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Monday, August 31, 2009

150th Birth Anniversary of Heinrich Von Stephan (January 7, 1981)

It was not until the 1 6th century that the Post began to extend beyond national frontiers and regular postal communication between various countries of the world was established. At that time international postal communication was governed by bilateral agreements which answered the particular needs of the two countries. Development of steam navigation and Railway brought the nations of the world so close to each other that the postal administrations started feeling the inadequacy of the bilateral arrangement to cope with the ever growing international postal traffic. Lack of uniformity of postage rates as well as units of weight and high cost of conveyance of international mail were the main impediments in the way. Resultantly need for an international framework to regulate international postal communication was felt all over the world.
It was against this background that Heinrich Von Stephan, son of a simple Artisan, (born at Stolp in Pomerania on 7th January 1831) entered the Prussian Postal Service at the age of 17 and quickly passed through the lower grades of his chosen profession. From 1851 to 1855 he worked at Cologne which was the metropolis of the Rhine provinces and the most important place for the postal service between Germany, Western Europe and transmarine countries. It was during these years that the idea of a Universal Postal Union first shaped itself in his mind. In 1 869 the Government of the North German Federation had, at Stephan’s instance, entered into negotiations with the French Government for the summoning of a Universal Postal Congress of European States. Finally on September 15, 1874, the congress having representatives of 22 states of both hemispheres, met in Berne and appointed Stephan as the President of the Commission which was set-up to examine the draft of the Convention presented by Germany. Thanks to the fertile imagination and the spirit of conciliation and accommodation shown by Stephan, on 9th October, 1874, after only 24 days’ work and in the face of tremendous difficulties, the General Postal Convention was signed and the “General Postal Union” was founded on 9th October, 1874. It later came to be known as “Universal Postal Union”. The Fundamental rules introduced by the 1874 Bernc Convention were embodied in the acts of the Universal Postal Union.
Thereafter, Heinrich von Stephan devoted his life to the extension and perfection of the Union. He attended the Postal Congress held in Paris and Vienna in 1878 and 1891 respectively. His wish to attend the next congress at Washington, as the first delegate of Germany, could not, however, come true as he died on the 8th of April 1897, after a long and serious illness. Today the Universal Postal Union is a specialised agency of the United Nations and has a membership of 160 countries including Pakistan. The aim of the Universal Postal Union is to ensure the improvement of Postal Service and to encourage the development of Postal Communication between Nations. One has, therefore, to remember that the facilities of sending and receiving mail, books and other items of merchandise which one so freely enjoys today would not have been possible had the Universal Postal Union not been founded through the efforts of Heinrich von Stephan whose 1 50th birth anniversary is being celebrated on 7th January 1981.
To commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Heinrich von Stephan, Pakistan Post Office is issuing one postage stamp of Re. 1/- denomination on the 7th January, 1981.