the maximum card.
The "Croix Blanche" is also featured on the stamp that was issued in 1900 due to the 25th anniversary of the UPU which was founded in 1875. On the 5 centimes green stamp stands a female figure with in the middle the Swiss flag. This flag can be found again at the hotel in the area in front of the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps.
The Swiss Post is the first postal authority worldwide that used a stamp with a picture next to the usual date, year and place name. In the lower side of the stamp is the white cross of the Swiss flag. Therefore in this case there is a pictorial mark in which there is an image resemblance between card, stamp and postmark. Within Maximaphily known as triple concordance. The card shown on the right side has an image of the same UPU stamp. There are maximaphilists who qualify this so-called "Cartes Philatélie" as a maximum card. Indeed, there is no question that the card is a postage stamp magnification. Such enlargement of the stamp is not allowed within the rules of Maximaphily. In this case there is only an image of the stamp on the card.
Especially in the period between 1900 and 1915, these types of cards very popular. Known producers are the firm Guggenheim and Künzli-Tobler from Switzerland. Both left-hand cards are of the period in which it is of course a requirement that the postmark is corresponding with the image that can be seen in the middle of the card.
For the green 5 centimes stamp it is the town Porrentruy and for the red 10 centimes stamp it is Zurich. The card on the right is from 1907 and shows very clearly the triple concordance of the white cross.
The image on the right shows the fireworks at Lake Geneva during New Year. In this case an image of the Swiss flag can't be missed. The Swiss are anyway very proud of their national flag. The card you see on the left shows soldiers holding the flag and on the lower side of the card there is a text of a patriotic song.
By chance I came across a card of a sculpture of a wounded lion that is in the city of Lucerne. This monument was created by sculptor Thorvaldsen.
It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution. The lion is guarding a shield with an image of the Swiss "Croix Blanche". The small picture on the right shows that detail. The resemblance between the image on the stamp and the stamp is clear. Of course, the card bears the postmark of Lucerne.
The symbol for Switzerland is the female figure Helvetia which is depicted in several sets of stamps. On the left you see one of those postage stamp designs from the early 20th century where besides the white cross Helvetia and the Swiss Alps can be seen. Three details on a postage stamp of which it should be possible to find maximum cards of each of these components.
On the right is a drawn card of Helvetia, standing with a shield bearing the Swiss flag. The card is sent from Boncourt to Belfort in France. On the left picture is the stamp with Helvetia placed top left on a "Carte Philatélie". The same red 10 centimes stamp is to be found in the middle at the bottom of the card. The cancellation is made in Zurich.
Helvetia is honored as a statue in several places in Switzerland. Here you see from left to right, the St. Jacob Denkmal in Basel, the Monument National in Geneva and the Strassburger Denkmal that also is in Basel.
Of these three statues maximum cards are found (right). This time with a stamp from Helvetia in a newer version (left), which was published around 1908.
The three statues are placed under each other.
In this case the St. Jacob Denkmal in Basel is the only sculpture on which Helvetia stands alone.
At the base of the Monument National in Geneva Helvetia is standing right next to Geneva, the patron of the city of Geneva. The Strassburger Denkmal in Basel was created after the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) on which Helvetia is shown on the right along with an angel figure providing protection to the women and children of the city of Strassburg. The statue was created by sculptor Bartholdi. All three stamps have the correct postmark.
On the left card from 1909 is, next to a picture of the Strassburger Denkmal a drawn version of Helvetia with sword and shield. A beautiful unity between card and stamp. On the image below Helvetia is in the background behind 22 girls in costumes that depicts the at that time 22 different Swiss cantons. The card is sent from Vevey to Paris.
This brings me directly to an interesting fact. It is well known that Swiss people are accurate. This is proved by the fact that the Swiss Post had made special postal stamps in a period in which the stamps were frequently placed on the image side of the card. To prevent taxe due in the countries where the card was delivered, on departure there was an extra postmark placed on the address side. In this case it says on the address side in French and German: "Affranchissement au verso - Frankatur siehe Rückseite". Because Switzerland is multilingual also cancellations exists with the text "Timbre au dos - Marke bildseitig" and text combination "Franco retro - Affranchissement au verso". This last postmark was intended for the item shipped from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. Of all the cards I've watched a print of this postmark appears to be very scarce.
That's understandable when you consider that most Swiss use German and French as their official language. Examples of these cancellations you see on the images on the left.
