Recently, I've been watching this well-spoken man on YouTube (yes, it's quite unique) talking (in Swedish) about 18th century (1700s, that is) Sweden, and Stockholm in particular.

In one video, which I cannot recall right now (but it's in Swedish anyway), he mentions that even in the late 1700s, people did not get mail to their apartment door in Stockholm, but had to go outdoors and walk/travel to a special building and manually request any new mail sent to them.

I was under the impression that even people living in the middle of nowhere, in a house in the country, would receive mails by postmen way before the 1700s. Surely it would be much easier to do that in Stockholm, a big city (relative) and capital of Sweden?

And if this is true, was it unique for Stockholm/Sweden, or was this common in the entire world? In particular, I'm interested in how this worked in the USA at the same time. Especially somewhere like New York City or other major city.

  • de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briefzustellung says that mail was delivered home in Berlin either from 1712 on or from 1827 on. More details re. 1827: de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berliner_Stadtpost-Expedition
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 16:14
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    One of my travel guidebooks from the late 90s mentions that if you want to receive mail in a certain country, you have to pick up the letter from the post office. So I always assumed this is the natural state of things in countries where resources for postal service are more limited.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 16:20
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    There are communities in the United States that currently don't have delivery, so people still go to the post office once per week to get their mail. Commented Apr 18, 2022 at 16:37
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    According to this page, in 1861 a royal decree required the Swedish Royal Post to deliver the mail to the recipient address (and in 1876 - an analogous one for the rural addresses). I haven't been able to find a reference to these decrees in a more authoritative English source, though; and I am not familiar with Swedish language. Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 2:38

1 Answer 1


It exists at least one fairly moderna doctoral thesis about the organization of the Swedish Post : Postgång på växlande villkor : det svenska postväsendets organisation under stormaktstiden (Magnus Linnarsson)

The sender and the receiver was expected to take the letter to the nearest "postmästare" pay for the delivery and to be prepared to have arrangement done to check with the "postmästare" if any letters is destined to them.

A richer merchant for example would have his servants check for mail daily. A noble man/officer living out of town would arrange that a servant comes depending on, multiple times a week. State employed people would for the state related correspondence use a self-franking exception (ie no mail tariffs for the king's own correspondence.)

The "postmästare" forwards mail and sends his/her own mail to the next postmästare. The "generalpostmästaren" in Stockholm was a hub for the mail while he/she had a fairly big but depending on period not so, complete control off who was a local "postmästare". One exception was the postmästare in Norrköping which was chosen by the now abdicated queen Christina.

Magnus Linnarssons disertation is also available from here: Postgång på växlande villkor : det svenska postväsendets organisation under stormaktstiden (via Lunds Universitet)

Magnus L discusses while it for the king could be useful to, to be able to repay a loan, let the lender run the post as his own business and so being able to reimburse himself from the profits (entreprenad) or in a more directly state run business there the profits (maybe smaller because the "generalpostmästaren" wasnt himself directly dependent on the profits and so the business was less well running) was directly transfered to the king's coffers.

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