Bavaria (Bayern) is the largest state of Germany in the southeast of the country with an area of 27,200 square miles (70,548 square kilometers), making up almost a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 12.6 million inhabitants, it’s Germany’s second most populous state. Munich, Bavaria’s capital and largest city, is the third largest city in Germany.
The Bavarians emerged in a region north of the Alps, previously inhabited by Celts, which had been part of the Roman provinces of Raetia and Noricum. The Bavarians spoke Old High German but, unlike other Germanic groups, probably did not migrate from elsewhere. Rather, they seem to have coalesced out of other groups left behind by Roman withdrawal late in the 5th century. The name “Bavarian” means “men of Baia” which may indicate Bohemia, the homeland of the Celtic Boii and later of the Marcomanni. They first appear in written sources circa 520.
From about 554 to 788, the house of Agilolfing ruled the Duchy of Bavaria, ending with Tassilo III who was deposed by Charlemagne. For the next 400 years numerous families held the duchy, rarely for more than three generations. With the revolt of duke Henry the Quarrelsome in 976, Bavaria lost large territories in the south and south east. The territory of Ostarrichi was elevated to a duchy in its own right and given to the Babenberger family. This event marks the founding of Austria.
The last, and one of the most important, of the dukes of Bavaria was Henry the Lion of the house of Welf, founder of Munich, and de facto the second most powerful man in the empire as the ruler of two duchies. When in 1180, Henry the Lion was deposed as Duke of Saxony and Bavaria by his cousin, Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I (known as “Barbarossa” for his red beard), Bavaria was awarded as fief to the Wittelsbach family. They ruled for 738 years, from 1180 to 1918. The Electorate of the Palatinate by Rhine (Kurpfalz in German) was also acquired by the House of Wittelsbach in 1214, which they would subsequently hold for six centuries.
The first of several divisions of the duchy of Bavaria occurred in 1255. With the extinction of the Hohenstaufen in 1268, Swabian territories were acquired by the Wittelsbach dukes. Emperor Louis the Bavarian acquired Brandenburg, Tyrol, Holland and Hainaut for his House but released the Upper Palatinate for the Palatinate branch of the Wittelsbach in 1329. In 1506 with the Landshut War of Succession, the other parts of Bavaria were reunited, and Munich became the sole capital.
During the early and mid-18th century the ambitions of the Bavarian prince electors led to several wars with Austria as well as occupations by Austria (War of the Spanish Succession, election of a Wittelsbach emperor instead of a Habsburger). From 1777 onwards and after the younger Bavarian branch of the family had died out with elector Max III Joseph, Bavaria and the Electorate of the Palatinate were governed once again in personal union, now by the Palatinian lines. The new state also comprised the Duchies of Jülich and Berg as these on their part were in personal union with the Palatinate.
When Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire, Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806. Its area doubled after the Duchy of Jülich was ceded to France, as the Electoral Palatinate was divided between France and the Grand Duchy of Baden. The Duchy of Berg was given to Jerome Bonaparte. The Tyrol and Salzburg were temporarily reunited with Bavaria but finally ceded to Austria by the Congress of Vienna. In return Bavaria was allowed to annex the modern-day region of Palatinate to the left of the Rhine and Franconia in 1815. In May 1808 a first constitution was passed by Maximilian I, being modernized in 1818. That constitution was followed until the collapse of the monarchy at the end of World War I.
After the rise of Prussia to power, Bavaria preserved its independence by playing off the rivalries of Prussia and Austria. Allied to Austria, it was defeated in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and did not belong to the North German Federation of 1867, but the question of German unity was still alive. When France declared war on Prussia in 1870, the south German states Baden, Württemberg, Hessen-Darmstadt and Bavaria joined the Prussian forces and ultimately joined the Federation, which was renamed Deutsches Reich (German Empire) in 1871. Bavaria continued as a monarchy, and it had some special rights within the federation (such as an army, railways and a postal service of its own).
When Bavaria became part of the newly formed German Empire, this action was considered controversial by Bavarian nationalists who had wanted to retain independence. As Bavaria had a majority-Catholic population, many people resented being ruled by the mostly Protestant northerners of Prussia. As a direct result of the Bavarian-Prussian feud, political parties formed to encourage Bavaria to break away and regain its independence. Although the idea of Bavarian separatism was popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, apart from a small minority such as the Bavaria Party, most Bavarians have accepted that Bavaria is part of Germany.
