The Szekula Family of Stamp Dealers

This website is dedicated to the Hungarian born stamp dealers Béla, Géza, Eugen and Frank Szekula. After moving to Switzerland each one of them opened his own stamp business with emphasis on international stamp trade. All four were probably rather driven by money than by the love for stamps, and especially Béla’s “creative” business ideas provoked more than one philatelic scandal during his career. However, the history of philately would arguably be poorer without the Szekula family.


Eugen Szekula

 
Magazine ad
“Free Prussian stamps for your address!”
(Am häuslichen Herd 1916/1917)
Magazine ad
“We will pay high prices for your stamps!”
(Nebelspalter 1944)
Eugen (Jenő) Szekula (1888–1950) was born in Szeged on March 9, 1888. On August 19, 1912, he married Elisabeth (Erzsébet) Zenner in Budapest. First ads for buying stamps appeared in Swiss newspapers as early as 1915, and in January 1917 he opened his own “Briefmarken-Import und -Export” (= stamp import and export) business “Eugen Szekula” in Lucerne. On July 5, 1919 he became a naturalized Swiss citizen of Geuensee. In September 1919 Eugen closed his business at Grendelstrasse 19 and reopened it as “Briefmarken-Import und -Exporthaus” (= stamp import and export house) at the new address Hertensteinstrasse 56. Like the rest of the family he changed the spelling of his name to Sekula in March 1923. Apparently his business went well for the next ten years, but in 1933 he was facing bankruptcy. As a result, in August of that year Eugen’s stamp import and export firm was converted into a corporation, “Eugen Sekula A.G.,” with him as director. In August 1934 the Eugen Sekula A.G. changed its name to “Atlas Briefmarken A.G. in Luzern (Atlas Stamp Ltd. Lucerne).” In February 1935 the board of the Atlas Briefmarken A.G. in Luzern decided to leave Lucerne and move to Lugano; the corporation was renamed to “Atlas Briefmarken A.G. in Lugano (Atlas Stamp Ltd. Lugano).” After less than three years, In November 1937 the Atlas Briefmarken A.G. in Lugano moved again, this time to Zurich, and became “Atlas Briefmarken A.G. in Zurich (Atlas Stamp Ltd. Zurich).” The company continued to sell stamps for another thirteen years, but in the end Eugen Sekula was apparently headed for financial ruin. On Sunday the 29th of January, 1950, the police was called to Sekula’s appartment at Rigistr. 18 where they found the lifeless bodies of Eugen Sekula (62), his wife Elisabeth (57) and their disabled daughter Maja (24). Both parents were already dead when the police arrived; Maja was hospizalized but died one day later without regaining consciousness. All three had taken an overdose of sedative drugs, presumably due to their desparate financial situation. Three months later, in April 1950, the Atlas Briefmarken A.G. in Zurich was declared bankrupt.
Although he was much less of a traveler, Eugen Sekula’s “business qualities” probably came close to those of Béla. A failed attempt to establish his own stamp-like labels in the Swiss postal system in 1930 shows that he was similarly creative, but he also employed the same sale tactics as Béla sending out unwanted stamp selections and then aggressively demanding payment — eventually with the same result. In 1934 the U.S. Post imposed a short-lived embargo on both of them, even marking postal money orders as “fraudulent” and returning them to the sender.

Cover — February 1916

Sent on February 10, 1916 from Luzern to Helsingborg, Sweden.

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Scan provided by Max Brack.

Cover — February 1919

Registered cover sent on February 1, 1919 to Skive, Denmark.

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Return Envelope — 1920

Pre-addressed envelope sent registered in August, 1920 from Copenhagen, Denmark to Eugen Sekula.

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Postcard — October 26, 1920

Sent on October 26, 1920 from Lucerne to San Francisco, California, USA.

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Cover — October 29, 1920

Sent on October 29, 1920 from Helsinki, Finland to Eugen Szekula in Lucerne.

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Parcel Registration Card — February 15, 1921

Sent on February 15, 1921 with shipment from Leipzig, Germany, to Eugen Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — February 19, 1921

Cash paid printed matter sent on February 19, 1921 within Lucerne to Eugen Szekula at “Villa Sonnenhof”.

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Scan provided by Max Brack.

