Monday, October 26, 2009

The Oldest Beethoven Stamp

The oldest Beethoven stamp in my collection is a local stamp from Altona, Germany issued in 1889. Its initial value on issue was 20 pfennic (penny). Present value is around US$ 30.

Altona is the westernmost urban borough of the German city state of Hamburg, on the right bank of the Elbe river. From 1640 to 1864 Altona was under the administration of the Danish monarchy. Altona was an independent city until 1937. In 2006 the population was 243,972.

It was founded in 1535 as a village of fishermen. In 1664 it received city rights from Danish King Frederik III. Until 1864 Altona was one of the Danish monarchy's most important harbour towns. The railroad from Altona to Kiel, the Christian VIII Baltic Sea Rail Line, was opened in 1844.

Because of the severe restrictions on the number of Jews allowed to live in Hamburg , a major Jewish community developed in Altona. Members did business both in Hamburg and in Altona itself. All that remains is the Jewish cemetery, but in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries it was a major center of Jewish life and scholarship.

During the Weimar era following World War I, the city of Altona was disturbed by major worker strikes and street disorders. Inflation in Germany was a major problem. In 1923 Max Brauer the mayor of Altona, directed that city personnel be paid in part with gas meter tokens, as these coins were did not lose value with inflation. The most notable event at this time is the bloody Sunday of Altona on July 7, 1932 when several persons were shot by the police force during a demonstration of Nazi groups. After police raids and a special court, on August 1, 1933 among others Bruno Tesch was found guilty and beheaded. The convictions of Tesch and the other men who were executed were reversed by the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1990s.

The Greater Hamburg Act removed Altona from the Free State of Prussia in 1937 and merged it (and several surrounding cities) with the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg in 1938.

On 1 February 2007 the Ortsämter (Precincts) in Hamburg were dissolved. In Altona were the precincts Blankenese, Lurup and Osdorf with local offices. On 1 March 2008 the Schanzenviertel neighborhood, which had spanned across parts of the boroughs of Altona, Eimsbüttel and Hamburg-Mitte, became the Sternschanze quarter, the entirely of which is now in the Altona borough.