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Samuel Maurenbrecher
(1648–1690), Duke Jülisch-Bergisch privileged postmaster in Düsseldorf

The postmaster ( English postmaster ) is the responsible official or officer who is responsible for the delivery and transport of letters and other postal messages. In early postal history, postal organizers and courier masters, such as Franz von Taxis , were referred to as post masters .

Usually the postmaster has his own department, which includes several mail carriers. With the arrival of modern technology in the postal system , there were also so-called ship mail masters or air ship mail masters. The first German airship postmaster was the navigating officer Wilhelm Niemann on the flying boat Dornier Do X .

In computing is meant by a postmaster (Engl. Postmaster ) the person who is responsible for the server services for message delivery.


According to the postal contract of March 1, 1501 between the Burgundian Duke Philip the Fair and Franz von Taxis, he was considered the chief postmaster of the Burgundian Netherlands ( capitaine et maistre de nos postes ). The term was later generalized so that the heads of subordinate post stations were popularly referred to as postmasters.

In the parlance of the Habsburg Post and Imperial Post Office operated by the (Thurn und) Taxis , it remained with post office owners and higher-level post administrators . Only post office managers of the competing state post offices in the late 17th century were designated postmasters. These postmasters were entrusted with the post operation (post car for passenger transport, parcel and letter transport) by sovereign privilege . Often the privilege was inheritable. The modern post emerged from the mergers of the various postal companies in the 19th century.

Postmaster General

General Hereditary Postmaster
Anselm Franz von Thurn und Taxis in the uniform of an Imperial Postmaster (before 1714)

Postmaster General ( French Maître général des postes , English Postmaster General ) was the title of the highest postmaster of a country in the historical postal system .

Historical development

Benjamin Franklin , the first U.S. Postmaster General , in an anachronistic cartoon from 1894

In the postal contract of 1501, Duke Philip the Fair named his postmaster Franz von Taxis in the Netherlands " capitaine et maistre de nos postes " (head and master of our posts, chief postmaster). Franz and Johann Baptista von Taxis also bore this title in the postal treaties of 1516 and 1517.

The title Postmaster General is first recorded in 1520, when Johann Baptista von Taxis in his appointment decree by Charles V to " chief et maistre general de noz postes par tous noz royaumes, pays et seigneuries " (director and postmaster general in all our countries and domains ) was appointed.

The post of General Postmaster, later also called General Obristpostmeister, was conferred by the Spanish Habsburgs and the Emperor until 1615 as an imperial fiefdom to members of the Taxis family . Since July 27, 1615, the office in the Holy Roman Empire became hereditary and until 1806 the eldest son of the Thurn and Taxis family held the position of head of the Imperial Postal Service.

The postmaster general was responsible for the smooth running of the postal service and even had limited jurisdiction over his subordinates. On his behalf, new postal rates were set up, he hired postmasters and postkeepers and, in times of war, negotiated with envoys from the enemy powers in order to enable an orderly correspondence. As a feudal bearer, he was directly subordinate to the emperor and, until the end of the Dutch Post Generalate in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1701, he was also subordinate to the Spanish king.

Heinrich von Stephan , up to then general post director, became post master general of the Reichspost on January 1st, 1876 after the reorganization ; a title he held until the Reich Post Office was founded in 1880.

There were postmasters general in the United Kingdom from 1609 to 1969 . In some states that emerged from former British colonies , the title has been retained. The United States Postmaster General has existed in the United States since 1775 . From 1792 until the reorganization of his subordinate authority to the United States Postal Service in 1971, this was a member of the cabinet with the rank of minister. His term of office is limited to 8 years.

Literary adaptations

Alexander Pushkin published his 1830 novella Der Postmeister in The Stories of the Deceased Ivan Petrovich Belkin . Gustav Ucicky 's film of the same name was made in 1940 based on the original .

In 1891 Rabīndranāth Ṭhākur's short story The Postmaster was created , which Satyajit Ray filmed in 1961 in his episode film Three Daughters .


  • Wolfgang Behringer : Thurn and Taxis. Piper, Munich et al. 1990, ISBN 3-492-03336-9 .
  • Wolfgang Behringer: In the sign of Mercury. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2003, ISBN 3-525-35187-9 .
  • Leon Bodé: The relocation of the Italian-Dutch postal rate in the Hunsrück, Eifel and Ardennes regions. In: Archive for German Postal History. 1, 1994, ISSN  0003-8989 , pp. 8-19.
  • Martin Dallmeier: Sources on the history of the European postal system. 1501-1806. Part I: Sources - Literature - Introduction. Verlag Michael Laßleben , Kallmünz 1977, ISBN 3-7847-1509-5 ( Thurn-und-Taxis-Studien 9).
  • Martin Dallmeier: Sources on the history of the European postal system. 1501-1806. Part II: Documents - Regesta. Verlag Michael Lassleben, Kallmünz 1977, ISBN 3-7847-1510-9 ( Thurn-und-Taxis-Studien 9).
  • Fritz Ohmann: The beginnings of the postal system and the taxis. Published by Duncker and Humblot, Leipzig 1909.

Web links

Commons : Postmasters  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Postmaster  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wording from the contract of 1505 in Rübsam, Johann Baptista von Taxis, p. 188; as well as Dallmeier, Quellen II, Urkundenregesten , p. 3.
  2. Original quote from Joseph Rübsam: Johann Baptista von Taxis , p. 229.
  3. Dallmeier, Sources II, p. 81.
  4. Dallmeier, Quellen II, p. 4, “Punishment Law” since 1516.
  5. 15 Jun 2000: Column 1782 . Retrieved April 17, 2019 from
  6. Michael B. Sauter, Jon C. Ogg: The 10 Highest-Paid Government Jobs. (No longer available online.) In:, March 11, 2011, archived from the original on March 5, 2016 ; accessed on April 17, 2019 .