On November 12, 1918, Ludwig III signed the Anif declaration releasing both civil and military officers from their oaths; the newly formed republican government of Socialist premier Kurt Eisner interpreted this as an abdication. To date, however, no member of the house of Wittelsbach has ever formally declared renunciation of the throne. On the other hand, none has ever since officially called upon their Bavarian or Stuart claims. Family members are active in cultural and social life, including the head of the house, Duke Franz in Bavaria. They step back from any announcements on public affairs, showing approval or disapproval solely by the duke’s presence or absence.
Eisner was assassinated in February 1919 ultimately leading to a Communist revolt and the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic being proclaimed April 6, 1919. After violent suppression by elements of the German Army and notably the Freikorps, the Bavarian Socialist Republic fell in May 1919. The Bamberg Constitution (Bamberger Verfassung) came into force on September 15, 1919, creating the Free State of Bavaria within the Weimar Republic. Extremist activity further increased, notably the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch led by the National Socialists, and Munich and Nuremberg became Nazi strongholds under the Third Reich via Adolf Hitler’s command. As a manufacturing centre, Munich was heavily bombed during World War II and occupied by U.S. troops.
The Rhenish Palatinate was detached from Bavaria in 1946 and made part of the new state Rhineland-Palatinate. During the Cold War, Bavaria was part of West Germany. In 1949, the Free State of Bavaria chose not to sign the Founding Treaty (Gründungsvertrag) for the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany, opposing the division of Germany into two states. The Bavarian Parliament did not sign the Basic Law of Germany, mainly because it was seen as not granting sufficient powers to the individual Länder, but at the same time decided that it would still come into force in Bavaria if two-thirds of the other Länder ratified it. All of the other Länder ratified it, and it became law.
Bavarians have often emphasized a separate national identity and considered themselves as “Bavarians” first, “Germans” second. This feeling started to come about more strongly among Bavarians when the Kingdom of Bavaria joined the Protestant Prussian-dominated German Empire while the Bavarian nationalists wanted to keep Bavaria as Catholic and an independent state. Aside from the minority Bavaria Party, most Bavarians accept that Bavaria is part of Germany. Another consideration is that Bavarians foster different cultural identities: Franconia in the north, speaking East Franconian German, Bavarian Swabia in the south west, speaking Swabian German and Altbayern (so-called “Old Bavaria”, the regions forming the “historic”, pentagon-shaped Bavaria before the acquisitions through the Vienna Congress, at present the districts of the Upper Palatinate, Lower and Upper Bavaria). In Munich, the Old Bavarian dialect was spoken, but nowadays mainly High German.
Although some postal services had been established by the Italian merchants and the Counts of Thurn and Taxis in the sixteenth century, these were massively disrupted by the successive wars of the following centuries and remained essentially transit posts without handstamps until late in the eighteenth century. In the early part of the French Revolutionary Wars, the Emperor quickly lost the Netherlands and all his territories west of the Rhine. In 1806, after having created the Kingdoms of Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Westphalia, (1807), Napoleon dissolved the German Empire and formed the Confederation of the Rhine on July 12, 1806. Northern Germany fell in 1810-11 and was incorporated into the French postal service using many handstamps which included departmental numbers.
Bavaria had obtained the monopoly of its postal services in 1808, after compensating the Thurn & Taxis family for their loss. In 1813, after the French retreat from Russia, Bavaria changed sides and, like Baden, emerged from the Napoleonic wars in a comparatively strong position. The postal markings at the time were namestamps of towns to indicate the route or town from which the letters had come, either in French or German. Thus, de Munique indicated that the letters had come from Munich. During the French occupation the departement number was included in the postal marking. Most places used the number 100 but Landau was placed in departement 67. After 1815 other markings were used for each town until adhesive postage stamps were issued.
The Bavarian Post Office carried out a postal reform in early 1849. On July 1, 1849, a set of postage rates went into effect. Postage stamps were needed in the denominations of 1 kreuzer, 3 kreuzer and 6 kreuzer. Because prepayment was optional, and on the basis of the experience in Great Britain, Belgium and France, it was estimated that initially perhaps only ten percent of the mail would be prepaid. Therefore, a small initial printing was sufficient.
The first stamps were designed by Johann Peter Haseney, engraved by Max Joseph Seitz and were printed by the Johann Georg Weiss University Printing Works in Munich. The design emphasizes the numerals of the three denominations, which were large and dominated the center and repeated smaller in each of the four corners. The denomination is spelled out for a sixth appearance on the left side. A large hardened metal plate was made with four quarters, separated horizontally by generous gutters and vertically by an extra frameline. Each quarter consisted of five stamps across, in nine rows: that is, 45 stamp images or 180 stamps to a sheet. A total of 832,500 copies of the 1 kreuzer value were printed on handmade paper in the university printing shop.