Postcard — May 1921

Sent on May 25, 1921 by Eugen Sekula from Lucerne to Millville, New Jersey, USA.

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Cover — August 1921

Sent on August 7, 1921 from Nysted, Denmark, to Eugen Szekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — February 1923

Cover sent on February 9, 1923 from Valletta, Malta, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — May 1923

Cover sent on May 19, 1923 from Saint Pierre and Miquelon to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — October 1923

Sent on October 26, 1923 from Eugen Sekula’:s office in Lucerne to his hotel address in New York City, USA.

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Cover — November 1923

Registered cover sent on November 2, 1923 from Roustschouk (= Ruse), Bulgaria, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Postcard — January 1924

Postcard sent on January 7, 1924 from Lucerne to Brussels, Belgium.

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Cover — July 1924

Sent on July 14, 1924 from Gloggnitz, Austria, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — October 1924

Registered cover sent on October 7, 1924 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Return Envelope — October 1924

Pre-addressed envelope sent registered on October 6, 1924 from Bordeaux, France, to Eugen Sekula.

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Cover — November 1924

Registered cover sent on November 23, 1924 from Varna, Bulgaria, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — January 1925

Registered cover sent on January 27, 1925 from Strasbourg, France, to Lucerne.

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Return Envelope — March 1925

Pre-addressed envelope sent registered on March 30, 1925 from Diessenhofen to Eugen Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — April 8, 1925

Registered cover sent on April 8, 1925 to Dole, Jura, Switzerland.

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Postcard — December 9, 1925

A postcard from Eugen Sekula to the editor of the “General Anzeiger für Philatelie”, where he complains that his advertisement was not printed correctly. The advertisement contained the phrase “ordinary nominal value”, but he insists on never having used the word “ordinary” and therefore refuses to pay for it.

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Cover — December 21, 1925

Registered cover sent on December 21, 1925 to Bruges, Belgium, redirected to Namur.

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Cover — 1926

Sent on July 15, 1926 to Caxias do Sul, Brazil.

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Cover — March 1927

Sent registered on March 11, 1927 from La Sagne-Ste-Croix to Eugen Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — June 1927

Registered cover sent on June 7, 1927 to Schwäbisch-Gmünd, Germany.

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Cover — July 1927

Sent registered on July 15, 1927 to Effretikon.

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Cover — August 1927

Sent on August 20, 1927 to Montclair, New Jersey, USA.

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Cover — December 1, 1927

Registered cover sent on December 1, 1927 to Holdton, Kansas, USA.

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Cover — December 24, 1927

Registered cover sent on December 24, 1927 to Reading, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Postcard — April 26, 1928

Sent on April 26, 1928 from Lucerne to Lyon, France.

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Cover — May 1928

Cover sent on May 11, 1928 from Harburg-Wilhelmsburg (now part of Hamburg), Germany, to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — June 25, 1928

Special cacheted cover for the benefit of war invalids sent on June 25, 1928 from Riga, Latvia via airmail to Eugen Sekula.

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Scan provided by Albert Little.

Postcard (1) — July 4, 1928

Sent on July 4, 1928 from Lucerne to Montreal, Canada.

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Postcard (2) — July 4, 1928

Advertising postcard sent to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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Cover — July 20, 1928

Sent on July 20, 1928 to New York City, USA.

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Scan provided by Albert Little.

Cover — September 1928

Registered cover sent on September 26, 1928 to Corvallis, Oregon, USA.

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Return Envelope — March 1929

Pre-addressed envelope sent on March 8, 1929 from Berlin to Lucerne.

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Scan provided by Albert Little.

Covers — August 1929

Sent registered in August 1929 to Bad Homburg, Germany.

August 9, 1929.
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August 20, 1929.
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Cover — August 30, 1929

Sent on August 30, 1929 to Holden, Massachusetts, USA.

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Picture Postcard — November 1929

Sent on November 2 from Friedrichshafen, Germany, to Lucerne. Carried by the airship “Graf Zeppelin” making her first trip to Switzerland. The postcard was printed on thick paper rather than cardboard to reduce the weight.

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Cover — December 3, 1929

Sent registered on December 3, 1929 to Effretikon.

