The Dutch Transorma letter sorting machine used at the Peterborough, Ontario, post office from 1955 to 1960 has been discussed in previous posts. In this article I will be providing a bit more detail concerning this remarkable machine. In the early 1980s when I first began collecting covers processed by Transormas, there was little knowledge of and consequently little interest in the Transorma, especially in Canada. Fortunately that is no longer the case as researchers and organizations have written and posted several articles dealing with the Transorma:
- Wikipedia article "Transorma"
- Charles Livermore "Transorma Sorting Marks"
- U.S. National Postal Museum "Transorma Letter Sorting Machine"
- "Foreign Transorma" : an excellent site showing transorma idents from most machines
- The Postal Mechanisation Study Circle ( Great Britain) has published a monograph written by Douglas N. Muir dealing with the Brighton Transorma.
- The Dutch Museum voor Communicatie "Postsortering" (great photographs)
- Nico Helling "Transorma" letter combination on envelope provides details found nowhere else
Identifying Transorma Sorted Mail
Covers handled by a Transorma are easily identified because they are stamped with "Operator Identification Codes". These markings were used to identify the operator and were stamped on the front of the envelope. Each operator was issued a personal code which usually consisted of one or two letters or numerals struck in red. The British refer to these markings as "idents", a few of which are shown below:
1. The Netherlands (1930s)
The first Transorma was installed at the Rotterdam post office in the early 1930s. The first few years involved experimentation, including the manner in which the ident was struck on the envelope.
Rotterdam to Washington, February 6, 1933
Transorma idents are sometimes difficult to see on a cover. I have circled some of the idents to assist you in locating their positions on the cover:
Ident BC repeated horizontally
Rotterdam to Chicago, July 31, 1933
A three letter ident
90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal
Amsterdam to Gothenburg, Sweden, April 11, 1933
Repeating AD ident90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal
Rotterdam to Chicago, September 29, 1933
Repeating AE ident
135 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal
Single Letter Idents
From early 1934 the Rotterdam post office used a single serif-letter ident.
Rotterdam to St. Louis, March 17, 1934
Single capitalized serif-letter B ident90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal
Rotterdam to Newport News, Va., March 20 1934
Single capitalized serif-letter G ident
Rotterdam to Chemnitz, Germany, July 17, 1934
Single capitalized serif-letter I ident90 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal
Hoek van Holland to Rotterdam, July 15, 1938
Single lower case serif-letter g ident135 degree clockwise rotation from the horizontal
The successful Rotterdam Transorma trials were followed by installations in Utrecht and Haarlem.
Liverpool to Utrecht, December 9, 1939
Utrecht was assigned two-letter idents from AA to BL
Two-letter ident (sans-serif) AU
Haarlem was assigned two-letter idents from BM to CQ.
Bergen to Haarlem, June 20, 1939
Two-letter ident (sans-serif) CA
2. United Kingdom : Brighton
The first foreign sale of the Transorma was to the British Post Office. Two machines were purchased and installed in Brighton with trials starting in September 1935. The inauguration day for the machines was October 7, 1935. The machines were used successfully until 1968.
In 1985 the Postal Mechanisation Study Circle produced a souvenir cover to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the installation of Transormas at the Brighton Post Office:
Brighton, October 7, 1985
3. United States : Silver Spring, Maryland
The Transorma installed at the Blair Station Silver Spring post office was on display at the 1939 New York World Fair. The machine was taken out of storage and put into operation on May 2, 1957. Pitney-Bowes sold and serviced the machine in North America.
First Day of Operation
Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield (left) and Silver Spring Postmaster William E. Bowman pose with a “First Day Cover”, cancelled May 2, 1957 that was just routed through the TRANSORMA mail-sorting machine at the Blair Station Post Office.
The Blair Station Silver Spring Post Office where the Transorma was installed has been torn down and replaced with condominiums. However, the Transorma has not been forgotten as Jerry A. McCoy of the Tacoma Voice writes:
"Incorporated into the plaza that replaced the corner post office is a raised circular brick planter featuring bi-lingual signage that briefly relates the history of Transorma and Blair’s Silver Spring mansion. Seven undulating lines of dark brick pavers set into the lighter colored brick sidewalk, positioned to one side of the planter, allude to a postal cancellation when viewed from above. On the west side of the plaza is a 30 ft.-long abstract “art glass wall” titled Transorma/Transforma by artist Heidi Lippman."
Transorma/Transforma, Heidi Lippman
A very early Silver Spring Transorma cover
Ottawa to Silver Spring, May 2, 1957 (Transorma inaugurated May 2, 1957)
Ottawa to Silver Spring, September 5, 1957
Sans-serif ident "BB" red ink
Geneva to Silver Spring, July 16, 1964
"AP'" ident black ink
Ottawa to Silver Spring, February 23, 1966
"BM" ident black ink
a) Mail from Canada processed by foreign Transormas
Garneau Junction to Minas Gerais, December 1, 1947
Rio de Janeiro Transorma Ident "AL"
Sanitorium of Lake Edward. Que., February 20, 1949 to Hove
Redirected to Sutton Coldfield
Brighton Transorma ident "26"
CFO 5050 Werl Germany to Brighton, March 9, 1961
Brighton Ident "C"
Sarnia to Haarlem, August 30, 1951
Haarlem Transorma ident "CZ"
Montreal airport to Rijsijk ( a suburb of s'Gravenhage), July 3, 1957
's Gravenhage Ident "WP"
CFPO 106 Zweibrucken Germany to Peterborough, November 28, 1955
Peterborough to Toronto, December 7, 1957
A lovely ident!
Peterborough to Ottawa, June 13, 1958
Kingston to Peterborough, March 5, 1959
Peterborough to Toronto, July 21, 1960