The history of the postcode
- 1853 Introduction of the Ringnummernstempel (ring number stamp)
The origins of today's postcode system can be traced back more than 150 years. Already in use in 1853, the Thurn and Taxis postal administration's ring number stamp made it possible to recognize locations according to their respective numbers.
- 1941 Introduction of parcel routing areas
The Reichspost Ministry, responsible for mail at that time, announced the introduction of "parcel routing areas" with a July 25, 1941 decree. Postcodes with a total of 32 routing areas were introduced as generally mandatory in the civilian mail service. They were accompanied by a set of instructions for the mail distribution service ("Anweisung für den Briefverteildienst") dated October 19, 1943.
- 1962 Introduction of four-digit postcodes
In order to handle the growing volume of mail and to speed up its transport, Minister of Posts and Communication Richard Stücklen encouraged the introduction of a standardized postcode system. It was intended to literally ensure that "mail items were guided by numbers." The four-digit postcodes were introduced on November 1, 1961. It was the world's first complete postcode system.
An extensive advertising campaign began in March 1962 with the slogan "Vergißmeinnicht - die Postleitzahl" (Forget-me-not: the postcode). And it met with success. By the end of 1962, 77.4 percent of all business customers and 68.7 percent of private customers were using the new postcodes. Starting in 1964, show host Peter Frankenfeld and legendary postal deliverer Walter Spahrbier promoted the new numbers on the German television show Vergissmeinnicht.
- 1993 Introduction of five-digit postcodes
Germany's reunification made it imperative to restructure the postcode system, as the unified government brought with it a unified postal territory. Over 800 cities in eastern and western Germany had the same postcodes. Bonn and Weimar, for example, both used "5300." As a result, items had to be labeled with a "W" for western Germany and an "O" (="Ost") for eastern Germany during a transitional period.
After analyzing the postcode numbers in other countries, it was decided in 1991 to create a five-digit system for Germany. The first two digits facilitate assignment of the geographic location of a city. These two digits delineate the destination region and thus the mail center for a region. The third to fifth digits indicate where customers live, if they receive their mail via delivery or P.O. box and whether they are key customers. On October 31, 1991, the Chairman of the Board of Management of Deutsche Post, Dr. Klaus Zumwinkel, announced: "The new system will be simpler and clearer for customers and not cause confusion; the mail operation will be more reliable, more efficient and quicker."
Deutsche Post informed its customers about the upcoming changes with the slogan "Fünf ist Trümpf" ("Five is tops"). The mascot for the campaign was the finger figure Rolf. Six well-known German directors, including Vicco von Bülow (Loriot), created TV commercials. Every Sunday for ten weeks starting on May 9, 1993, Rudi Carrell hosted the RTL show Die Post geht ab, a modern version of the Am laufenden Band program from the 1970s. A 100-pfennig special stamp was issued on March 11, 1993 to mark the introduction of the postcodes. The various campaigns were extremely successful. Introduction took place on July 1, 1993, and within just a few months 95 out of 100 letters, small packets and parcels were already correctly labeled with the new routing numbers.
Additional information: The history of Deutsche Post DHL
- 2005 New edition of the Postcode Book
A new edition of the Postcode Book, made necessary first and foremost by the more than 63,000 changes since 1993, is now released on October 4, 2005. In addition to the clearly assigned numbers, the new Postcode Book also contains an extensive section for all letter, small packet and parcel services. A CD-ROM with the postcodes appears approximately once per quarter. The postcodes can also be found online on the Deutsche Post website.
- 2010 Dynamic postal codes on the net
For the first time, the tool also illustrates search results cartographically, displaying the individual postal code areas on a map or on a satellite image. A new AutoComplete function will in future also make it easier for users to check addresses and to find postal codes. Another new feature is the possibility of integrating the postal code search as a mini-application on users' own homepage free of charge. This allows companies, for instance, to enable persons visiting their website to search for postal codes or the pertinent locations directly using their own design.
Further information: www.deutschepost.de/plzsuche