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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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Both operate in the field of communication, both are accountable to the Confederation: as far back as the second half of the 19th century, there is an expectation that bringing together the “sister” postal and telegraphy administrations (including the telephone from 1878) will save operational and administrative costs. A large number of telegraph offices, and later also telephone offices, are housed in post office buildings. Between 1920 and 1928, they are gradually merged to form the PTT – the postal, telephone and telegraphy administration.

Post office building in Rorschach in the 1950s, inscription “Telegraph, Post, Telephone” above the main entrance, PTT sign on the side. Source: Hans Labhart (photographer) / Museum of Communication
Post office building in Rorschach in the 1950s. Source: Hans Labhart (photographer) / Museum of Communication

The PTT in the 1960s

Developments in technology, the economy and society present a range of different challenges for Swiss Post and the telecommunications services (telegraphy service and telephony). From 1960 on, the organization is therefore divided into departments for post, telecommunications services and administrative functions (including general secretariat, finance department, etc.). PTT now stands for post, telephone and telegraphy. A joint PTT account remains in place, with telecommunications services covering the deficits in postal services, i.e. the services are cross-subsidized. Each post office is also a public intercom station in the telephone network and an acceptance point for telegrams. In the eyes of the Swiss public, however, the PTT and Swiss Post are practically synonymous: people use the name PTT when they mean Swiss Post.

From part of the PTT to an independent company

In 1970, the PTT is given a level of autonomy similar to that of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and a Board of Directors whose members are appointed by the Federal Council. In the years that follow, competition in the express and parcel service segments intensifies. A new corporate strategy focuses the postal and telecommunications units more strongly on their own markets. The years after 1990 see further unbundling of telecommunications and postal services, leading in 1993 to the division into Swiss Post PTT and Telecom PTT. In 1998, the PTT is finally dissolved and split up into Swiss Post (an independent federal institution under public law) and Swisscom Ltd.

At the time of its dissolution, the PTT is the largest employer in Switzerland and, at 13 billion francs, is generating the largest domestic revenue.


Kronig, Karl: “Post-, Telefon- und Telegrafenbetriebe (PTT)”, in: Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz (HLS), version dated 13.10.2011. Online: https://hls-dhs-dss.ch/de/articles/027154/2011-10-13/Target not accessible

Walter Knobel, Swiss Post (ed.): Gelb bewegt. Die Schweizerische Post ab 1960, Bern 2011.

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