A mail carrier hands a customer a letter by a fountain, 1942. Source: Museum of Communication

The history of Swiss Post
A journey through time from 1849 to the present day

Rich Content Section

175 years of Swiss Post

Come on a journey through time to the past, present and future.

  • 1849

    Swiss Post: how it all began

    The newly established federal state unifies – and improves – the postal system. The Swiss federal postal service replaces the cantonal postal administrations. From this point on, it is responsible for transporting letters, parcels, people and cash remittances.

    Mail coaches and employees in front of the post office in Effretikon at the end of the 19th century . Source: PTT Archive
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  • 1850

    First postage stamps valid throughout Switzerland

    While individual cantons have been issuing postage stamps since the 1840s, federal stamps now arrive on the market. They allow Swiss Post to collect postage from the sender, not the recipient.

    The first postage stamps valid throughout Switzerland: Swiss cross, post horn and face value of 2½ centimes.
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  • 1857

    The Railway Mail Service is introduced

    From the 1850s, the backbone of postal transport is the Railway Mail Service. Mail is sorted en route in specially designated carriages. Before the introduction of postcodes, this work requires very good knowledge of geography and the PTT transport system.

    Railway Mail Service postal workers sorting en route in the office of the Railway Mail Service carriage on the Basel-Belfort line, 1926. Source: Museum of Communication
  • 1870

    “Greetings from…”

    Switzerland is the fourth country in the world to introduce the postcard. The postage costs just half that of a letter. As tourism takes off, the following decades see a veritable boom in postcards.

    Postcard from circa 1900 with a picture and the inscription “Greetings from Lucerne”. Source: Gebrüder Metz, Kunstverlags-Anstalt Basel (ed.) / Museum of Communication
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  • 1874

    International postal traffic

    The founding of the Universal Postal Union in Bern in 1874 is followed by the negotiation of a Universal Postal Convention. Switzerland is heavily involved in the founding. International postal traffic is transported by rail and ship. After the Second World War, the aeroplane becomes an important means of transport.

    Logo of the Universal Postal Union, circa 1956. Source: PTT Archive
  • 1880-1990

    First Swiss Post building boom

    Around 26 monumental Swiss Post buildings are built in cantonal capitals and other large towns. With both its large and small post office buildings, Swiss Post represents the new federal state in all regions of Switzerland.

    Main post office in St. Gallen, 1887. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1889

    Between civilian and military

    Field post is established. Its basic mandate: to provide postal services for the army and its troops, serving as a bridge between civilian and military life.

    Officers and soldiers of the field post, Renens, 1895. Source: Museum of Communication
  • 1906

    Payment transactions via Swiss Post

    Swiss Post is assigned a “Postcheque and giro service”. Thanks to its dense network of 4,000 operating locations, it offers ideal conditions for this. In principle, anyone can now open an account and make cashless transfers.

    Postcheque counter at the main post office in Geneva, 1935. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1906

    Swiss Post in motion – the first Postbus

    The first automobile mail route connects Bern with Detligen. The distinctive “toot-to-tooot”, however, is not heard until years later.

    The first generation of Postbuses in the yard at the main post office in Bern, 1906. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1914–1945

    Swiss Post as intermediary during the world wars

    Working with the Red Cross, Swiss Post carries several hundred million postage-free consignments from prisoners of war and internees. And after the mobilizations of 1914 and 1939, the volume of Swiss military mail skyrockets – postage-free field post accounts for up to 25 percent of domestic letters.

    Prisoner-of-war mail in Basel, mail bags piled up for onward transport, circa 1945. Source: Robert Spreng (photographer) / Museum of Communication
  • 1920 to 1998

    Postal, telephone and telegraphy services – the PTT

    Together for over 70 years: in the 1920s, Swiss Post is merged with the telephone and telegraphy service to form the PTT. From 1998, the two halves of the service go their separate ways as Swiss Post and Swisscom Ltd.

    Mail carrier with fully loaded three-wheeler in Ittenthal, Canton of Aargau, 1923. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1927

    Certificates and uniforms

    Once Swiss Post, always Swiss Post: in the days of the PTT, most postal staff are civil servants and remain loyal to their employer until retirement. An important basis for this is the 1927 Swiss civil service code (Beamtengesetz (BtG)). All work processes are governed by detailed regulations. It is only in 1998 that civil servant status is rescinded.

    Parcel carriers pre-sorting and loading their vehicles.
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  • 1932

    The PTT brand

    Postal services and telegraphy/telephony are merged into a single brand, represented jointly by a square coat-of-arms logo. The Swiss Confederation officially allows the PTT to use the Swiss cross. “Swiss Post yellow” is not mandatory until 1939. Before then, it is used mainly on mail coaches and Postbuses.