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Cover — December 31, 1929

Sent on December 31, 1929 to Alfred, New York, USA.

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Scans provided by Albert Little.

Postcard — 1930

Payment reminder sent on October 4 to Lübeck, Germany.

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Cover — February 1930

Sent on February 25, 1930 to Gabolshausen (today part of Bad Königshofen), Bavaria, Germany.

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Cover — April 1930

Sent on April 17, 1930 to Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

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Cover — May 1930

Sent registered on May 8, 1930 to Effretikon.

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Postcard — May 1930

Sent on May 28, 1930 to Osijek, Yugoslavia (today in Croatia).

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Return Envelope — May 1930

Pre-addressed envelope sent on May 23, 1930 from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, to Eugen Sekula in Lucerne.

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Cover — June 1930

Sent in June, 1930 from Triebendorf, Czechoslovakia (today Třebařov, Czech Republic) to Lucerne, Switzerland.

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Cover — September 1930

Sent on September 2, 1930 to Bern, Switzerland.

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Postcard — September 1930

Sent on November 14 from Geneva to Lucerne. Carried to Zurich by the airship “Graf Zeppelin” (LZ 127) on her way back from her first trip to Geneva.

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Vignettes — September 1930

In 1930, Eugen Sekula had a very special idea for injecting his own creations into the philatelic market: instead of printing or writing the words “Porto bezahlt”, “Port payé” or “Porto pagato” (German, French and Italian for “Postage paid”) on envelopes meant to be sent out as cash paid printed matter, he started using stamp-like labels he had produced himself for that purpose. On September 24 the post office no. 6 of Lucerne granted permission to use these labels. After preparing a few hundred covers he began sending them out on October 10. His marketing ploy only lasted 10 days. On October 20, as soon as the postal administration of Lucerne became aware of this, further use of these labels was prohibited.
Instead of feeling defeated the businessman Sekula immediately saw an opportunity. Pointing out the rareness of his vignettes in ads placed in various philatelic journals he began selling his leftovers at high prices! Complete sets of all four stamps were offered in special glassine booklets in German, English, and French. The ones shown below contain the scarcer set of tête-bêche printed pairs.

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Cash Paid Printed Matter — October 1930

Four covers and a picture postcard “franked” with Eugen Sekula’s vignettes sent out between October 11 and October 18, 1930. Due to the short period of time these labels were accepted by the Swiss post office in Lucerne, traveled covers with these labels are scarce.

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Cover — February 1931

Sent on February 19, 1931 to Vienna, Austria.

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Cover — May 1931

Sent on May 27, 1931 to Columbus, Ohio, USA.

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Scans provided by Albert Little.

Cover — June 2, 1931

Sent on June 2, 1931 from Lucerne to Queens Village, New York City, USA.

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Postal Card — June 17, 1931

Postal card sent on June 17, 1931 from Terrassa, Spain to Lucerne.

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Return Envelope — July 1931

Pre-addressed envelope sent on July 29, 1931 from Valparaiso, Chile, to Eugen Sekula.

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Postcard — August 1931

Sent on August 28, 1931 to Brooklyn, New York City, USA.

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Scans provided by Albert Little.

Postcard — September 1931

Postcard sent on September 17, 1931 via airmail to Vienna, Austria, to collect payment by cash on delivery. Returned to Lucerne on September 21 (backstamp) because receiver refused delivery.

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Cover — December 1931

Sent on December 31, 1931 to Schenectady, New York, USA.

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Postcard — December 1931

Postcard sent on December 12, 1931 via airmail to Oberifflingen, Germany, to collect payment on delivery.

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Postcard — March 15, 1932

Sent on March 15, 1932 to Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA.

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Cover — March 17, 1932

Sent registered on March 17, 1932 to Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

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Cover — May 5, 1933

Sent on May 5, 1933 to Liestal.

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Cover — May 27, 1933

Sent on May 27, 1933 to Ennenda (today Glarus).

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Cover — August 1933

Sent registered on August 26, 1933 from Lucerne to Königstein, Saxony, Germany.

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Cover — December 1933

In 1933, Eugen converted his company into a corporation to avoid bankruptcy. On August 22, the “Eugen Sekula” company was replaced by the “Eugen Sekula A.G.” (Eugen Sekula Inc.) with him as director.

