Stories of the Dead: Bavaria

Written by: Phil Schorr

In the first article about Dead Country stamps, we discussed Dalmatia. It was a relatively small area with only a few stamps issued for less than two years. This time let’s discuss a much larger country that issued stamps for many years.

As you know, several countries were formed by the joining of smaller states. Included are the United States, Canada, Germany , Italy, Australia and more. This month the area of interest is Bavaria, the largest of the states currently making up Germany. It is located in the southeast of Germany, bordering on Austria and the Czech Republic. It’s major cities are Munich and Nuremberg.

By the sixth century A.D. Bavaria was a large area ruled by a duke. Over the centuries various families controlled the duchy, but Bavaria was a very large area covering not only current Bavaria, but also the area which is now Austria. In 1623 the duke was elevated to be a prince and one of the electors of the Holy Roman Empire. Once Napoleon overthrew the Holy Roman Empire, Bavaria became a kingdom. However, by this time Austria had become independent from Bavaria and many battles were fought over the borders. However, both were still considered South German states.

When Prussia became a major power and formed the North German Confederation, Bavaria and Austria remained outside the group. However, when France declared war on Prussia in 1870, all the southern German states except Austria joined Prussia in the fight, and in 1871 all except Austria became part of the Deutches Reich (the German Empire). It was at this point that Austria became independent.

While Bavaria was now officially part of the German Empire, it remained a kingdom and retained many separate rights, including its own postal service. However, many Bavarians continued to advocate for Bavaria to become a separate country as Austria had done. This situation continued until after World War I. At that point the King, Ludwig III, released the civil and military officers from their oath of loyalty to him, and Bavaria became a republic. Interestingly, the royal family has never considered this action an abdication, and continue to be active in Bavarian life. The republic was led by a socialist for a few months before he was assassinated and the communists seized power. This lasted for one month, when they were overthrown and the Free State of Bavaria was established. Thus Bavaria was part of greater Germany, but it wasn’t all the way in. Finally, in 1949, when all the other German states not occupied by Russia joined together to form a republic, Bavaria finally acquiesced and became a full and complete state within Germany.

While all the other parts of Germany stopped issuing their own postage stamps when the German Empire was formed, Bavaria continued issuing their own stamps until 1920.Below are a few of the stamps issued by Bavaria, beginning with #1 and continuing through a 1920 issue.

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