Heinrich von Stephan

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Heinrich von Stephan (January 7, 1831 - April 8, 1897) reorganized the German postal service, and served as its director. He was integral in the founding of the Universal Postal Union in 1874, and in 1877 introduced the telephone to Germany.

Von Stephan began his career as a simple local postal worker. In 1866, he was put in charge by the Prussian government of federalizing the postal service that had long been privately run by the Thurn und Taxis noble family. In 1870, he was named director of postal services for the North German Confederation (the precursor to the German Empire). Von Stephan's career then moved quickly up the ranks, as he was named Postmaster General of the German Empire in 1876, the Undersecretary of State in charge of the post office in 1880, and the Minister of State for the German Empire in 1895.

When von Stephan had begun his work as a postal worker, Germany was divided into 17 postal districts, each with separate policies and fees. He worked early on to establish a uniform postage rate throughout Germany, to facilitate easier mailing. His general goal of standardization and internationalization is evident in his work to combine the postal service with the telegraph service in Germany, and in his efforts to organize the International Postal Conference in Bern in 1874, in which the Universal Postal Union was established. He introduced the postcard (which he had initially suggested in 1865) to Germany after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck promoted him in 1870: the postcard came into widespread use in the subsequent Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871 as a method of communication between units in the field. He is also credited with having introduced the telephone to Germany.

Von Stephan died in 1897 in Berlin, having made a profound impact on the standardization of mail service worldwide.de:Heinrich von Stephan fr:Heinrich von Stephan pl:Heinrich von Stephan

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