The first three Bavarian stamps were released on November 1, 1849 — the 1 kreuzer in black (Scott #1), 3 kreuzer blue (Scott #2) and 6 kreuzer brown (Scott #3) — typographed on unwatermarked paper and issued imperforate. Trial colors of Scott #1 exist in blue and pale lilac and a stamps with red silk thread embedded in the paper as a security device are known from a single proof sheet. Scott #2 and 3 were printed on paper with silk security threads, as were all the remaining numeral issues through 1862. They have the distinct characteristic of having a “broken circle” around the numeral in the center of each stamp. On these, the lattice work pattern along the inner frame ends in a sharp angle to the inner frame lines. On subsequent issues, the lattice work flows into the inner frame line, having the effect of being a “complete circle” around the numeral.
Scott #2 was printed from five plates, with the fourth and fifth in use until 1862. The colors of the Plate 1 printings of the 3 kreuzer range from dark blue to Prussian blue. The printings from Plates 2-5 come in many shades, with the colors ranging from grayish blue to greenish blue. The 6 kreuzer value with the broken circle (Scott #3) was printed from one plate, from 1849 to 1850.
Stamps of this issue are normally canceled with pen strokes, with or without additional postmarks. The postmarks may be straight-line markings from the stampless period; town datestamps in semicircle frame, which were introduced on November 1, 1849, simultaneously with the unveiling of the first stamps. On August 1, 1850, cogwheel numeral postmarks were introduced in a first distribution to 402 post offices. In October 1851 Scott #1 was removed from sale, but remained valid for postage until August 31, 1864.
Beginning in July 1850, a new series of Bavarian stamps of the numeral design was released. These stamps were all printed on paper containing silk security threads, they all have a “complete circle” around the numeral. The 3 kreuzer variety with the “broken circle” was continued through this period, and the 6 kreuzer issue of 1849 was now printed from a new plate having the “complete circle” variety (Scott #5). The color of the 1 kreuzer stamp was changed to pink (Scott #4), and three new denominations were added, 9 kreuzer in yellow green (Scott #6), 12 kreuzer in red (Scott #7) and 18 kreuzer in yellow (Scott #8).
In October 1862, yet another (and final) set of the numeral issue was released, all with color changes. The use of the plates of the 3 kreuzer variety with the “broken circle” was continued, but the color was now changed to rose (Scott #10), with shades ranging from rose red to carmine. The color of the 1 kreuzer was changed to yellow (Scott #9), the 6 kreuzer was changed to blue (Scott #11), the 9 kreuzer was changed to bister (Scott #12), the 12 kreuzer was changed to yellow green (Scott #13), and the 18 kreuzer (Scott #14) was changed to vermilion red. These stamps continued in use, until the numeral definitives were replaced in 1867.
In June 1866 Bavaria, like Hanover, sided with Austria against Prussia, but made peace on August 22, 1866. In 1867, the other German states, with the exception of Württemberg, were joining the North German Confederation and abandoning their postal systems for that of the North German Postal Union. Bavaria, however, didn’t join the North German Confederation and they retained their own currency and postal system. At this time, Bavaria issued a brand new series of definitive postage stamps, featuring the embossed royal Bavarian coat of arms, with a colored frame around it. The Bavarian stamps, denominated in Kreuzer, continued in use until 1875.
The first set of six embossed arms stamps was issued on January 1, 1867. They were imperforate, and, like the numeral series, they were printed on unwatermarked paper with silk security threads. In October 1868, two new denominations were issued. These 1867-1868 stamps are listed as Scott #15-22. In July of 1870, stamps of the embossed arms design were issued perforated 11½ and didn’t include the silk security thread. They were printed on paper with a narrow lozenge watermark in values of 1, 3, 6. 7, 12, and 18 kreuzer (Scott #23-26 and #29-30). Denominations of 9 and 10 kreuzer on narrow lozenge watermarked paper, were added in January 1873 (Scott #27 and 28). Paper containing a wide lozenge watermark was also used for the July 1870 issue (Scott #23a-30a).
In 1870, Bavaria was forced to pay a large indemnity and changed allegiance, siding with Prussia against France. In December 1871 the king of Bavaria proposed that the king of Prussia should become Emperor of Germany. The kingdom became part of the German Empire but continued to issue its own stamps.
