This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Poland. Although a postal service existed in Poland from 1558 postal markings were first introduced in 1764. The three partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795 saw the independent nation of Poland disappear.
The first Polish stamp was issued for the Congress Kingdom on 1 January 1860 (Gregorian calendar). Because January 1 was a Sunday the stamp was not actually available until the following day. The design was similar to the contemporary Russian stamps with the arms of the Congress Kingdom in the centre. The engraving was done by the Polish Bank engraver Henryk Mejer. The drawings he used were found in the archives at St Petersburg but the name of the artist remains unknown. The stamps were printed by the government printers in Warsaw on the orders of the Congress Kingdom postal service. The letterpress machine used was invented by Izrael Abraham Staffel (1814-1884) for printing in two colours. The machine was capable of printing 1,000 sheets per hour and it had a counting device which ensured an accurate count. Apart from these facts very little more is known about the machine.
The printing was done without consultation of the Russian postal service. The regional office in St Petersburg only approved afterwards, on 4 March 1860 (Gregorian calendar). These stamps could only be used within the Congress Kingdom and to Russia. Letters to other countries had to be paid for in cash and unstamped. It is believed that some three million of these stamps were printed. When the stamps were withdrawn from use on 1 April 1865 (Gregorian calendar) a total of 208,515 stamps were destroyed. Russian stamps had to be used from that day onwards.
In 1915 the Congress Kingdom was occupied by the Central Powers.
*Thank you very much Andrzej!