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Lot 96

Envelope Mailed from the Camp of German Kaiser Wilhelm II in the Holy Land, 1898 – Rare Double Rate Cover with Camp Imperial Cancels – Sent by Court Painter Hermann Knackfuss

Postal envelope mailed at the time of the official visit of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, to the Holy Land (without letter). The envelope was mailed from the camp accommodating the Kaiser and his entourage (Camp Imperial), and is addressed to the wife of the court painter Hermann Knackfuss. [Late October or early November], 1898.
The front of the envelope bears four postage stamps, each valued at 20 Ottoman para – double the postage rate of a regular letter, two "Camp Imperial Jerusalem" cancels, and the address of Angela Knackfuss in Kassel, Germany. The back of the envelope bears an arrival cancel (Kassel), dated November 16, 1898, and a handwritten note (German): "The Kaiser's camp (tent camp) near Burtish (a small Arab village), near Caesarea, with some 200 tents" [probably a reference to a khan commonly known as "Burj Binyamina, " next to which the Kaiser's delegation camped out on their way to Jerusalem].
The German painter Hermann Knackfuss (1848-1915) was the designated "Hofmaler" (court painter) of the German imperial court. He accompanied Kaiser Wilhelm II on his official visit to the Holy Land, and used the present envelope to send a letter to his wife in the course of the journey. The unusual cost of this particular mailing (four stamps instead of two) tells us that the package was heavier than a regular letter. Perhaps the envelope also held a drawing (a sketch of the camp mentioned in the handwritten note?).
Rare item. This envelope is one of a precious few to have been mailed by a member of the Kaiser's entourage (one other cover is known, mailed by O. Gerloff), and one of only a handful bearing postage stamps valued at twice the regular rate or arrival cancels.
See articles by Ralph Perry: • Holy Land Postal History, VI, 105-106, pp. 225-226. • Holy Land Postal History, VI, 113-114, pp. 454-455. • Holy Land Postal History, V, 91-92, pp. 400-436.

Approx. 15.5X12.5 cm. Good condition. Minor stains. Minute tears to edges. Tears to upper part of envelope, reinforced with adhesive tape (from inside envelope).
Provenance: The Ralph Perry Collection.

Kaiser Wilhelm II's Journey to the Orient
Through the months of October-November 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and his wife, the Empress Augusta Victoria, toured some of the major cities of the Ottoman Empire, with Jerusalem being the most important of the destinations. The journey took place at a time when the impending and anticipated disintegration of the Ottoman Empire was hovering in the background, and a struggle between the European powers over the "spoils" – the assets of the so-called "Sick Man of Europe" – appeared likely to ensue in the near future. The journey went on for more than a month. Chief among its goals were the strengthening of ties between the German and Ottoman empires and the encouragement of Christian settlement in the Holy Land. Among the places visited by the Kaiser and his entourage were, in addition to Jerusalem, Athens, Constantinople, Haifa, Jaffa, Ramle, and Cairo.
Preparations for the Kaiser's visit to Jerusalem had already begun in the summer of 1898. These included a massive municipal clean-up, the improvement and overhaul of infrastructure, the laying of a telegraph line, and other operations. In time for the Kaiser's arrival in Jerusalem, a number of municipal roads were widened. The authorities went as far as breaching a gap in Jerusalem's Old City Wall, adjacent to Jaffa Gate, to enable the smooth passage of the Kaiser's opulent carriage. In addition, the city streets – most notably HaNevi'im Street, where a special tent camp for the Kaiser and his entourage, the "Camp Imperial, " was to be temporarily constructed – were adorned with the flags of Germany and the Ottoman Empire, and with makeshift, portable ceremonial gates.
One of the main highlights of the Kaiser's visit to Jerusalem was the inaugural ceremony of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, in the Christian Quarter of the Old City. The Kaiser also visited the German Colony, the Mt. of Olives, City Hall, and other sites. From a Jewish standpoint, undoubtedly the most historically important event on the Kaiser's itinerary was his hastily arranged meeting with Theodor Herzl.
Throughout their visit, Wilhelm and the Empress were accompanied by a small entourage. The Kaiser rode either on horseback or in the imperial carriage. Following in the footsteps of his immediate entourage in Jerusalem was a parade of lesser-ranked officials, accompanied by cavalry regiments and "kawas" officials – ceremonial Ottoman-Empire bodyguards.
The Kaiser's mission was documented in its time in hundreds of books and articles, and commemorated on playing cards, board games, and souvenir cards – collector's items – featuring Holy Land landscapes. But beyond a doubt, the quintessential commemorative souvenirs of the visit were the numerous different postcards, many of excellent quality, printed specially for the occasion; an astounding number of publishers – some 350 of them, from Germany and other countries – began publishing postcards commemorating the journey on a historically unprecedented scale. Major publishers such as Vogel, Silbermann, and Knackstedt-Näther went as far as presenting stamp and postcard collectors with a special offer; in exchange for a fixed fee, subscribers would be rewarded with postcards from all the various cities the Kaiser visited, postmarked and mailed on the very day he actually made his presence in the city in question.