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Mysterious Cancellation

by Lubor Kunc

First time published in the Czechoslovak Specialist no. 2 / 2003


Ceský obsah:

Tento text se zabývá historií a filatelistickou dokumentací pocatku rozhlasového vysílání z CSR do Ameriky.

Pro ceskou verzi kliknete zde.



Before few years I found usual postcard from the 30s franked with normal stamp (Bedrich Smetana issue), send from Prague to Ostrava. It is possible to say, that card was the normal one, so why to talk about it ? Because there exist interesting and unexpected signs of the card why to do it.

Let’s look at the card from philatelic point of view . The first used cancel comes from post office Praha 25, which cared for all letterboxes in whole Prague . The cancel machine of the post office was the Universal one (produced by American company Universal; see article of Mr. Small in the Specialist No. 5/ 2000). Because the addressee was not present in Ostrava, the post office Moravska Ostrava 3 responsible for the district of the town put another cancellation (by Norway cancel machine KRAG) and forwarded the card to Hostomice. This procedure caused the first interesting sing of the card : usage of cancel machines of both producers delivering at that time machinery for mail cancellation to Czechoslovak Postal Administration on one card.

Now we can look at the cancels from the average man ´s point of view. The Ostrava ´s cancel bears a text "Radio Praha" / je jedine prime / radiove spojeni / CSR s Amerikou (in English translation "Radio Prague / is the only direct / radio connection between / Czechoslovakia and America"), which is the second interesting sing of the card.

My first idea when I saw the slogan was the question what the Radio Praha was for organization. I started my Internet browser and I immediately find the web site , which belongs to yet now existing Radio Praha ! I contacted the people from the one and I have got much interesting information about history and presence of the public radio station.

One of the firsts attempts to connect Czechoslovakia with countrymen living abroad was made in 1924 by radio station Radiojournal. The first languages used in the broadcasting were English and Esperanto , the majority content of the broadcasting was the music. In 1926 the new transmitter was built in Prague’s district Strasnice : the one was one of the most powerful transmitters in whole Europe enabling broadcasting through the Atlantic, but only on irregular basis .

In the early 30s important progress in broadcasting occurred . Nice proof of the progress is a pictured post card of July 1931 . This card has been sent from Pardubice having special cancellation celebrating First Czechoslovak Radio Day to be hold on Sept. 20, 1931.



The picture side shows exhibition area of Pardubice town. The small structure in the middle lower part belonged to company Radiotechna Prelouc , which was forerunner of later established Czechoslovak "monopoly" radio apparatus producer Tesla Prelouc. The Tesla Prelouc Company belonged to state by 2001, when it went into bankruptcy .

Another example is a letter of 1933 addressed to countess of Thun-Hohenstein with a special cancel commemorating the broadcasting and radio fee payments (English translation of its slogan is “The Radio teaches you, informs you and entertains you / Subscribe the concession for radio apparatus").


In the middle of 30s radio started to push the public to use it. One of the ways was special Christmas action, which winners could listen to the radio for free for 3 – 12 months. To make the action more popular, radio prepared special machine cancel used at the post office Prague 25 in Dec. 1935 as well as the information about the action were available at all Czechoslovak post offices.

The new progress in oversea broadcasting was made in 1934 by decision to build new transmitter in Podebrady . The one was put into service on August 31, 1936. On the day the newly founded radio station Radio Praha started own broadcasting. Since 1936 the content of broadcasting were news, music and lectures . The used languages were Czech, Slovak, German, English and French. And in addition the Brno and Ostrava branches of Radio Praha broadcasted in Esperanto !

In 1937 the dividing of broadcasting into three sections was performed : the first section was aimed at America, the second one at Orient and the third one at Europe. The content remained the same as in 1936, but the broadcasting was made in more languages – also in Spanish, Portugal, Italian and Serbian languages . The broadcasting time was 4 hours every day.

In 1938 the broadcasting was splitter into four sections – the America broadcasting received two sections (one for Northern, one for Southern America) and the Orient and Europe each 1 section. The broadcasting time increased up to 22 hours a day – especially in September and October 1938 when Germany occupied Sudetenland . Thanks to the political situation in Europe the main content of broadcasting was political news .

The free broadcasting of Radio Praha finished on March 15, 1939, when Hitler occupied rest of Czechoslovakia. Immediately after this action the staff was changed and Nazis started daily 3 hours broadcasting for Czechoslovaks in Northern America, but thanks to the content the broadcasting was not successful .

The normal broadcasting was renewed in 1945. The American section was re-established together with Czech, Slovak French etc. ones. Radical change occurred on April 28, 1948, when state decided to control all broadcasting in Czechoslovakia. In 1952 the Radio Praha was chosen as official radio station of Czechoslovakia for abroad (someone of you will probably remember its philatelic broadcasting aimed at first world exhibition PRAGA 62) . This situation lasted until 1990, when the broadcasting in foreign languages was stopped for 5 months and first time on May 7, 1990 the broadcasting in English, French, German and Spanish languages was renewed. This splitting of broadcasting is still valid. Since 1994 the broadcasting goes via Internet as well and since 1995 it is possible to listen to the radio station in Europe and Northern America through satellite.

This should be end of story starting by my founding of one "normal" postcard, but it is not . When you compare the date of cancellation of the card (1934) and the start date of broadcasting of Radio Praha (1936), you will see, that something is wrong. I continued my searching and I have found solution how to explain the difference.

I have found complete cancellations saying : "Radio Prague / is the only direct / radio connection between / Czechoslovakia and America" + "Mark /your telegrams/ to America / via radio Prague " . It was used in Czech language e.g. at post office Uherske Hradiste, as well as in Slovak language e.g. at post office Nove Zamky .



These cancellation show that the broadcasting was used for the telegram messages and not for radio news! The only open question is what was the Radio Prague for, but this could be explained, that the sentence "via radio Prague" was not name of a organization, this could be just notification for postmen to send all such telegrams to Prague for their transmitting (the same procedure as we know e.g. from ship mail, when the letters send from/to USA were marked by sentence like "S/S Georgic " to show the required means of transportation ).


And this is real end of the article I would like to express here my best thanks to all people of the Radio Praha radio station for providing me with excellent information about their radio station and begin of radio broadcasting in Czechoslovakia .


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