    The square PTT coat-of-arms logo with Swiss cross and post horn. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1961

    Last horse coach service

    The last horse coach service on the Avers–Juf route is discontinued. This is signification for the comprehensive rationalization of postal operations introduced in the 1960s.

    Mail coach to the Avers Valley, Switzerland’s last horse coach service, 1958. Source: Museum of Communication
  • 1964

    Introduction of postcodes

    Postcodes are introduced on 1 October 1964, leading to a massive simplification of sorting. From this point on, in-depth geographical knowledge is no longer required. The postcode system forms the basis for the later introduction of automatic sorting.

    Swiss Post poster with the slogan “Every time – postcode”, 1965. Source: Museum of Communication
  • From 1972

    Management careers become more accessible

    A management career at Swiss Post is now also open to women. In 1974, the first women start work at the male-dominated Railway Mail Service, which is seen as the PTT’s training ground for new managers.

    Anna Nater, the first woman at the Railway Mail Service. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1978

    Easy cash withdrawals at Postomats

    The first Postomat comes into service at the Bern Schanzenpost post office.

    A customer withdraws money from a Postomat. Photo: Peter Baur, Herrenschwanden. Source: Museum of Communication
  • 1991

    Introduction of A and B Mail

    Two speeds, two prices: the customer can decide. An A Mail letter initially costs 80 centimes and is processed within one day, while a B Mail letter costs 50 centimes and is delivered within two to four days.

    “Lively” stamp with A Mail design from 1996. Source: Museum of Communication
  • 1997

    The Fraumünster post office robbery

    September 1997, Fraumünster post office in Zurich: five young men drive a delivery van into the post office courtyard and steal 53 million francs in just four minutes.

    A partially burnt Fiat Fiorino 1.6 delivery van, the getaway vehicle used during the Fraumünster post office robbery. Source: Museum of Communication
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  • 1998

    The end of the PTT

    The PTT is dissolved and split up into Swiss Post and Swisscom Ltd, marking the end of more than 70 years of shared history.

    Swisscom logo, 1998, and Swiss Post logo, 1999.
  • 1998

    Introduction of yellownet (e-finance)

    Swiss Post harnesses the opportunities afforded by increasing digitization – whether for its internal work processes or for new services. In 1998, PostFinance launches “yellownet”, making it one of the pioneers of electronic asset management.

    A PostFinance Card is inserted into a card reader.
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  • 2001

    Restructuring of Swiss Post’s branch network

    Customers’ habits are changing: fewer and fewer letters and parcels are being dropped off at post offices, and the number of over-the-counter inpayments is falling. A reduction from 3,500 to 2,500 post offices is planned.

    Post office with P.O. Box facility.
  • 2002

    CEC for Swiss Post staff

    After almost two years of intensive negotiations between Swiss Post and its social partners, the Swiss Post collective employment contract (CEC) is signed and implemented on 1 January 2002. Prior to this, employment conditions for Swiss Post staff had been governed by the Swiss civil service code (Beamtengesetz (BtG)).

    Employees sort mail in the Zurich Sihlpost Swiss Post building. Source: Michael Freisager (photographer) / Museum of Communication
  • 2004

    Deregulation of the parcel and letter market

    On 1 January 2004, the parcel market in Switzerland is deregulated. In 2006, the monopoly protection for letters weighing over 100 grams is removed. Three years later, monopoly protection is further reduced so that it applies only to letters of up to 50 grams.

    A parcel carrier loads several parcels from a delivery van onto a handcart.
  • 2009

    Three large letter centers

    The Härkingen letter center starts operations, following the letter centers in Zurich-Mülligen and Eclépens. This marks the completion of the largest project in Swiss Post’s history. All aspects of letter processing have been redesigned.

    Letter center Härkingen
  • 2012

    On the way to climate neutrality

    From 2012, Swiss Post offsets carbon emissions from domestic letter mail. And from the beginning of 2017, all of its approximately 6,000 two- and three-wheeled delivery vehicles are battery-powered. Efforts to reduce environmental pollution, particularly in the mobility sector, date back to the 1990s.

    The “pro clima” shipment logo
  • 2018

    The PostBus subsidy affair

    PostBus Switzerland Ltd hits the headlines as it emerges that its accounting practices between 2007 and 2018 did not comply with subsidy law. PostBus reimburses the injured parties – the Confederation, cantons, municipalities – for the amounts lost, in full and with interest. In addition, PostBus makes voluntary repayments for illegitimately received subsidies that have already lapsed under law. This represents a major step for Swiss Post in rectifying the matter and is a fundamental requirement for a fresh start.

    A Postbus against an industrial background
  • 2020

    Swiss Post during the coronavirus crisis

    As a result of the lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular due to the steep rise in online retail, Swiss Post delivers more parcels than ever before: 182.7 million – an all-time record.

    Parcels on the conveyor system at a parcel center