1865 Paris

The Birth of the Union

image of 1865 Paris

On 17 May 1865, after two-and-a-half months of negotiations, the first real International Telegraph Convention was signed in Paris by its 20 founding members, thus creating the International Telegraph Union (predecessor of ITU). This first international convention provided a framework to standardize telegraphy equipment, set uniform operating instructions and laid down common international tariff and accounting rules. This publication describes the environment that led to the founding of ITU in 1865 and provides a fascinating look at the world of communications technologies 150 years ago and how many of the challenges that led to its creation remain today.



International telegraphy: The complex pre-1865 diplomatic agreements

Soon after national telegraph networks were built, the need to interconnect the lines of neighbouring countries became obvious. International collaboration could begin. However, each country had its own system and without international standardization, sending messages from one country to another proved cumbersome. To send messages across borders, they had to be transcribed, translated into the language of the transit or destination country, handed over to the opposite border post, and forwarded from there over the telegraph network of the neighbouring country.


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