When Stephan began his work as a postal worker, Germany was divided into 17 independent states, each with its own separate policies and fees. He worked early on to establish a uniform postage rate throughout Germany, to facilitate easier mailing. His general goal of standardization and internationalization is evident in his work to combine the postal service with the telegraph service in Germany, and in his efforts to organize the International Postal Conference in Bern in 1874, in which the Universal Postal Union was established. He introduced the postcard (which he had initially suggested in 1865) to Germany after Chancellor Otto von Bismarck promoted him in 1870: the postcard came into widespread use in the subsequent Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 as a method of communication between units in the field. He is also credited with having introduced the telephone to Germany.
Stephan died in 1897 in Berlin, having made a profound impact on the standardization of mail service worldwide. He was also actively engaged in cultivating purely Germanic terminology for the field of telecommunication and postal services. The German-speaking afterworld thus gained terms such as "Fernsprechapparat" (distance-speaking-device) for telephone, "Wertzeichen" (value-sign) for stamp, "postlagernd" (post-office-stored) for poste restante and "Anschrift" (towards-lettering, analogous to "Ansprache" or "Anrede" for addressing a person or a saluation) for address. The word creations mandated by von Stephan in the 1870s gained circulation at post offices and among its workforce, but many times the Greek or French original term was retained by German speakers. Thus at home people would say "frankieren" for putting stamps on a postcard or letter envelope (Briefumschlag) among themselves, but switch to "freimachen" (absolve from stamp-debt, thus permitting delivery) when at the post office. Or at home they would say "Telefon" in everyday speech, although the arcane official term was "Fernsprecher" (remote speaker) or Fernsprechapparat. His achievements in the field of postal services far outweigh this pedantic purism and it was his proposal to have the Siemens company manufacture telephones which led to the development of an entirely new business segment for the famous German company in 1878.
Beyrer, Klaus and Behringer, Wolfgang (1997) Kommunikation im Kaiserreich: der Generalpostmeister Heinrich von Stephan (Communication in the German Empire: the Postmaster General Heinrich von Stephan) Museum für Post und Kommunikation, Braus, Heidelberg, ISBN 3-89466-211-5, in German
Eckhardt, Carl Conrad (1941) Heinrich von Stephan, Founder of the Universal Postal Union University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, OCLC16793710