On January 13, 1983, the Deutsche Bundespost issued a series of four values for Berlin under the title ‘Historic Berlin Street Pumps’. It was only after the stamps’ release that the Berlin Water Works company noticed that something was wrong on one of these stamps, namely the value of 60 Pfg.
A major Berlin morning newspaper ‘Der Tagesspiegel‘ (The Daily Mirror) reported on the story of this error as follows: “Not everything that looks like a pump is one. The state post office has made a mistake, which has been pointed out by the water works, that the 60 Pfg. stamp of the series ‘Historische Straßenpumpen’ (Historic Streetpumps), is not a pump – unlike the other three stamp values in the series. ‘This fact completely surprised the Bundespost’, said its then spokesman, Gerhard Stürmer.”
The post office, the responsible departments at the Senate, where research was carried out and probably also most ‘normal consumers’ would have thought the street well was a pump with a pump handle. Only the water works, which had not previously been consulted, had now brought clarity ‘to the postal error of the water network’. They explained the difference. By depressing the lever, the user could extract water under the pressure of the pipe network of the public central water supply. There was no need to pump. These dispensers mainly supplied the population with hygienically monitored drinking water in urban areas that were not yet connected to the drinking water pipe network. They were also sometimes situated at horse troughs. According to the water works, the term ‘above ground hydrant’ on the stamp is completely inapplicable. Hydrants are always only intended for the fire brigade’s water supply. As a technical feature, they have a connection option for hoses. The hydrant of the Englishman Thomas Simpson, which was used very early in Berlin, was a so-called shaft hydrant with an extra-long standpipe. In 1790 Simpson harnessed steam power to pumping engines for municipal water applications and founded the London company Simpson and Thompson Co.
In 1986, The DDR issued a set of stamps commemorating the water supply services. The 10-value is this time more correctly entitled ‘Hand-operated piston pump’. The ’35’ stamp has the striking Altglienicke water tower, the landmark of the Altglienicke district in Berlin, which was built in 1905/06. The ’50’ shows the Friedrichshagen Waterworks in Berlin – which was considered the largest and most modern of its kind in Europe when it was completed in 1888 and the ’70’ features the Rappbode Dam in the Harz mountains.