To emphasize how important Helvetia is to the Swiss people her image is also on the coins and banknotes of their country. As you can see on the card on the right the relation is clear between her image on stamp, coins and banknotes. Postmark Wadenswil is correct too.
The Swiss are proud of their Alps. In the background of the stamps with the image of Helvetia these Alps are displayed. Within the rules of maximaphily it is permissible and even desirable to create maximum cards of every detail that is on the stamp. The combination of card and stamp then provides more information than just the stamp. The "Jungfrau" is such a peak that is found on many postcards.
The card on the right shows the city of Interlaken with in the background the giant Alps. It is self-evident that in this case only the postmark Interlaken is correct.
It is still better as the card details match multiple images on the stamp. This is the case with the card from 1911 that you can see to the right with the "Jungfraujoch". There is also the Swiss flag with the white cross prominent at the front. The beautiful postmark "Jungfraujoch" contains also the height of this mountain, 3457 meters. In addition it is nice to note that the word "Jungfrau" also has a relationship with the female figure Helvetia who ultimately is a "Jungfrau" too.
It should be appriciated that the alert maximaphilist can detect a lot of details on postcards which have a stamp on the image side. This also applies to the card on the left of the ski resort Arosa. The surronding snow-capped Alpine peaks on both card and stamp has a clear resemblance. The postcard shows the "Postplatz" with at the left the local post office. Given the postmark Arosa it is obvious that this card has been sent from the depicted post office.
On the image on the left you see the Alps on the background seen from the city of Geneva with the Mont Blanc as a notable peak. The building in the foreground is probably the terminus of a railway line. On the building the Swiss flag is waving while people starting their climb into the mountains.
The search for special postmarks that have a relationship with the image on the card has delivered the two cards on the right. The Eigergletscher with cancellation "Eigergletscher" and the Alps in the Bernese Oberland in the vicinity of the city of Adelboden. Both cards were sent in 1913.
Undoubtedly there will emerge more of these cards in the future.
In the period 1905-1914 a relatively large number of Swiss cards have been sent in this manner. However, in most cases there is no concordance with the image of the card and the postmark.
This is required as so we can speak of a correct maximum card.
Wilhelm and Walter Tell
The legend of the Swiss folk hero William Tell is in the world perhaps one of the most famous stories. A stamp with his image first appears in 1914. His son Walter has been depicted on a postage stamp in 1907. Both cards below are the so-called stamp cards (Cartes Philatélie) on which the stamp is shown in its entirety. These cards are from the beginning separate collectibles because they exist of almost every country in the world.
Walter Tell is seen with the famous crossbow of William Tell who shot an apple from Walter's head that was commissioned by the hated governor Gessler. On the card we see Walter, with crossbow as part of a mural in the Tell's Chapel ", depicting the legend of William Tell. This chapel is in the village Sisikon close to Lake Lucerne.
There are four frescoes in the chapel painted in 1882 by Ernst Stückelberg from Basel. From all four frescoes a card was sent in 1908 from Sisikon to an address in the town of Weggis. Because of the rarity and completeness they are all four shown here.
The only two cards that can be classified as 100% maximum cards are the upper and lower card at the left since only these two cards have an image of both Walter ánd the crossbow. The top right card shows only the crossbow and Wilhelm. The card below on the right shows the so-called Rütlischwur, an oath expressed on the mountain meadow called Rütli by representatives of the three Swiss early cantons. This document from 1291, represents the beginning of the Old Confederation, later Switzerland. According to the legend, William Tell would have been there too.
Nowadays Tell statues can be found in the village of Altdorf and in Lausanne, in front of the Federal Tribunal. On both cards (left) is the stamp of Walter and on both cards there is a resemblance with the crossbow. The place of stamping is also correct.
Finally, two cards bearing the stamp of Wilhelm Tell himself.
The image on this stamp is derived from the statue in Altdorf. On the first card you see this statue in front of the tower at the "Dorfplatz". The card is postmarked in 1916 with the stamp Ambulant. On the edge of the second card, this statue is clearly displayed alongside the coats of arms of the various Swiss cantons.
I hope it is clear that the cards shown in this article gives you an impression of the history of Swiss Maximaphily that was evolved, deliberately or not, in an early stage. It is to be expected that there more of these cards will be found in the near future and then will appear in this article. Thus will there be more information and clarity in collecting interesting early Swiss maximum cards that really went through the mail.
< Ronald van der Leeden >