North German Confederation Passport 1875

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Very Rare North German Confederation Passport Issued 1875

The North German Union was the product of the 1866 Austro-Prussian War. It was a federal state that comprised 21 German states in addition to the Kingdom of Prussia. The German states that did not join the North German Confederation (NGC) were Wurttemberg, Baden, Bavaria, Austria, and Southern Hesse. The United States recognized the North German Confederation (referred to by the U.S. Government at the time as the North German Union) in 1867 and established diplomatic relations. When the German Empire was created in 1871, it made the North German Confederation obsolete.

And here comes the key point. The displayed passport was issued in 1875 when the NGC was already four years obsolete. This is quite unique! 

* Imagine the United Kingdom would still issue passports with the wording “European Union”, four years after Brexit. Well wait – actually they do so, but only till the new passport planned for 2019 is coming and that would be well two years after Brexit then.

Very Rare North German Confederation Passport Issued 1875

Very Rare North German Confederation Passport Issued 1875
for travel to Copenhagen, Denmark

Following the establishment of the North German Confederation on July 1, 1867, on November 20, 1867, the U.S. Minister to Prussia, George Bancroft, informed Secretary of State William H. Seward that he had attended the opening of the North German Parliament. He requested, however, that the Secretary formally notify him of the intentions of the U.S. Government concerning the question of the recognition of the North German Confederation. On December 9, 1867, Secretary Seward approved of Bancroft’s decision to attend the opening of the North German Parliament since he was the officially-accredited U.S. Minister to the Prussian King Wilhelm I, who was also the hereditary President of the North German Confederation. Furthermore, Seward informed Bancroft that he would disseminate a description of the Confederation’s flag so that its ships would be welcomed in American waters. This exchange between Seward and Bancroft implicitly signified a formal recognition of the North German Confederation by the United States.

The U.S. sent George Bancroft to serve as Minister of the North German Confederation, in addition to Bancroft’s 1867 commission as U.S. Minister to Prussia. On February 22, 1868, Bancroft concluded the Naturalization Convention with the North German Union to “regulate the citizenship of those persons who emigrate from the North German Confederation to the United States of America, and from the United States of America to the territory of the North German Confederation.”

When the North German Union was abolished by the creation of the German Empire in 1871, the United States recognized the legitimacy of and established diplomatic relations with the German Empire. At this point the North German Union was defunct.

Very Rare North German Confederation Passport Issued 1875

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...