Erik Nitsche: Universal Postal Union
Artist: Erik Nitsche
The Universal Postal Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations, was established to improve postal service throughout the world by ensuring international collaboration. At the beginning of the 19th century, postal relations between nations consisted of a bewildering array of bilateral treaties, which were further confused by a diversity of currencies and units of weight. Postal charges were largely calculated by distance traveled. In addition, the recipient of the letter, rather than the sender, was responsible for expenses incurred! In 1837, British educator and reformer Rowland Hill first proposed charging a single uniform rate for mail delivery, based on weight rather than distance, and the use of prepaid postage stamps. On September 15, 1874, representatives of 22 countries met at the first International Postal Congress to sign a "Treaty concerning the Establishment of a General Postal Union." This organization became responsible for the adoption of uniform postal rates and units of weight between all member nations. In 1878, the second International Postal Congress was held and the body's name was changed to Universal Postal Union (UPU). On July 1, 1948, the UPU became a specialized agency of the United Nations. Over the years, the UPU has extended its functions to cover other international services provided by postal administrations, including money orders, parcel post, postal checks, cash on delivery and savings banks.
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