Registered cover sent on December 21, 1933, by Eugen Sekula Inc. from Lucerne to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, USA.
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Cover — April 1934

Registered cover sent on April 7, 1934, by Eugen Sekula Inc. from Lucerne to Reading, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Cover — June 1934

Sent registered on June 18, 1934 to Linn’s Weekly Stamp News in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

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Letter — August 1934

On August 20, 1934, the “Eugen Sekula A.G.” in Lucerne changed its name to “Atlas Stamp Ltd. Lucerne.”
The letter below was sent one week later to inform a customer in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, about the name change.

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Cover — April 1935

Sent registered on April 16, 1935 from Castagnola (today part of Lugano) to Brooklyn, New York City, USA.

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Cover — May 1, 1936

Registered cover sent on May 1, 1936 from Castagnola to Maplewood, New Jersey, USA.

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Cover — May 21, 1936

Sent registered on May 21, 1936 from Castagnola (today part of Lugano) to New York City, USA.

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Cover — July 1936

Philatelic cover sent registered on July 29, 1936 from Brussels, Belgium to Lugano.

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Cover — February 1937

Sent on February 4, 1937 from Lugano to Peterswald bei Karbitz, Czechoslovakia (Petrovice u Chabařovic, today Czechia).

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Postcard — April 1937

Sent on April 12, 1937 from Montreux to Atlas Stamp Ltd., Lugano, on the occasion of the Montreux Convention Regarding the Abolition of the Capitulations in Egypt.

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Cover — June 1937

Sent registered by airmail (Europe only) on June 11, 1937 from Castagnola (today part of Lugano) to New York City, USA.

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Cover — July 1937

Philatelic cover sent on July 16, 1937 from San José, Costa Rica, to Lugano.

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Cover — August 1937

Philatelic cover sent registered on August 5, 1937 from Brussels, Belgium to Lugano.

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Cover — October 1937

Philatelic cover sent on October 29, 1937 from Barcelona, Spain to Lugano.

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Cover — December 1937

Sent registered on December 1, 1937 from Lugano to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Cover — January 1938

Sent registered on January 31, 1938 from Zurich to Long Island, New York, USA.

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Postcard — February 1938

Postcard prepared on February 14, 1938, by Atlas Stamp Ltd., Zurich.

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Cover — March 1938

Sent registered on March 8, 1938 from Zurich to Chicago, Illinois, USA.

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Cover — May 1938

Sent on May 10, 1938 from Zurich to West Grove, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Postcard — May 1938

Sent on May 22, 1938 from Bern to Atlas Stamp Ltd., Zurich, commemorating Switzerland’s first “Pro Aero” flights promoting aviation.

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Scans provided by Max Brack.

Cover — June 1938

Sent on June 30, 1938 from Zurich to New York City, USA.

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Postcard — June 1938

FDC Postcard prepared on June 15, 1938, by Atlas Stamp Ltd., Zurich.

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Cover — October 1938

Sent registered on October 18, 1938 from Zürich to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, USA.

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Cover — December 1938

Sent registered on December 6, 1938 from Zurich to Sankt Gallenkappel (today part of Eschenbach).

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Cover — 1939

Sent on July 18, 1939 from Zurich to Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA.

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Cover — 1941

Sent registered on August 28, 1941 from Zurich to Gelterkinden.

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Cover — 1942

Sent on December 2, 1942 from Zurich to Aadorf, forwarded to Wallenwil.

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Cover — 1943

Sent on September 6, 1943 from Zurich to the Sentier Collège, Vallée de Joux.

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Cover — 1944

Sent in April 1944 from Zurich to Åbenrå, Denmark.

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Cover — 1946

Sent on September 12, 1946 from Christchurch, New Zealand, to Atlas Stamp in Zurich.

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Cover — 1947

Sent registered on June 7, 1947 from Zurich to Detroit, Michigan, USA.

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Postcard — 1948

Sent on April 17, 1948 from Zurich to Montéal, Canada.

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Cover — February 1949

Sent registered on February 9, 1949 from Bollnäs, Sweden, to Zurich.

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Cover — May 1949

Sent on May 3, 1949 from Zurich to Akron, Ohio, USA.

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