In respect to interstate trade, with the Bavarian gulden currency, it was difficult to do business with some of the other German states, as many of them used the Prussian thaler as their currency. The Bavarian gulden (equal to 100 kreuzer) was equivalent to 4/7 of a thaler. In 1873, in order to have a uniform currency for all the German states, the German Empire established the goldmark, or just mark, as the official currency. The Bavarians kept their kreuzer units of change, instead of adopting the German pfennig, but they did adopt the German mark as their unit of currency. Between 1874 and 1875, Bavarian stamps were denominated in kreuzer, with 35 kreuzer now equal to one German Imperial goldmark.
In August 1874, the first Bavarian stamps of the embossed arms design in the one mark denomination were issued (Scott #31). This first issue was imperforate and was printed on paper with a new watermark, consisting of horizontal wavy lines far apart. In June 1875, the one mark stamps were again issued, but now they were perforated 11½ (Scott #32). In July of 1875, the 1, 3, 7, 10, and 18 kreuzer denominations, from the 1870-73 embossed arms issue, were printed on paper with the horizontal wavy lines far apart watermark (Scott #33-37). These were the last Bavarian stamps issued that were denominated in kreuzer, and they were only in use for about six months.
After January 1876, all Bavarian stamps would be denominated in the currency of the German Empire, that being pfennig and marks. The embossed arms stamps continued to be issued without any major changes in design until 1911.
In 1911, a new series of stamps, picturing Prince Regent Luitpold, was issued in honor of the Prince’s 90th birthday (Scott #77-91). A set of two stamps (Scott #92-93) was issued on June 10, 1911, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Regency of the prince. On December 12, 1911, Prince Regent Luitpold died and his son, Ludwig, succeeded him as the prince regent for King Otto I. In November 1913, Ludwig deposed the ailing Otto I and declared himself King Ludwig III. A new series of definitive stamps was issued in March 1914 featuring the portrait of the new king.
The first issues of the Ludwig III definitive stamps are called the Peacetime Printings. This first printing included 16 denominations, ranging from 3 pfennig to 20 marks with bright colors and clear impressions. The Peacetime Printings were produced and used from the end of March 1914 through the end of 1915, though remaining stocks of them were probably used beyond that date. Ludwig III definitive stamps produced after January 1916 are called the Wartime Printings and included the same denominations produced during the Peacetime Printings. New denominations and surcharges were added between 1916 and 1920. On the Wartime Printings, the colors are dull and the impressions are coarse. These were also issued imperforate, for collectors, between 1916 and 1920. All of the stamps of the King Ludwig III design continued in use through 1919, although the monarchy actually ended in 1918.
Accused of showing blind loyalty to Prussia, Ludwig became increasingly unpopular during World War I. As the war drew to a close, the “German Revolution” broke out in Bavaria. On November 7, 1918, Ludwig fled from the palace in Munich with his family, being the first of the monarchs in the German Empire to be dethroned. His flight was viewed as an “abdication”.
On November 7, 1918, the first anniversary of the Russian October Revolution, Kurt Eisner of the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) declared Bavaria a “free state”. Eisner then became Minister-President of Bavaria. Though he advocated a “socialist republic”, he distanced himself from the Russian Bolsheviks, declaring that his government would protect property rights. Eisner was assassinated in February 1919, ultimately leading to a Communist revolt, and the short lived Bavarian Socialist Republic was proclaimed on April 6, 1919.
During this period, the Bavarian stamps of King Ludwig III were overprinted Volkstaat Bayern (People’s State of Bavaria). In May 1919, after the fall of the Bavarian Socialist Republic, Bavaria declared itself a “free state” in association with the new Weimar Republic. Bavarian stamps of King Ludwig III, as well as the Germania issues of the Weimar Republic were overprinted Freistaat Bayern or “Free State of Bavaria”, appearing on May 17, 1919.
A new, unoverprinted issue for the free state appeared on February 14, 1920 (Scott #238-254) inscribed simply BAYERN. The low values of this new series featured a plowman, a sower, and an allegory of “electricity” — harnessing light to a water wheel. The lower mark values featured a Madonna and Child. The high mark values featured von Kaulbach’s “Genius”, which was the symbol of the Bavarian Free State. These new Bavarian stamps were relatively short-lived though. The post office was incorporated into that of the Weimar Republic on April 29, 1920. At that time, the current Bavarian definitive and official stamps were overprinted Deutsches Reich, for use throughout Germany, though most of the issues were used only inside of Bavaria.
Bavarian stamps ceased to be valid on June 30, 1920. Since then, regular German postage stamps have been used in Bavaria.